Corruption has not limited itself to cricket alone.
There have been scandals in football, tennis, badminton, snooker, and in years gone, baseball. In boxing, fixed fights have been known to be rife.
The thing with cricket, though, as last week’s arrest of S Sreesanth proved again, is that it has been blighted at the highest levels, in international matches, and not some low-key game in a dingy corner of the world.
Those caught have included some of the biggest names in the game: captains and established internationals. That is why each scandal has caused such loud outcry, because of the high profile of the transgressors.
Imagine, in fact, how strong an XI you can create from those found guilty of impropriety.
The worst thing about Butt’s ban and jail sentence for the Lord’s spot-fix of 2010 was the timing. He looked to be finally on the verge of realising his potential as an elegant, punchy opener. More importantly, he had also just assumed the captaincy that his prickly, defiant personality screamed out for.
Waugh was probably the least-appreciated of the batting stars of the ’90s, overshadowed by more determined, driven contemporaries. Brian Lara apart, there were few whose batting was more elegant. But Waugh was also found guilty of accepting payments from a bookie in return for information in Sri Lanka.
Finishing a career as glittering and celebrated as Azharuddin’s on 99 Tests, and in a manner of such ignominy? There is something sad and appropriate in that. Azhar was the most successful captain India had till then and easily one of their finest batsmen when the mood took him.
Malik was Pakistan’s best batsman once Javed Miandad faded, a master in swinging conditions. He also became one of the most tactically astute Pakistan captain. Unfortunately, it was while captain that he was accused of trying to fix a Test, and in 2000, he would become the original victim of a News of the World tabloid sting. He was banned for life.
Hansie Cronje (capt)
Right or wrong, Cronje’s unveiling as one of three corrupt international captains was probably the most surprising. Cronje was Mr South Africa, popular and responsible for turning his side into arguably the second-best side. He was a simple, destructive batsman, a handy bowler and an undemonstrative, diligent leader. And, of course, a regular fixer of matches. Until Mohammad Amir, he was the only cricketer to confess publicly his guilt and if it brought him some peace, it did little else. He died in 2002 in a plane crash.
The only player to be banned for corrupt activities who returned to resume, and indeed enhance, his career. Samuels was a gifted, but infuriatingly inconsistent, batsman when he was found guilty of giving information to a bookie in Nagpur. Indian police uncovered the plot, Samuels was banned for two years, before returning, improbably, to be their best player last year.
Nayan Mongia (wk)
Mongia understudied Kiran More for a long time in the national side, but when he took over in the mid-90s he proved himself to be, arguably, India’s best wicketkeeper for some time. He was as natural against pace as he was to spin. He could bat as well, with a Test-highest of 152 against Australia. But he was banned by the BCCI after being named by Azhar during his interrogation as an accomplice.
The world’s greatest leg-spinner and one of the greatest cricketers of all. Warne was also the other player, along with Waugh, to be fined and punished for taking payments from a bookie in Colombo he knew only as “John”. Of the many Warne off-field indiscretions, this was possibly the worst.
At 18, Amir had the world at his feet. In a very short time, he had come a very long way and was widely predicted to emulate Wasim Akram. But he then bowled that no-ball at Lord’s in 2010 and life has unravelled since. He was first banned by the ICC for five years and then sent, briefly, to jail in England.
The final member of the Pakistan trio to be implicated in that Lord’s Test. Asif was the smartest fast bowler Pakistan ever produced, reliant purely on brain and skill rather than pace. But intelligence was clearly confined to the field; outside of it, he was found guilty of doping twice, detained for possession at Dubai airport, even before being sent to jail for fixed no-balls.
Pakistan’s fourth-highest Test wicket-taker of all-time and one of their leading bowlers through the 2000s, Kaneria only just escaped arrest, but was banned for life for spot-fixing during a domestic limited-overs game in England. He is still fighting his case, but is unlikely ever to return to the game. It is somehow apt that his first ball in international cricket was a googly.
Sreesanth, Herschelle Gibbs, Ata-ur-Rehman.
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