The cricketing world received a shock when Qatar-based news channel Al Jazeera released a documentary in which it accused three English and two Australian players of being involved in spot-fixing.
The documentary shows an undercover journalist meeting two bookies at two different places, who tell him how the whole system of betting works and in the process three Test matches — Chennai Test between India vs England in 2016, Ranchi Test between India and Australia in 2017, Galle Test between Sri Lanka and Australia in 2017 — are fixed in sessions.
The bookies take the name of the players involved, but Al Jazeera chose to censor the names for legal reasons. One of the bookies in the documentary is Robin Morris, en ex-cricketer from Mumbai. Pakistan's former cricketer Hasan Raza has also been caught in involvement in organising the betting affair in the documentary.
The cricketing world, especially administrative boards, have been quick to react to the whole incident.
England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chief executive, Tom Harrison, said that England's cricketers had outrightly denied the allegations. He told The Guardian, “There is nothing we have seen that would make us doubt any of our players in any way whatsoever. The limited information we have been given has been discussed with all the England players. They emphatically deny the allegations, have stated categorically that the claims are false and they have our full support. Neither ECB nor the ICC is aware of any credible evidence connecting any England players to any form of corruption.”
Trevor Bayliss, England head coach, branded the fixing claims as 'outrageous'. “Outrageous. I knew a documentary was going to be coming out. I wouldn’t have a clue what’s in it yet, or seen it. But, having been there (at the Chennai Test), outrageous is all I can say,” he fumed.
Joe Root, England Test captain, said that he was fully aware of the documentary but the players have the backing of the ECB. He was quoted saying, “I am aware that there is a documentary and it is outrageous that our players have been accused. All the players have the full backing of the ECB."
On the other hand, International Cricket Council’s (ICC) head of anti‑corruption, Alex Marshall, said that the governing body was ready to investigate the matter, but the concerned media house was not showing full co-operation in sharing the unedited footage of the sting. He was quoted as saying, “The ICC has now had the opportunity to view the documentary and as we have previously stated, we are taking the contents and the allegations it has made extremely seriously. A full investigation is now underway to examine each claim made. We have been in ongoing dialogue with the broadcaster which has refused our continual requests to cooperate and share information which has hampered our investigation to date. The content of the programme is of course useful, but I would now urge the production team to provide us with all unedited and unseen evidence they are in possession of. Given this is a live investigation and one that is likely to be subject to the legal process, it is not possible to provide any further comment.”
Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) also released a statement on their website to say that it will show zero tolerance towards corruption. The statement read, "Sri Lanka Cricket wishes to state that it has zero tolerance towards corruption and will take immediate action against any person involved in the alleged incident, if found guilty.”
Cricket Australia (CA) CEO James Sutherland said that the board was aware of the documentary and the credible claims will taken very seriously. He was quoted as saying by Cricketnext, "Together with the ICC, we are aware of the investigation by Al Jazeera into alleged corruption in cricket. Although not having been provided an opportunity to view the documentary or any raw footage, our long-standing position on these matters is that credible claims will be treated very seriously and fully investigated."
Former England captain Michael Atherton, however, refused to believe that the revelations in the documentary are real. In a column in The Australian, he wrote, "This, I find hard to believe. Since the match-fixing crisis of the 1990s, the awareness among players of the problem of fixing, the potential consequences (time in jail and five years out of the game for Mohammad Amir, remember, for nothing more than a newspaper sting) and stringent controls around dressing rooms by the ICC have made it much less likely to be a problem in international cricket. The players are paid too well (especially those from India, England and Australia). They have too much to lose."
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