Cricket’s fight against the scourge of gambling and match-fixing is far from over
Sport rests on two pivots. The first is the athlete’s desire to win by putting in the greatest endeavour. The second attribute is the fans’ belief that what unfolds on the turf is based on sincere effort. Sport is real and its immediacy also invests it with long-lasting meaning. It is this enduring template that gets torn asunder when cricketers throw matches or athletes consume anabolic steroids and break records. Corruption that taints performance is a poisoned dagger which cleaves sport’s throbbing heart and the latest scandal involving Heath Streak, is a crushing blow to cricket. The former Zimbabwe captain admitted to sharing information with bookies while he was the coach of various teams ranging from Zimbabwe to Kolkata Knight Riders, and has also accepted bitcoins for favours rendered. This breach of trust occurred largely from 2016 to 2018 and on Wednesday, the International Cricket Council (ICC) banned Streak for eight years. It was a fall from grace for one of Zimbabwe’s greatest players. Streak was a crafty fast bowler and a useful batsman as evident in his combined international tally of 455 wickets and 4933 runs during a 12-year career that finished in 2005.
Disbelief was the first emotion when match-fixing reared its head in 2000. It was a conflagration that hurt many high-profile cricketers including the late Hansie Cronje, Mohammad Azharuddin and Saleem Malik. The allegations may have failed to gain legal sanctity in long-drawn cases but the whispers remained. The sordid saga had another instalment when spot-fixing hurt the 2013 Indian Premier League forcing a cleansing of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). The same despondency was in vogue after the ICC mentioned Streak’s transgressions even if the caveat was that his actions had no bearing on the results of the games in which he was involved as a coach. Streak may not have fixed a contest but in sharing contacts of players with bookies, he was paving the way for a probable underwhelming show. Bookies lure with requests for seemingly innocuous information before they spread the net wide. It may be recalled that in the 1990s, Shane Warne and Mark Waugh confessed to sharing pitch and weather information with a book-maker. Streak’s misdemeanour is also a step back for Zimbabwean cricket, which is returning from a long-drawn administrative crisis that forced the early retirement of the Flower brothers – Grant and Andy — and the exile of Henry Olonga. Streak’s dalliance with greed shows that the ICC’s fight against the scourge of gambling and match-fixing is farfrom over.