Breeding grounds for fixing?

New Delhi, Oct. 9 -- Calling it 'Operation World Cup' was sort of a misnomer. The India TV sting had the approached umpires sputtering out more damning material on the Sri Lankan and Bangladesh Premier League than on the WorldT20, where they had practically little role to play. In the T20 leagues, on the contrary, they officiated in many games and hence their allegations of fixing and debauchery being rampant in these leagues have more credence. Besides, it brings us to the question what these umpires, who are willing to compromise in the closely-watched ICC event, would be up to in the little monitored leagues? Are the mushrooming T20 leagues becoming hotbeds for corruption, and providing rogue elements an easy access to these officials?

A source, aware of how things work in these leagues and international cricket, said it was a matter of grave concern. "Most of those officiating in these leagues are fringe and first-class umpires. I don't think they are too well paid, so they are of course vulnerable to quick-buck offers," he said.

'Waiting to happen'

What could further embolden the crooked officials to take the bait is that these leagues aren't actively watched by the ICC's anti-corruption unit. "These are domestic leagues and hence are watched by the concerned country's anti-corruption unit, which came into existence after Pakistan players were caught in spot-fixing scandal in England. The ICC's role is to oversee and guide the local units in these leagues," the source said.

Pointing a finger at the leagues, Darrell Hair, a former ICC Elite Panel umpire, said he wasn't surprised by the development. "There have been rumours going around for ages, since the IPL started, that umpires were involved," the umpire told a news agency.

While he stressed the umpires with whom he officiated were above board, he said "there have been others around, probably in a lesser environment, trying to make a quick buck".

A BCCI umpire, not wanting to be identified, admitted it's far easier to approach the officials in the domestic leagues than in international matches. "There's a lot of scrutiny in international games compared to these leagues. So if someone wants to get an official to do his bidding, he would look to catch them in these leagues."

The repeated stings exposing malpractices in the game don't reflect well on the ICC's anti-corruption unit too. The question is why this unit fails to unearth plots even as the media keeps digging out dirt time and again?

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.