The International Cricket Council's anti-corruption unit has been monitoring the activities of a leading Sri Lanka player since the World Twenty20 in England last year after team-mates became increasingly unsettled by his late-night fraternising with a man they believed to be an illegal bookmaker, the British Guardian newspaper reported today.
According to the report the concern were passed on to captain, Kumar Sangakkara, who followed ICC protocol by contacting the anti-corruption unit.
The player has since been investigated by Sri Lankan police, although no charges have been laid; officials from the ICC's anti-corruption unit are said to be dismayed at the lack of progress. Haroon Lorgat, the ICC's chief executive, has admitted to a general sense of frustration, saying: "The [anti-corruption unit's] working is not that of a policing agency or a newspaper. They have no power to arrest or seize, or carry out a sting operation."
Getting international players to question the honesty of one of their own team‑mates is a considerable challenge, but it is essential if the ICC is to root out corruption. England's one-day captain, Paul Collingwood, admitted ahead of today's Twenty20 international in Cardiff the difficulty faced by players in casting aside dressing‑room loyalties by reporting a team‑mate suspected of involvement with a betting scam.
As England and Pakistan prepared for the start of the one-day series, in a lingering atmosphere of despondency and mistrust, Collingwood said: "I love this game fondly. It's very hard to say whether you would blag on someone or whatever but I would like to think I would take every decision in the best interests of the game of cricket."
No England player, as far as Collingwood is aware, has ever felt the need to phone the ICC's anti-corruption hotline. "In my experience, I would probably say never, but I don't know for certain. You don't know whether players have done it individually and not told anybody else. This is probably stuff that will be done confidentially and kept kind of under the carpet."
England also seem to have stopped short of reporting suspicions about opponents. They are regularly implored, as are players from all countries, to pass on all suspicions and leave the anti-corruption unit to investigate, but pointing the finger of suspicion without evidence is not easily done. "From a players' point of view, we pretty much just want to focus on the game in hand and let the authorities deal with it and make strong decisions," Collingwood said. "It may be up to the players to tell the authorities if they think something is going on."
Pakistan's new captain, Shahid Afridi, who took over from the suspended Salman Butt, made a remarkable public apology before his side's net session in Cardiff yesterday on behalf of the three players – Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir – whose alleged involvement in betting scams is being investigated by the Metropolitan police and who have already been charged under the ICC's code of conduct. Afridi made no attempt to proclaim their innocence. "I think it is very bad news," he said. "On behalf of these players – I know they are not in this series – but on behalf of these boys, I want to say sorry to all cricket lovers and all the cricketing nations."
The News of the World, which published its exposé into cricket corruption a week ago after a sting operation against the Pakistan players' agent, Mazhar Majeed, provides further evidence over 19 pages today to support its allegations. The newspaper has been praised by the head of the anti-corruption unit, Ronnie Flanagan. The newspaper claims that the Pakistan players face 23 ICC charges between them and that the Metropolitan Police have recovered between £10-15,000 of bills marked by the News of the World from Butt's room.
It also states Butt was warned five times that he must report any irregular dealings. It also derides as "rantings" the suggestion by the Pakistan high commissioner in London, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, that the evidence had been faked.
Yasir Hameed, who was recalled for the final Test at The Oval – the Test that was the subject of the News of the World sting – is quoted as saying: "They were doing it [fixing] in almost every match. God knows what they were up to." Hameed last night denied he had made the allegations and said he was "deeply disturbed" by them.