| GEO Sports|
ICC seeks undercover agents to look for fixers
| Updated at: 1201 PST, Wednesday, October 20, 2010|
SYDNEY: Undercover agents posing as illegal bookmakers will approach cricketers to see if they report the encounters, under a radical proposal by the International Cricket Council to fight corruption.
Players who do not report the approaches from the agents would be penalised under the anti-corruption code, with sanctions ranging from warnings to fines and suspensions.
The plan is in its embryonic stage and is one of many being considered by the ICC in light of the Pakistan spot-fixing allegations, but the undercover agents would be the first used in any sport in this manner.
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The idea was put to ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat and it is now being considered.
''We are thinking of setting up our own approaches to players, to see if they report it, we will think out of the box,'' Lorgat told The Age yesterday.
''It is only a tentative plan at this stage, we are working on a number of measures to combat corruption.
''We are not sitting on our hands on this issue, we are being as proactive as we can in ensuring the integrity of the game is maintained.''
A major problem for the ICC in policing corruption and identifying bookmakers is realising the scope of their operations and methods of approach.
While many players have reported approaches to the ICC's anti-corruption unit or their own boards, there is no telling how many other cricketers have dismissed similar encounters.
If players were aware that any suspicious encounter could be with an undercover agent, they would be more likely to report it due to fear of exposure. In turn, illegal bookmakers would face greater difficulty knowing that each time they attempted to speak to a player, they would likely be reported.
If the plan is approved at the ICC's next meeting, players could be approached by undercover operatives during the Ashes and next year's World Cup.
Australian players have made it notoriously tough for bookies to build relationships with them. Shane Watson, Brad Haddin, Brett Lee and David Warner have reported approaches from suspicious characters in the past 18 months.
Watson and Haddin were approached by the same man - identified later as having links to illegal Indian bookmakers - during last year's tour of England, which included the Ashes and Twenty20 World Cup.
Pakistan Test skipper Salman Butt and pacemen Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir face serious penalties if the ICC can prove they were guilty of spot-fixing during the series against England. The trio have appealed their suspensions and will front separate hearings on October 30 and 31 in Qatar.
Butt is maintaining his innocence despite reports that police had found, in his London hotel room, marked notes given by a News of the World undercover reporter to Mazhar Majeed, Butt's agent and an alleged fixer who is still under a criminal investigation, as part of a sting on match-fixing.
''My cricket career was going well and I was also doing well, these allegations have damaged my career,'' Butt said.
''I hope these hurdles are crossed as soon as possible. I think after passing through so much difficulty in your career, your exposure helps you become wiser. You start to understand your surroundings better and especially who is more sincere with you. This is a hurdle which is a learning process of life.''
The Pakistan Cricket Board has been forced to find new ways to fight the threat of corruption within its team. It has already released a code of conduct for players highlighting zero tolerance for associating with fixers or player agents believed to be involved in fixing.
The ICC also told the PCB to introduce a competency-based education program for all registered players, a strong disciplinary process for the sport, and a deterrent and detection process to identify corrupt players, officials and agents.
PCB chairman Ijaz Butt was warned that if he did not accept and introduce these terms his position as a member representative was under threat.
Pakistan's new team manager Intikhab Alam said: ''The new code of conduct is the first step towards fulfilling the ICC's recommendations.
''We hope the new code will help us in dealing with the disciplinary and corruption problems.''