The news that Pakistan players have been questioned by Scotland Yard detectives investigating allegations of spot-fixing rocked the world of cricket over the weekend, casting a shadow over the last day of a Test match that had seen some remarkable individual achievements, which are now tainted by the suspicion that all was not above board.
While we obviously have to wait for the outcomes of the various inquiries that have been launched, a good comment piece by Dileep Premachandran shows where the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) may have gone wrong, and from that the reader can infer how it may need to reform if similar scandals are to be avoided in the future.
There are also lessons for business amongst the prurient details. First, if you are going to protect your business from unsavoury outside forces, you need to remove temptation from your employees. This means making sure that you pay them what they are worth, and that the consequences they face should they stray will act as a disincentive. I find it impossible to imagine that fast bowler Mohammad Amir acted alone. At just 18 years of age he is outranked by several members of the Pakistan squad, and it would be insane for him to jeopardise what has all the makings of a stellar career for short-term gain. Yet when you remember that his £40000 bonus cheque for being Pakistan’s man of the series is equivalent to three times his monthly retainer, and that the middleman involved in the newspaper sting was allegedly dealing with sums of over thirty-five times as much again, it is all too easy to see how a young sportsman might be swayed by pressure from team-mates to compromise his principles and put his future at risk. Were Pakistani players paid more, or allowed to play in the Indian Premier League (IPL) to supplement their earnings, perhaps they wouldn’t have made such easy marks for unscrupulous betting syndicates.
Next, the management structure of the PCB obviously needs reforming. It appears to be built on a creaky and rotten edifice of nepotism, political and personal cronyism and a hearty disregard for expertise rather than connections. In short, it stinks. Allowing Pakistani cricket to become the plaything of a small cabal of politicians and ex-cricket professionals means that proper governance and oversight were lacking. The same danger lurks for businesses: what may have started out as a family firm will still need to have proper management structures to ensure accountability as it grows. If not, personal caprices and prejudices will have free rein, leading to faulty decision-making to the detriment of everyone involved in the organisation, not just those at the top.
Finally, there is no point having a monitoring regime if it is ineffective or asleep at the wheel. After previous match-fixing scandals, the International Cricket Council (ICC) set up an expensive “anti-corruption squad.” Where are they in all of this? Why were they not alert as to possible wrongdoing sooner? Why did it take a tabloid newspaper to show how apparently easy it is to influence a game? For all the lofty talk about stamping out cheating and corruption in cricket, I would like to know exactly how hard the graft-spotters were working from their shiny offices in Dubai. Again, for businesses, if you are going to put anti-fraud measures in place, you also have to use them. There is no point having a burglar alarm if it is never set.
As a cricket fan, I am shocked and saddened by the latest controversy. Thinking about it from a management point of view, I am incandescent with rage. I am incredibly angry: angry at the PCB for it’s shoddy management structure; angry at the ICC for having guard dogs that don’t bark; angry at the Pakistani spokesmen who have been trotted out to downplay the situation. Most of all however, I am angry at the punters who would seek to corrupt the game and potentially destroy the careers of sportsmen, all for the sake of a bet. Such people deserve no quarter, and I hope that the ongoing investigations will see at least some of them brought to justice.
Update: Ugh! As though this scandal couldn’t get more perverse. Not only have new allegations come to light, suggesting that there might have been spot-fixing even after the first rumours came to light, but now the chairman of the PCB is accusing the England team of throwing the final ODI. It’s all going a bit nationalistic and defensive, so at this rate we may never get to the truth of the matter. The real losers of course, are cricket fans.
[Image by Badger Swan]