Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland has strongly rejected claims from a British newspaper that the current Ashes series could have been compromised by illegal gambling interests.
The Sun tabloid published a front-page report just before the third Test in Perth got underway, featuring undercover recordings of two men who claimed they could arrange spot-fixes — predetermined passages of play that would allow gamblers to guarantee winning bets.
There was, however, no involvement of any cricketers or officials, nor any indication that the claims of the men recorded had any substance.
“You’ve got to be a little bit suspicious about the timing of when that story dropped,” Sutherland told ABC Grandstand before the start of the second day’s play.
“People make those sorts of decisions. The story was really a bit of mudslinging at the game, in the hope that some of it sticks.
“What we’ve heard from the head of the ICC anti-corruption unit is based on his intelligence and the dossier of information they have from The Sun, there’s not any substance to this that means they have credible suspicions.”
Sutherland said investigators would keep an open mind, but that he wasn’t expecting any revelations.
“The ICC anti-corruption unit has responsibilities for the game and anything that is flowing around, any allegations, no matter how outlandish they may be, need to be investigated,” he said.
“In terms of a deep forensic investigation, that only happens when there’s credible allegations that they’re satisfied [tally with] other aspects of their intelligence.
After being briefed by the ICC’s anti-corruption chief, Alex Marshall, Sutherland’s primary concern was making sure that his players didn’t feel compromised by implied connection with the fixing allegations.
“The players were briefed before the game and I spoke to our players after the game, just so that they understood the nature of the story but also the background as to how I was briefed before play,” he said.
“I wanted to make the point to the players that I understand any such allegation also undermines or takes question as to their own personal integrity.”
Big Bash more at risk than Tests
The CA chief also tacitly admitted that the Big Bash League, whether the men’s or women’s competition, was more likely to be a target of match-fixers than the very well-paid Australian Test team.
“T20 cricket around the world is probably the area we need to monitor carefully, and I’m very strong and keen for every competition run under the auspices of member countries of the ICC to have a very high bar of anti-corruption and security measures to protect players and officials and protect the game,” Sutherland said.
“Being an international sport with global interest in our competition here, and all the other leagues and then players transferring around, there are risks associated, and they’re risks that the ICC is totally attuned to.
“Our anti-corruption and security unit has worked very closely with them, to share information, to understand where the risks are, and to keep that bar as high as possible.
“We have taken really strong steps right from the outset of the BBL to make sure that the bar is really high, and that potential corruptors are kept well away from our sport, and the BBL in particular.”
However, Sutherland insisted that there had been no credible threats to the integrity of the BBL or WBBL so far, despite ongoing vigilance.