Alex Marshall, the head of anti-corruption unit of ICC, admits that the main focus of their fight has shifted from international cricket to franchise leagues and lower echelons of the game. Image Credit: AP file

Dubai: The fight against corruption is cricket has gradually shifted it’s focus from international matches to franchise leagues and minor leagues in various parts of the world, according to a top official of the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) of the world governing body.

Alex Marshall, General Manager of ACU of International Cricket Council (ICC), admitted that the challenge before them has changed somewhat with the proliferation of such leagues but they have their own limitations and can only act if the respective boards approach them for help to streamline the operations. ‘‘We are responsible for monitoring international cricket while it’s the job of the respective boards to look after their domestic leagues. Countries with their own leagues like India, Pakistan, Australia or England have sizeable own anti-corruption practices. For example, Pakistan Super League (PSL) is looked after by PCB and they follow the template of the ICC anti-corruption units.

‘‘Vulnerability comes in leagues where sometimes, there is a lack of care about who the franchise owners are. Our experience over the last two years is that the most persistent corruptors often try to get a grip within a franchise. It doesn’t often matter as to who is in charge but the backing comes from these corruptors. We were asked to intervenue in the Lanka Premier League (LPL) and we took out two people, while we did the same thing in Abu Dhabi T10 also,’’ said the 59-year-old Marshall, a former Scotland Yard officer - during in an informal chat with a select media group on the sidelines of the just-concluded T20 World Cup.

Lanka Premier League
The Lanka Premier League, which was under the scanner, had sought help from ICC to clean up their act a few years back. Image Credit: Twitter

The LPL had, in recent past, been in the news for the wrong reasons but Marshall is now satisfied with the progress made by the country in last three years - during which 22 people were charged with corruption. The previous government in Sri Lanka, under the initiative of Sports Minister Harin Fernando, had passed a legislation in 2019 which made corruption in the sport a criminal offence and hence jailable.

In India, where he admits that the volume of unregulated betting market is a huge worry, can such a legislation help? ‘‘It’s upto the Indian government to decide on what they want to do about the legislation but the results in Sri Lanka have been good,’’ said Marshall.

Where does their fight against this menace stand now, with a number of cases being reported recently from associate countries? ‘‘We have a resonable picture as to who are the main corruptors across the world. Cricket corruptors generally stick to cricket and we have charged 22 people and we have been going around the world as more investigations are going on. We try to disrupt such activities on the basis of our intelligence,’’ he said.


‘‘The feedback is they are now going more into lower leagues, where an amount 3000 euros is enough to ask a players to under-perform. As it has become tougher to penetrate into international matches, the corruptors are setting their sights lower now - like club matches in mainland European leagues. There are about 40-50 live investigations going on pretty much everywhere - Africa, Asia, mainland Europe and we never talk about people who are still under the investigation, we don’t event tell their board,’’ he revealed.

How do corruptors influence a game in today’s context? ‘‘The corruptors like captains, opening batters and bowlers - they want to control phases of the game like say first two overs rather than the results. Now, we have very good relationship with regulated betting markets - they have algorithms which alert them if there is something unusual. Professional bookmakers actually have an interest in ensuring cricket is reasonably honest as otherwise they lose money,’’ he said.

Asked about the fantasy leagues, being started by the online gaming companies who are turning into major sponsors in the sport, Marshall didn’t see much of an area of concern so far. ‘‘To the extent it’s fantasy, we have got no interest. However, if it’s used to influence performances, then there is a cause of concern.’’

Finally, has the Bio Bubble during the Covid-19 pandemic cast any influence in curbing corruption ? ‘‘It has made the players more protected. The hotel lobbies which used to be a vulnerable place before is out of bounds. However, most corrupt practices don’t happen in person anymore,’’ Marshall added.