Sport and gambling will forever be intertwined. The thrill of the chase, the uncertainty of the outcome, the ever-changing odds. Most of the time, it’s a legitimate enhancement to the enjoyment of the game or for the serious gamblers, multiple games.
The major gaming companies, whose sponsorship dollars sport is happy to take, will very publicly declare how they help people to not over extend – “When the fun stops, stop”. Sadly, however, there will always be a degree of abuse. Shadier, less legitimate gamblers, will infiltrate sport. Weaker sports professionals will be lured and tempted. Some will get away with it. Others will be found out and their public punishment and shame, quite rightly, will be used as a deterrent to stop others following suit.
No matter how we moralise, legislate and apply hefty, sometimes career-ending penalties, there will never be 100 per cent success in prevention. A total ban on gambling is never likely to happen. Possibly its advertising will be restricted, but legislators have to consider the cost in lost revenue and often find that can soften their attitude.
Boxers will take a dive, jockeys will hold back a horse, goalkeepers will let in a goal they should have saved. Cricketers will over step the crease and the mark generally.
Up until now there have been 28 international cricketers and 21 domestic cricketers that have, since 2000, breached the clear ICC rules on gambling. Hansie Chronje, Saleem Malik, Mohammad Amir, Salman Butt, Danish Kaneria, Lou Vincent, and Mervyn Westfield are just some the names who have either fallen mightily from grace, or been stopped in their tracks before they could attain a level of grace to fall from. That’s a well-populated rogues’ gallery in the “gentleman’s game”.
They have one thing in common of course – they got caught. How many others do not? Undoubtedly though their capture and punishment will have deterred some.
Some received life bans that devastated their lives. In one case it may have even cost them their life.
Sadly, another name has been added to the list, as the ICC announced that former Zimbabwe cricket captain Heath Streak has been banned for eight years on corruption charges after passing on betting information and introducing four players to a would-be corruptor in exchange for gifts that included $35,000 in bitcoin and an iPhone for his wife.
The 47-year-old, who played 65 Tests and 189 one-day internationals for Zimbabwe between 1993 and 2005 and also played county cricket for Warwickshire and Hampshire, accepted five charges under the ICC’S anti-corruption code for offences that took place in 2017 and 2018.
“Mr. Streak chose to admit the charges and agreed the sanction with the ICC in lieu of an Anti-Corruption Tribunal hearing,” an ICC statement said.
The Zimbabwe coach from 2016 to 2018 has a ban that extends until March, 2029, having been found guilty of breaching five rules of the ICC’s Anti-Corruption Code related to betting. He disclosed inside information in relation to matches in the 2018 tri-series involving Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, the Zimbabwe v Afghanistan series in 2018, the IPL 2018 and the APL 2018, the statement revealed.
0He also “facilitated or attempted to facilitate” the introduction of four players, including a national captain, to a third party for inside information for betting purposes. Additionally, he was found guilty of obstructing the ICC’s investigation, and failing to declare a “gift, payment, hospitality or other benefit”.
Alex Marshall, general manager of the ICC’s Integrity Unit, said: “As a former captain and coach, he held a position of trust and owed a duty to uphold the integrity of the game.”
He added: “The offences did not affect the outcomes of any relevant matches and Mr Streak has agreed to assist the ICC anti-corruption education programme, for which we are grateful. He has also expressed his remorse and contrition and entered this agreed sanction decision to avoid the need for a full disciplinary process. The sanction reflects this cooperation.”
There seems to be some leniency show by the ICC, although at 47, an eight-year gap may effectively be as good as a life ban, so quickly does the game evolve; re-entering it at 55 after several inactive years is, perhaps, unlikely.
In his own country, there is a considerable feeling of anger and a sense of a local legend fallen. Ultimately, Streak is another sad case, but will not be the last.
Although said in jest, W.C Field’s famous advice “Never bet on anything that talks”, is as true today as when he first uttered it. Heath Streak and so many others will continue to rue not paying attention to those words.