Pushing the brown envelope

A couple of years ago I sat with two players of vastly different ages, one at the beginning of his career and one at the end. We were talking (with beer in hand and therefore very much ‘off the record’) about match-fixing and the difficulties of stamping it out.

The young player said he would never, ever be tempted to do something illegal and then sat back and waited for one of us to buy his next beer. He didn’t have any money on him, or he’d left his wallet at home, or some similar excuse.

The senior player removed his own wallet and handed the young man a R50 note and said “get us three more.” Then he took the money back, paused, and reached into his wallet again. He took out R500 and said to his young colleague: “Actually, make mine and double Scotch – and you can keep the change as long as you don’t tell my wife. I’m supposed to be off the Scotch.”

“What?! You’re joking, right?” said the young man.

“No, perfectly serious. I know you haven’t got much cash at the moment so if you bring me a double Scotch and make sure the barman doesn’t know it’s for me, you can keep the change.”

So, calling the senior player’s bluff, the youngster came back from the bar with two beers and tall glass with a double Scotch in it, wrapped in a sweater. He did not hand the change back, but sat through another hour of banter feeling less and less conscious of the money in his wallet until, by the time we left the bar, he’d forgotten¬† all about it. The beers helped, of course.

When we stood up to leave, the senior player put his arm around the younger man and said: “You see, it’s that simple. Easy money for doing something you don’t even think is wrong. Don’t ever say you won’t be tempted, because we’re all tempted. Now give me my bloody money back you dumb p**ck!”


Perhaps it was so with Mohammed Amir. What was so bad about bowling a couple of no balls? Now he’s going to jail for six months.

But all this talk about prison being such a big deterrent is peculiar. Are professional cricketers really so different from everyone else? If prison is such a deterrent, why are there so many serial offenders? If cricket people are so determined to proclaim that ‘everything has changed’ now that three cricketers have been criminally prosecuted and sentenced to serve time behind bars, then they are deluding themselves.

Most cricketers have never seen what ¬£20,000 in cash looks like, never mind what they would feel if offered it in a brown, unmarked envelope in a quiet room with just two people in it. “A no-ball at the start of your second over, that’s all. Nobody else will know.”
Later, of course, it becomes “concede 10 runs or more in your fourth over.” Then you’re snagged.

The prison sentences don’t signify the end of the battle against corruption, they signify the beginning.

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