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Comment: Watching cricket will never feel the same again
The saddest thing about the match-fixing allegations which have engulfed Sussex this week is that it has changed the way I will look at cricket forever.
I have never been naive enough to think that the game was purer than pure in the past – Hanse Cronje saw to that – but like many others I tried to convince myself that was a one-off.
Even when the three Pakistan players were convicted for spot-fixing at Lord’s or Mervyn Westfield and Danish Kaneria were banned I assumed that it was an issue that had little bearing on the county I cover for a living – Sussex.
Now Lou Vincent has blown that philosophy out of the water once and for all.
Vincent has been charged by the ECB with 14 offences of fixing two Sussex games and further worldwide charges are set to follow.
The web appears to be untangling with the former New Zealand international cooperating with an ICC investigation which could blow the lid on the whole murky business.
Already former Sussex team-mate Naved Arif has been allegedly implicated by Vincent’s evidence with the Pakistani-born bowler charged along with Vincent with conspiring to fix the CB40 game against Kent at Hove in August 2011.
I attend the majority of Sussex’s home games but was not at the match in question. Even if I had been I doubt I would have thought that there was anything untoward regarding Sussex’s surprise batting collapse.
That will not be the case any longer though.
Every wide or no-ball that is bowled or batsman who is run out will make me wonder whether what I am seeing is legitimate or not.
In hindsight there have been other games I have been at which now look suspect in the light of the revelations from the last week. You begin to ask yourself why a certain player was pushed up the order when there was a better batsman waiting to come in.
Why a player was run out taking a risky single that was never there or blocked out an over when the run rate was spiralling.
These questions will keep nagging away at me and a lot of Sussex supporters until this sorry mess is dealt with – something which unfortunately could take a pretty long time.
And let’s not kid ourselves that this is Sussex’s problem. It is cricket’s problem and every county in the country should be on their guard to ensure this cancer is not allowed to fester and grow.
What makes it even harder for me to get my head around is that I interviewed Lou Vincent a number of times during his solitary season at Hove and thought he was a genuinely nice guy.
Looking back now on some of the stories I wrote about him – including one on the day of the Lancashire game he has been charged with fixing – makes me cringe.
If he is found guilty, then he has pulled the wool over my eyes and everyone else at Sussex.
If he and Arif are convicted as cheats then the punishment must be severe.
Banning them from any involvement in cricket for life would be a start but when you consider Vincent is retired and Arif has not played first class cricket since leaving Sussex perhaps it is not enough.
Criminal proceedings might be necessary to send out a message to all players that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated.
What's your view? You can send your thoughts direct to Steve by email at firstname.lastname@example.org