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CRICKET: ONLY THE LORD CAN SAVE OUR CRICKET NOW; MacLaurin is the man to lead us out of abyss.

LORD MacLAURIN, the former Tesco boss who is now ruler of cricket in this country, is the only man who can save the game from the biggest crisis in its history.

MacLaurin, chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, showed leadership while the grey men of the International Cricket Council spent last week sitting on the fence.

That's not a shock. Down the years the world governing body have sat on so many fences their backsides must have permanent bruises!

You cannot say that about MacLaurin. He alone has seen the catastrophe that will result if the fall-out from the sacking of the South African captain Hansie Cronje is not dealt with now.

Lord MacLaurin called for a summit of the heads of cricket round the world ... while the ICC refused to investigate betting, bribery and match-fixing throughout the world.

Their inquiry will deal only with Cronjegate.

It is not enough, as they will soon discover.

Slowly but surely the facts about the widespread nature of this creeping cancer are emerging.

Cronje's problems began when the Indian police, tapping a mobile phone to get evidence for an extortion case, heard him talk as if he was arranging for his team mates to either score slowly or get out for small scores.

The mass of evidence against him in India forced him to ring Ali Bacher, managing director of the United Cricket Board of South Africa at 3am last Tuesday and admit he had been dishonest in his account of the scandal.

The South African inquiry will also focus on two games from England's tour there this winter.

It will look into the fifth Test which England won by two wickets after Cronje suggested that both sides forfeit an innings. And it will investigate the second Test in which Cronje took his time making a declaration and England batted to a draw.

Cronje's friends, like the former South African coach Bob Woolmer, still cannot believe this honourable man has committed a crime.

But within half an hour of his confession he was sacked and now the South African government has agreed to help with extradition proceedings if he is brought before an Indian court.Meanwhile, a special task force of the Indian police is combing the country for new evidence.

They claim that one of their witnesses - Kishen Kumar, a failed actor - is "singing like a canary".

Kapil Dev, the coach, Saurav Ganguly, the captain, and former coach Ajit Wadekar have been summoned to meet their sports minister to explain India's recent appaling results.

In this country, the attitude appears to be: It cannot happen here.

Cynics say you don't need to bribe England to lose; they lose without bribes.

Romantics stick to the old view that our cricketers are too noble to accept money to fix a result.

Lets hope it's true. One bookmaker said a few years ago that only England, Australia and South Africa could not be bribed but certainly the betting men have got close to the Australians, Mark Waugh and Shane Warne, and the South African captain.

It is no use being complacent.

If it can happen to a born-again Christian like Cronje, who was brought up in the firm discipline of an Afrikaaner home and sent to a school where they caned first and asked questions after-wards, it can happen here.

He was a by-word for integrity, straight shooting and honesty. Now it needs Lord MacLaurin, a man with a similar reputation - built up over 40 years devoted to making Tescos the leading supermarket - to put things right.

His clarion call for a summit -"so that we can all be seen to be singing from the same hymn sheet" - means he is the man with the vision to lead a campaign to clean up cricket.

It cannot come too soon or cricket's results will be viewed in the same way that we look at the results of a World Wrestling Federation bout.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Corbett, Ted
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Apr 16, 2000
Words:658
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