To Roger Knight, President of the MCC and Derek Brewer, Chief Executive and Secretary of the MCC; thank you for the opportunity to deliver this lecture in the name of Colin Cowdrey.
To Mike Ofarrell and Richard Goatley, Chairman and Chief Executive of Middlesex CCC respectively; thank you for the opportunity to play for Middlesex and to be in London.
To the members of the late Colin Cowdrey’s family – it is a privilege to be with you.
And to the members of the MCC – thank you for being here this evening.
I was the kid in South Dunedin who lived for Saturday mornings, when I’d pull the curtains back and hope it wasn’t raining, that the wind was blowing from the north and the sun shining. Any of you who’ve spent a summer in Dunedin will know I was often disappointed. Scottish mist, the locals call it, but there’s a time and place for everything, and you could argue that summer in the South Pacific is neither. So I grew up not taking summer for granted. A day of sunshine was precious, because a day of sunshine meant cricket.
I remember the excitement of traveling to the ground with kit bags in the boot of our mum and dad’s car, finding a park some distance from the entry to Logan Park, and walking past dozens of games being played by children of all ages.
Turning up at the ground, my thoughts were not of nervousness or fame or fortune; nor of disdain for the opposition. It was all about the game; it really was the beauty and innocence that sport can bring.
There were no concerns that if I didn’t perform I may lose my contract. No worries about lost fame or relevance in a game that can make you a household name in countries all over the world. There was no anxiety of having to testify against a former team mate in the Southwark Crown Court. No concern about how to integrate a team mate who had lost the captaincy which I had since taken over. No media that seemed to delight in criticism. No second thoughts about charging the spinner, only to check myself because I remember the mortgage, the mouths to feed at home and the ramifications if I ran past the ball.
My father Stu, played 76 first class games for Otago – he must have been a great team man and tourist as he sat on the bench for about the same number of games! The Otago team at the time are held in folklore back home as a group of gnarly uncompromising men from the deep south of NZ. They played the game hard, very hard. According to lore, they were remunerated with a per diem that covered a pie, a pint and a punt, of which my old man enjoyed all three in abundance.
When Dad talks today about his cricketing experiences he doesn’t refer to runs, wickets, averages or aggregates but, rather, the, friendships, camaraderie and experiences that his time as a semi-professional cricketer.
It is, of course, cricket that’s brought me here, to the other side of the world, to stand before you, one of the proudest and most distinctive sporting Clubs in the World, to deliver the Spirit of Cricket lecture named after the great Colin Cowdrey.
I may be a veteran these days, as my knees and back keep reminding me, but I’m almost ten years younger than Cowdrey was when he finally called an end to his involvement in Test cricket.
I never saw him play, but he was one of the first great players I remember becoming aware of as a boy. My friend and lawyer, Garth Gallaway, who is here this evening remembers the England side touring New Zealand in 1970/71. Cowdrey, a man of the church, missed the first Test in Christchurch through illness and travelled to Dunedin at the invitation of Garth’s father, Iain, to preach at St Paul’s Cathedral. He had dinner at the Gallaway home and brought with him The Telegraph cricket correspondent, Michael Melford – and Cowdrey and Melford spent an hour on the back lawn bowling to 7 year old Garth.
Unfortunately, I can’t see that happening these days – a 7 year boy old would be far too good for most of the cricket writers I know!
Cowdrey’s record is there for all to see and, to my mind, he personified everything that is wonderful about cricket. He was (from all accounts) a courageous and skilful player but never combative and unpleasant – elegant, prodigious, calm and, most of all, he played the game fairly.
Against the West Indies in 1963, Cowdrey’s arm was broken on the fourth day of the Lords Test, fending a Wes Hall bouncer from his unprotected face. On the 5th day England were battling for a draw and, with just a couple of balls to go and England 9 down Cowdrey, plaster-cast on his left arm, went to the crease and helped see England home.
Just as inspirationally, he was summoned to Australia in 1974/75 after England had been hammered in the first test at the Gabba. He hadn’t played a Test in four years and there he was, with no warm-up game and coming out from an English winter, batting at 3 for England against Thomson and Lillee. It’s no wonder the crowd gave him a standing ovation as he walked out to bat. Legend has it that he looked at Jeff Thomson and said “Mr Thomson I believe? How good to meet you” to which the Australian quick said “That’s not going to help you fatso, piss off”.
Some things never change!
Cowdrey made 22 in the first innings facing 101 balls and batting for over 2 hours. In the second innings he offered to open and, in scoring 41 he withstood Thomson, Lillee, Walker and Mallet for over 2 hours. He was nearly 42 years old!
If ever we needed proof that the game can be played with grit and determination, with courage and with dignity and, above all, in the appropriate spirit – we need look no further than Michael Colin Cowdrey.
So it’s with considerable humility that I stand before you today and deliver this lecture in his name.
Even though, for much of my career I’m bound to say (sadly), I was very unlike Colin Cowdrey.
In the early days of my international career I was proud to be called brash, aggressive and perhaps even arrogant
When I first made the NZ ODI team, there were at least a couple of guys who were my heroes who had a swagger and sense of entitlement and arrogance about them.
Did I want to be like them? You bet I did!
I became incredibly competitive; winning was everything and I didn’t really care what it took to win.
I now look back on that part of my game with regret. There are many things I would change if I could. I guess growing up in a cricketing sense is no different to growing up in life, except that it’s a much more public rite of passage where everything you do is scrutinised.
There’s no escaping some of the things I’ve done. It’s on video – posterity in the worst possible way.
You probably want an example and fair enough too. Much as it pains me to talk about it publicly, I’ll tell you how I ran out Muttiah Muralitharan. We were playing Sri Lanka at Lancaster Park in Christchurch in late 2006. Kumar Sangakkara scored a magnificent 100 in the second innings. When Kumar reached his 100, Sri Lanka were 9 down – the ball was still in the air being returned to me as wicket-keeper when Murali left his ground to congratulate Kumar. When the ball arrived in my gloves, I removed the bails and appealed. Murali was given out and we went on to win the match.
Not surprisingly, the incident created controversy and bad feelings. The Sri Lankans were stunned. Their captain Mahela Jayawardene said at the time:
“Legally it was run out, the ball was alive but we play in an age where we talk about the spirit of the game. Hopefully it won’t happen again. It’s not the way to play cricket.”
If I could turn back time, I would. We were within the laws of the game but not the spirit and there is a very important difference which is glaringly obvious to me years later, and it’s that aspect that I want to focus on a little more this evening.
Because nearly ten years after running out Murali, I view things very differently and I would hope that I am a very different person. Kumar Sangakkara is here tonight. Sanga, I admire you enormously. I regard you as a friend. And I take this opportunity to apologise to you and Murali for my actions on that day.
I want to share with you the things that I think were the primary catalysts for my change of approach. And I think it’s fair to say that they came late in my career.
At the time they were particularly challenging for me and forced me to confront my character and question why I was playing the game. Eventually, they allowed me to see what was important about playing cricket and, as a consequence, my love of the game returned, very slowly at first and then in a flood.
The first event was my first test as captain of New Zealand. I had taken over the captaincy of the team from Ross Taylor and, to put it mildly, it was a controversial decision – played out constantly in the national media. To give you an example of the depth of feeling in New Zealand the late Martin Crowe, a magnificent player, announced to the media that he had burned his NZ blazer in disgust. Strong stuff.
In early January 2013, we played South Africa at Cape Town. It was a gorgeous day, but the pitch at Newlands looked a little bit green. I’d read about ‘the table-cloth on Table Mountain’. If there was no table-cloth – no cloud cover – then the theory was that you bat first on winning the toss. But if there is cloud on the mountain then the rule is to put South Africa in. I stared at the mountain looming over the city and saw bright blue sky, not even a wisp of cloud. So when I went out out to the pitch to toss the coin with Graeme Smith, I’d decided that if we won the toss, we’d bat. I wanted to make a strong statement, particularly to my team but also to the opposition.
19 overs and 2 balls later we were all out for 45. I’m not sure what happened to the table-cloth – it felt like Steyn, Morkel and Philander had whipped it away under us.
It was the 10th lowest total in 2069 Tests.
If an innings of 45 all out doesn’t force you to reconsider what you’re doing, I guess nothing will.
After returning to my room that evening, there was a knock on my door. It was the coach, Mike Hesson. Soon after we were joined by Mike Sandle, the manager, and then Bob Carter, the assistant-coach. This uninitiated meeting was to play a significant part in what was to unfold over the next few years.
We grabbed beer from the fridge and talked. We didn’t ‘white-board’ it, we just spoke from our hearts; about who we were as a team and how we were perceived by the public. It was agreed that we were seen as arrogant, emotional, distant, up-ourselves and uninterested in our followers.
The environment that the younger players were being welcomed into was really poor – there was a very traditional hierarchy, where senior players ruled the roost.
Ultimately, we concluded that individually and collectively we lacked character. The key for all of us was the team had no ‘soul’. We were full of bluster and soft as putty.
It was the first time I had really stopped to consider this in 11 years of international cricket.
The significance of what occurred that evening day was that we recognised that we had to change. We wanted to personify the traits that we identified in New Zealanders – to be humble and hard-working. We wanted to be respected by our long-suffering fans in New Zealand. We wanted to be respected by our opposition; and before we could demand this we had to learn to respect them.
A lot has been written about how the New Zealand team played in subsequent years. I think that no-one has captured it better than former Middlesex captain, Ed Smith. Writing for Cricinfo he said;
The manifestations of that contribution are well known – freedom, openness, sportsmanship, the embrace of risk and adventure, and rowing back from the toughness-is-sledging delusion. But how did McCullum reach the insights that led to those characteristics and opinions? And why was he able to stay true to them on the big stage?
He went on to say;
Athletes and sports teams waste huge space and energy on external motivators: mission statements about trying to be the best team in the world by 2057; blueprints for global dominance; strategic flow charts about key performance indicators. In fact, if every sportsman simply tried to be the best he could be, and attempted to behave decently along the way, you’ve pretty much summed up every available optimal strategy in one simple sentence. After all, you can’t be better than your best. And nothing matters more than how you feel about the way you’ve lived your life.
I couldn’t agree more with Ed’s comments. The things that worked for us may not work for everyone. In changing the way we approached the game, and respected the opposition, we wanted to be true to our national identity. In terms of that, New Zealanders identify with strong silent types. Perhaps our greatest hero is Sir Edmund Hilary – the first person to climb Mt Everest. He had a chiseled jaw – he never spoke boastfully about his remarkable achievements and he devoted a considerable part of his life seeking to improve the quality of life of the Nepalese people he loved so much.
Ed Smith recognized in his article the fact that sports people can spend an awful lot of time deep in analysis – every breath they take is analysed, nothing is left to chance. For us as New Zealand cricketers we wanted to remove a lot of the analysis; we wanted to be ‘blue collar’ in how we went about things, not aloof and superior. We reduced the various theories that had dominated so much of what we did; we planned less, had fewer team meetings and we tried to be the very best we could be. We wanted to be a team that people could be proud of; and if in doubt we wanted to play the game aggressively, not fear failure. I have been given far too much credit for what we achieved – the approach was taken by every member of the squad. Everyone brought into it and lived and breathed it.
And the joy of respecting the opposition was a revelation. There are times in a game where you simply have to enjoy the skill of the opposition and acknowledge it appropriately. Recently I played for the Gujarat Lions in the IPL. We took on The Royal Challengers Bangalore who batted first. After 3 overs RCB were 10/1 with Chris Gayle back in the pavilion. From there followed a slaughter of our attack by AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli – they broke the world record for the highest T20 partnership, scoring 229 runs between them. We tried everything to remove them; we bowled full, short, wide, into the pads and so on. The quicks tried taking the pace off the ball. Nothing worked. AB and Virat’s batting that day was breathtakingly skillful. Fielding at cover or mid-off for most of the innings the fan in me, the cricket lover, had the best seat in the house. Rather than admonish our bowlers for what occurred this was a time to celebrate genuine mastery.
In a similar vein, I was interested to see the reaction to Alistair Cook’s very considerable achievement of becoming the youngest player to score 10,000 runs. In an age where superlatives are thrown about willy-nilly, Alistair’s achievement is truly remarkable. But much of the coverage that followed focused on whether he can beat Tendulkar’s record tally of test runs – with calculations being undertaken of how many tests he may play, how many runs per season he could score and a prediction being provided accordingly. It is, I suppose, only natural that people would want to speculate in this way; but in doing so, in my view they risk failing to enjoy the moment; to reflect on what has been achieved here and now by a very fine player.
I want to talk now of the other really significant happening that affected my approach to the game. The events leading to it took place at the Sydney Cricket Ground on 25 November 2014. On that day, Phil Hughes suffered injuries that were to prove fatal, playing for New South Wales against South Australia. Phil was a good man. He was likeable both on and off the field. The outpouring of grief that followed the tragedy were testimony to how much he was loved at home in Australia.
The New Zealand team was in Sharjah playing in a Test series against Pakistan when the news came through that Phil had been hit and was in intensive care.
We were about to begin the 3rd and final test against a dominant Pakistan side; they had recently demolished Australia 2 – 0 at the same venues as we were playing. We had been well beaten in the first test at Abu Dhabi. To put the thumping we received in context, it was the largest winning margin (by runs) by Pakistan against any New Zealand team; and we took just five Pakistan wickets in the match.
We drew the second test but certainly performed better.
Going into the third test, we were very conscious that we hadn’t lost a test series since 2012, and we desperately wanted to preserve that record by getting a win at Sharjah to level the series. But even as an eternal optimist, I had my doubts that a Test win in the UAE is possible.
Misbah won the toss and at the end of day one Pakistan were 280 for 3. Just before the start of play on the second day, the bombshell arrived – Phil had died.
On hearing the news, my initial attitude was that we shouldn’t be playing. I looked around the dressing room and felt that no one wanted to be playing cricket. It had lost all meaning. There was also the realisation that it could have been any one of us. None of us ever anticipated that someone could die from a cricket ball, not in this day and age. I always wanted our fast bowlers roaring in, having a winning attitude; intimidating, ready to exploit any lack of certainty or technique in a batsman, but not at the expense of someone’s life. Cricket was meant to be a game, not a life or death struggle. It hit us all hard that for Phil, it had become exactly that.
Mike Sandle, Mike Hesson and I spoke to the match referee, Andy Pycroft from Zimbabwe. We told him we didn’t want to play. The umpires were Paul Reiffel and Rod Tucker, both Australians. They were broken and barely able to leave their room at the ground.
It was decided that we should take the day off and see how things looked the following day.
That night I rang Gilbert Enoka and told him that I didn’t know what to do. Gilbert is a sports psychologist in New Zealand who is held in very high regard. He has worked with the All Blacks and NZ cricket teams for years. I explained to Gilbert that we had a group of men who were shattered and wanted to get on a plane home as soon as possible. It didn’t feel right to continue playing, but we knew there was a good chance we’d have to. We were the only international game underway at the time and I felt we had to plan for the fact that we may be told we had to carry on.
Gilbert was incredible. He said we should not judge anything that anyone did during the week and that people should grieve in their own way, and concentrate their energy and emotions on themselves rather than the team. He told me to try and bring everyone together; to try to lighten the mood if at all possible. Most meaningfully Gilbert said;
‘All your preparation, all you have ever thought about in cricket, just throw it out the window for this one game.’
In saying this, it was like Gilbert took the weight off my shoulders and gave me a way to deal with what was happening – to realise that there were no rights or wrongs and the rule book could be thrown away.
That night most of the team shared a few beers in my room. The mood lightened at times but there was such a profound sense of disbelief, shock and sadness. We knew had to be at the ground the next day but deep down I think we all hoped the game would be abandoned and we’d be heading home.
Soon after arriving at the ground we were told that the game was going ahead, like it or lump it. The decision had been made for us. Looking back, I think this was the right decision but, at the time, it seemed wrong. In our dressing room there were a number of players weeping uncontrollably. It was to remain a common theme – as we walked onto the field the tears rolled down the faces of many of the lads and this continued sporadically during the day. As a captain, I felt unable to protect the team and, as we stood in the middle before play began, I apologised to them for having to play.
I fell back on Gilbert’s words; ‘All your preparation, all you have ever thought about in cricket, just throw it out the window for this one game.’
I reminded the team that there would be no harsh judgment on any player’s performance and no consequences for failure. I believe that what motivated us was Phil Hughes. We knew we had to play and we would do that as best we could, to honour Phil and the game itself.
The outcome of the ‘uncaring’, no consequence play was a revelation to me. I suspect it was something I had been trying to achieve on a personal level for years; but I had been unable to do so, except for fleeting moments. Here there was a release of many of the external factors that can creep in and influence a player. There was an instinctiveness that took over – no fear of failure, just playing and being ‘in the moment’.
From 281 for 3 at the end of Day 1, and 311 for 5 at drinks in the first session of what was effectively Day 2, Pakistan lost their last 6 wickets for 40 runs; and that opened the door for us, a little.
We put together 690 runs, the biggest total ever by a New Zealand side and the second-highest score against Pakistan by any team. As a team we averaged nearly 5 runs an over and we hit 22 sixes; a world record number in a test innings. In my new-found mental freedom, I managed a double century and Kane Williamson scored a much finer 192.
Pakistan were all out for 259; a splendid win by an innings and 80 runs and the Test series was squared.
This test was NZ’s first win against Pakistan in Asia in 18 years, and the first innings win by NZ against any team in Asia in 30 years.
The way that Phil’s death affected what happened didn’t go unnoticed by those who witnessed it. Cricinfo saw it this way:
‘The Kiwis were badly affected by the incident and didn’t even celebrate any of their achievements. A remarkable thing to note here is that they barely applauded a wicket. Consider this: just the two bouncers bowled today and no close-in fielders in front of the wicket! Takes some doing and still they won the game in four days to level the series 1-1….full marks and hats off to the Kiwis for the spirit they have shown throughout the series. Certainly an example set for all the other sides to follow and act upon. Long live their attitude!’
The realisation of how we achieved the result through the manner of our play came sometime later. The team had drawn strength from one another and Gilbert Enoka’s ‘no consequences’ brought a ‘joy of life’ in a cricketing sense that was richly ironic but, nevertheless, liberating. The big thing I took away from this test is the way Phil’s death affected our mind-set and the way we played in the rest of the match. It was so strange, and yet it felt so right, that after Phil’s death we didn’t really care any more about the result. Because nothing we could or couldn’t do on the field really mattered in comparison to what had happened to Phil. Our perspective changed completely for the rest of my time playing test cricket for New Zealand and we were a much better side as a result.
Many observers have said that we were playing the way it should be played; as gentlemen who respected the history of the game. People undoubtedly warmed to the fact that we no longer sledged the opposition.
We worked out what would work for us, based on the traits of being kiwis. To try to be humble and hard-working and to enjoy what we were doing. It is vital that you understand that we were never trying to be ‘nice guys’. We were just trying to be authentic in how we acted, played the game and carried ourselves. For us, sledging in an abusive manner just didn’t fit with who we believed we had to be. It wasn’t authentic to being a New Zealander.
This is not the time to go through a microscopic examination of ‘what is sledging’ and to seek to define it. Everyone has a view of how the game should be played and everyone is entitled to their view– Jeff Thomson probably shouldn’t have called Colin Cowdrey ‘Fatso’ and told him to ‘piss off’. But it’s a great story and Colin had broad shoulders from all accounts. The truth is that cricket is unique – you spend a lot of time out there, ‘in the middle’. Humorous comments made in the heat of battle are gold. And when Colin Cowdrey’s funeral took place at Westminster Abbey (with 2,500 people in attendance), it was Thommo who carried the Australian flag. Enough said.
In terms of our New Zealand side, we weren’t righteous in our stance and demanding that other teams follow our lead, but for us it was so good to play free of the shackles – to genuinely love the game again, to acknowledge and enjoy the opposition. And for me, when I pulled back the curtains in the morning, wherever we were, I smiled when the sky was blue and felt the same anticipation I did growing up in Dunedin.
And so, in reflecting on my 14 years of international cricket, I again acknowledge my numerous failings and mistakes throughout my career. But I also celebrate that when I retired from international cricket the NZ team, through the contribution of everyone, has rediscovered its soul. It’s now a team that our country is proud of. Our followers know that New Zealand won’t win every game or be the world’s best team, but I think they are able to look at the team as a representation of our culture. The team now has a magnificent player and leader in Kane Williamson – he will rightly stamp his own leadership style on the environment but I am certain he will always play the game with a strong influence of being a New Zealander – humble and hardworking. Like Sir Edmund Hilary.
I have talked about the final 3 years of my career in particular and the fact that during that time, I rediscovered my love of cricket. It wasn’t, however, all ‘beer and skittles’. Throughout much of that period the spectre of the allegations of match-fixing by Chris Cairns’ hung over me – and then, of course, the trial at The Southwark Crown Court London when Cairns faced charges of perjury.
I have no doubt that you will be very familiar with the evidence I gave in the trial in London last year. Namely that Cairns, my former hero, approached me fix to matches in 2008; once in Kolkata when I was playing in the IPL for the first time and again during the New Zealand tour of England when we were in Worcester.
At the outset, I think it is appropriate, standing here at ‘the Home of Cricket’, to confirm that I stand by everything said in my statements and the evidence I gave at the Southwark Crown Court.
I did not initially report Cairns’ approaches to me. As I said in the witness box when under cross-examination, it’s not easy ‘ratting’ on someone I regarded as a mate. And frankly, I was scared and, frankly, I felt completely out of my depth. I unreservedly accept that I should have reported the approaches at the time that Cairns made them; but it was a dreadful situation to be in.
In any case, before the New Zealand team’s first game in the World Cup of 2011, John Rhodes, a representative of the ICC’s anti-corruption unit, addressed us. He told us that if we had been, or were, approached about match-fixing and we did not report it then we were, in the eyes of the ICC, just as guilty as the person who approached us. I had told other people about Cairns’ approaches – one of them was my captain and friend, Dan Vettori. After John Rhodes completed his address I approached Dan and we went and saw Rhodes, telling him I had something to share with him. Rhodes took us to his hotel room where I detailed the approaches made by Cairns. Rhodes took notes – he did not record our conversation. He said he would get what I said down on paper and that it would probably end up at the bottom of the file with nothing eventuating. Looking back on this, I am very surprised by what I perceive to be a very casual approach to gathering evidence. I was reporting two approaches by a former international star of the game. I was not asked to elaborate on anything I said and I signed a statement that was essentially nothing more than a skeleton outline.
Needless to say, by the time I sat in the witness box in London in October 2015, I had made 3 statements in relation to the issues. The second statement was requested by the ICC’s anti-corruption unit much later on – a clear indication that my first statement was inadequate – but how on earth could I have known that. As a player I had reported an approach – and it was recorded sparsely by the person I reported to.
My third statement was requested by the Metropolitan Police – later still – and, suffice to say, they were streets ahead in terms of professionalism. They asked me so many questions, testing my memory, and took a much more comprehensive brief.
Cairns’ lawyer made much of the fact that I had made 3 statements and, when I was cross-examined, he hammered me on the basis that my evidence was unreliable because I did not say everything at the outset when interviewed by John Rhodes.
In fairness to Rhodes, I don’t think either of us could ever have foreseen that my first statement would be used in a perjury trial in London fours years after it was made. But the point I wish to make is that it must have been feasible that I would have to give evidence somewhere, sometime. I think players deserve better from the ICC and that, in the future, the evidence gathering exercise has to be much more thorough, more professional. In my opinion a person taking a statement should ensure that the witness is advised about what may occur – that if evidence were to be given in the future and the witness did not put everything in that initial statement or changed what they said in any way, then this would likely impact on their credibility. When I made my first statement to the ICC, my impression was that it would be put in the bottom draw and never see the light of day again. No attempt was made to illicit a full and comprehensive statement from me on that occasion.
I had no legal obligation to turn up in London and give evidence against Cairns. Living in New Zealand, I could not have been compelled to give evidence and, frankly, I would much rather have stayed at home. But I believe I had a moral obligation to tell the truth – and I believe that the interests of the game of cricket and common decency demanded my attendance. But I do wish that the ICC had handled my initial approach more professionally for the reasons I have given.
Worse still (in May 2014) my testimony was leaked to Ed Hawkins at the Daily Mail. Everything I had said was in the newspapers for everyone to see.
I do not wish to dwell on the personal effect that the leak had on me – suffice to say it was, however, a dreadful situation as the media attention then focused on me. No witness who has provided evidence to the ICC should ever have to go through such a scenario again. The leak has never been explained to me; to my knowledge no one has been held accountable and, in those circumstances, it is difficult to have confidence in the ICC. To report an approach and to give evidence requires considerable courage – players deserve much better. How can the game’s governing body expect players to co-operate with it when it is then responsible for leaking confidential statements to the media? It goes without saying that if players do not have confidence in the organisation, they will be reluctant to report approaches and the game is worse off. If we are to get rid of the scourge of match-fixing, a robust governing body is essential.
The other aspect that I want to touch on very briefly before closing is the position Lou Vincent is in – I played with Lou for a number of seasons. As will have become apparent during the course of his testimony in the Cairns’ trial, Lou has his demons. He was always a vulnerable character; there are many similar characters who play the game. While loathing the fixing activies Lou took part in, I have nothing but admiration for him for the way in which he accepted responsibility for his actions and acknowledged guilt. I also think he demonstrated remarkable courage in giving evidence against Cairns.
The insight that Lou was able to provide into the dark and sinister world of match-fixing was, I think, invaluable. It would have been very easy for Lou to say nothing – to refuse to co-operate – but instead he laid his soul bare at considerable personal cost.
Lou’s punishment from the ECB was to receive 11 life bans; one for each offence which carried that penalty. Lou is banned from having any involvement whatsoever in cricket. Perhaps the worst part is that Lou is unable to go to a cricket ground anywhere in the world. He can never watch his children play at any level. I struggle with the severity of this when a player has co-operated fully and accepted responsibility. While it was reported that Lou had agreed to the 11 life bans, I suspect that sitting in New Zealand without a dollar to his name, he was unable to do anything else. In the criminal law in New Zealand a defendant is given some clemency for co-operation and entering a guilty plea. It seems to me that Lou did not receive any such acknowledgement but, rather, had the book thrown at him.
I raise this issue because if we are to expect players to feel able to come forward and confess all, then there has to be some recognition of this. Many of the players who become involved in match-fixing in the way that Lou did will be weak or vulnerable; it is well known that the people who seek to engage players in this way, will look for players of a similar disposition. If players co-operate with the authorities and provide the game with a rare and critical insight into the workings of this pernicious influence, then there must surely be something that can be done beyond giving them the maximum ban available. I have no doubt that the ECB’s severe punishment of Lou has robbed the game of a golden opportunity to have him provide education to players, something I feel could have made a difference in the future. Further, it ignored his extreme vulnerability in a callous way.
In conclusion, none of what I have said changes my view that all players must report any approaches. It is a fundamental responsibility that we all share for the greater good of the game. But it is equally vital that players who do report are treated professionally and that their report is kept confidential. Unless players can have confidence in the authorities and their processes then I am sorry to say that the game will be the loser. Similarly, it is vital that players found guilty of offences having acknowledged wrongdoing are shown a degree of clemency – failing which there seems to be very little incentive for them to come forward.
I have talked for far too long and it is time to close. If I may be permitted to have a final comment – then it is this. Cricket is a wonderful game that is played in many parts of the world. It is unique and it should be treasured and preserved; players and administrators alike are guardians.
I feel incredibly fortunate to have played the game for so long and to have had the experiences I have had. While I have earned more than a pie, a pint and a punt per day through being a professional cricketer I have retired from first class and international cricket without memories of aggregates, runs, wickets, catches or matches won. Rather, I treasure the memories of playing with and against so many wonderful people – as my father did before me.