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How Test star’s fall from grace exposed cricket’s dark

ON Monday night, cricket’s dark and murky side once again came out in the night like an owl.

After the cricket world celebrated a phenomenal series between South Africa and India, which followed the one-sided yet intriguing Ashes campaign, the game’s hidden secret once again garnered headlines around the world.

A little more than two decades after Hansie Cronje’s disturbing fall from grace, match fixing reared its head to send shockwaves throughout the world.

Its latest target, former Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor.

Zimbabwe cricket former captain, Brendan Taylor

Monday night’s revelations were equally shocking as disturbing, with the former wicket-keeper batsman once the glue holding the proud African nation together during a period of deep destabilisation and unrest.

In his troubling statement via Twitter, Taylor admits to falling to cricket’s trap.

“I’d fallen for it. I’d willingly walked into a situation that has changed my life forever,” he wrote in a remorseful and open statement.

Former England captain Michael Vaughan was one of the many cricket identities to react to the sad situation.

“This is so sad,” he tweeted. “I hope he can find a way to get better.”

Yet, this sorry tale is not the first and, certainly, it would seem, not the last.

Here is a road map to cricket’s sorry legacy.

– The call that sounded alarm bells –

If it sounds good to be true, it probably is.

Twenty two years ago, cricket applauded a bold piece of captaincy from South African captain Cronje.

After days of rain, their home Test against England appeared all but over. That was until Cronje approached his counterpart, Nasser Hussain, and asked whether both teams would declare and leave England requiring 248 runs in a little more than two sessions.

England would go on to win the Test by two wickets.

Hussain, oblivious to the ulterior motives, showered his counterpart in praise.

“I hope Hansie gets the credit he deserves,” he said.

Cronje did.

Papers around the world called it “a triumph for all too rare positive thinking” and “brave, positive and brilliant” in another.

Yet, eyebrows were raised at Lord’s, the home of cricket, for his move, which went against tradition.

Even Cronje’s teammates were left aghast. “I must be honest – I thought it was a terrible idea,” Mark Boucher wrote in his autobiography, Through My Eyes.”(Jacques) Kallis also thought it was wrong and so did (Lance) Klusener. The feeling among the junior section of the dressing room was that Test matches are never, ever to be messed with. You never give your opponents a sniff of victory in Tests unless you are desperate to win yourselves. There was a simmering atmosphere of anger.’’

 ‘It be suggested that humans are fallible. cricketers are only cricketers’

Cronje was not the end, he was merely just the beginning.

On May 24, 2000, the Qayyum Report was finally released.

In it, life bans were recommended for Pakistan great Salim Malik and Atu-ur-Rehman. Malik was also to be fined a million rupees.

Mushtaq Ahmed and Wasim Akram, one of cricket’s greatest players, were given the benefit of reasonable doubt, although it was recommended that neither ever captain Pakistan again.

Smaller fines were also handed out to Waqar Younis, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Akram Raza and Saeed Anwar for failing to co-operate with the inquiry.

Malik slammed the findings.

– ‘If anyone still hasn’t learnt a lesson from our cases, then he will be follish’ –

A decade after the Cronje controversy, cricket was once again rocked.

Not for the first time, Pakistan’s players were in the spotlight.

But this time, it was one of the fresh faces of cricket, Mohammad Amir – a young man destined to do great things after a sparkling start to his career – that had fallen foul.

The News of the World exposed another spot-fixing scandal, with captain Salman Butt and fast bowling duo Amir and Mohammad Asif who were accused.

During the fourth Test against England, Pakistan lost by an innings and 225 runs.

Pakistan lost 14 wickets on one day and were bowled out for 74 in their first innings.

But it was the massive no-balls delivered by Amir that sent more alarm bells.

The News of the World revelations merely confirmed the world’s doubts.

All three were tried in a London court for offences under the Gambling Act and were jailed in November, 2011.

Butt was banned from international cricket for a decade, while Asif was handed a seven-year ban and a one-year prison sentence.

Amir, who pleaded guilty earlier than his teammates, subsequently received a five-year international ban and eventually returned to play for Pakistan once more.

‘Foolishly took the bait’ –

This week the world witnessed another cricketer’s world crumble down.

In reality, that world has crumbled around Brendan Taylor since the start of the Covid-pandemic, which for most feels like years.

“I’ve been carrying a burden for over two years now that has sadly taken me to some very dark places and had a profound effect on my mental health,” Taylor wrote in a statement released on Twitter, foreshadowing a “multi-year” ban for a four-month delay in reporting a match-fixing approach

Taylor, who played 34 Tests, 202 ODIs and 45 T20Is for Zimbabwe from 2004 to 2021, admitted he took cocaine and a $15,000 bribe from an Indian businessman in 2019 — an interaction that caused his life to unravel.

The 35-year-old batsman said he was invited by an Indian businessman in October 2019 to discuss “sponsorships and the potential launch of a T20 competition in Zimbabwe and was advised that I would be paid USD$15 000 for the journey”.

The invitation came when the team had not received salaries for six months and there were concerns the country would not be able to continue playing internationally.

He said he was a “little wary” but undertook the trip all the same.

During drinks on the last night, he was offered cocaine which the businessman and his colleagues were taking and said he “foolishly took the bait”.

“The following morning, the same men stormed into my hotel room and showed me a video of me the night before doing cocaine and told me that if I did not spot fix at international matches for them, the video would be released to the public,” Taylor wrote.

“I was concerned. And with six of these individuals in my hotel room, I was scared for my own safety. I’d fallen for it. I’d willingly walked into a situation that has changed my life forever.

“I was handed the USD$15,000 but was told this was now a ‘deposit’ for spot match fixing and that an additional USD$20,000 would be paid once the “job” was complete. I took the money so I could get on a plane and leave India. I felt I had no choice at the time because saying no was clearly not an option. All I knew was I had to get out of there.

“When I returned home, the stress of what had taken place severely impacted my mental and physical health. I was a mess. I was diagnosed with shingles and prescribed strong antipsychotic medication – maitriptyline.”

It took him four months to report the offence to the ICC.

“I acknowledge this was too long of a time but I thought I could protect everyone and in particular, my family,” he said. –