Players around the world have been warned to remain vigilant of approaches from match-fixers despite coronavirus having put the sport on hold.
The last elite level professionalmatch took place behind closed doors on 15 March in the Pakistan Super League, before its semi-finals and final were postponed, and since then players globally have been in lockdown waiting for a resumption.
Such a lull in on-field activity might suggest a drop-off in potential fixing approaches from the criminal underworld but Alex Marshall, head of the International Cricket Council’s anti-corruption unit in Dubai, insists this does not necessarily follow.
“Covid-19 may have put a temporary stop on the playing of international and domestic cricket around the world but the corrupters are still active,” Marshall said.
“As a result, our work with members, players, player associations and agents continues. We are seeing known corrupters use this time, when players are on social media more than ever, to connect with them and try to build a relationship that they can exploit at a later date.
“We have reached out to our members, players and their wider networks to highlight this issue and ensure they all continue to be aware of the dangers of approaches and do not let their guard down while there is no cricket being played.”
As well as players spending more time interacting with fans on social media at present, Marshall’s team are mindful the drop in income could make some of the less well-paid professionals more vulnerable.
James Pyemont, the ECB’s head of integrity, added: “There will always be someone to make something out of a crisis and view it as an opportunity. We have to be confident we can withstand that pressure and we’re confident our players will do the right thing. The time is now to show this is a robust system.”
April would typically be a quiet month for the ICC’s anti-corruption team, with no international cricket staged and the IPL – now suspended indefinitely – policed by India’s in-house anti-corruption unit since last year.
The investigative work continues, however, and a number of cases are expected to be progressed in the coming weeks. These are believed to include the three United Arab Emirates players – Mohammed Naveed, Qadeer Ahmed and Shaiman Anwar – who were charged with a combined 13 counts of breaching anti-corruption rules last October.
Marshall revealed in January that his team was looking into 50 cases of potential wrongdoing in the sport – including intelligence gathered during last year’s World Cup in the UK – and sifts through around 1,000 pieces of evidence a year.
Shakib Al Hasan is the most high-profile cricketer serving a ban under the ICC’s anti-corruption code, with the Bangladesh captain accepting three charges of failing to report approaches from Deepak Aggarwal, a suspected bookmaker, last October.
A veteran of 338 international appearances, Shakib engaged in Whatsapp conversations with Aggarwal before matches in the Bangladesh Premier League, an international tri-series and the IPL between 2017 and 2018, but denied passing on inside information.
A two-year ban, with 12 months of it suspended, was the result, meaning Shakib is free to resume his playing career on 29 October.