Nagpur (India) – Cricket’s governing body has warned that match-fixers are now targeting the game’s minnows as they prepared to get the World Twenty20 under way in India Tuesday.
Hong Kong, who play Zimbabwe in the opening match, have been rocked by a corruption scandal in the build-up to the T20 world championship which has already led to the suspension of their all-rounder Irfan Ahmed.
And in an eve-of-tournament press conference, International Cricket Council chief executive David Richardson said it was clear that non-Test playing nations, known as associate members, are vulnerable to corruption.
“Unfortunately this is the world we are living, there are corrupt individuals all over trying their best to get hold of players,” he said.
“We are finding that the corrupters are now focusing on associate members, women’s team etc, etc. So we are going to make sure the players from all the teams are very well educated, understand their responsibility and will not get involved.”
Hong Kong are one of eight teams trying to qualify for the main phase of the tournament which begins next Tuesday, alongside cricket’s eight more established powers such as Australia, India and England.
But their preparations have been badly shaken by the scandal which led to Ahmed’s suspension by the ICC in January as part of an ongoing investigation.
Ronnie Flanagan, who heads the game’s anti-corruption unit, said on Sunday that his investigators were looking into allegations that “members of a particular team had intentions to manipulate events in forthcoming matches”, without giving further details.
Although Richardson also did not refer directly to Hong Kong in his press conference, he effectively confirmed that that was the team under investigation by Flanagan’s unit.
“In recent times you would have read in the media about a particular player who was suspended from this country and the investigations relate to that same team,” said Richardson.
– ‘Clean tournament’ –
The former South African player said he expected the tournament to be corruption-free.
“I am very confident that we will have a very clean tournament,” he said.
“I know that our anti-corruption unit are working hand in hand with the law enforcement agencies, the police agencies in India to make sure that any information is shared.”
Hong Kong are not expected to get past the preliminary round, although they did spring an upset in 2014 when they beat Bangladesh.
The team’s skipper Tanwir Afzal acknowledged in his pre-match press conference that Zimbabwe was a much more experienced side, but added that Hong Kong had identified several frailties.
“We have a plan, and we work out the weakness of them. We’ll see,” he said.
“We have a young side, it’s always energetic and exciting, so they they are ready to show the world how good they are and they believe in their ability.”
Zimbabwe skipper Hamilton Masakadza said that his team “need to be a bit more consistent”, but he was nevertheless happy with their performance in warm-up matches.
After the Hong Kong-Zimbabwe match, Nagpur will also host a game between Afghanistan and Scotland.
Bangladesh are due to face the Netherlands on Wednesday in Dharamsala before Ireland face Oman at the same venue.