The most significant cricketing event of the last two decades was the outing of Hansie Cronje as a match-fixer. Any innocence- more myth than reality, in any case- was shredded once and for all, with the result that all perspectives changed. A truth prior to Cronje’s revelations could be seen as a falsehood now.
I got a sharp reminder of how perspectives shift and alter with time looking again- after a prompt in these pages on Monday- at the scorecards from the Lancashire/Essex matches in August 1991 which Don Topley, the former Essex bowler, insists were ‘rigged’. There was a Test match happening concurrently, so I was never questioned during the initial cursory inquiry by the ECB and then the more detailed investigation by the London Metropolitan Police which concluded that all was above suspicion. No matter: anybody who played in that era will recognise the symptoms.
In the run-in to the 1991 season, Lancashire were pushing for the Sunday League, Essex for the Championship. It seems unbelievable now, but Sunday League games were sandwiched in the middle of Championship games back then and, by the end of the season, there were countless ‘dead’ matches, this being the era of one rather than two divisions. As a result, the opportunities for the manipulation of teams (but not results) were endless: twenty years ago, this was known as collusion; now it is called rigging……..