Stevens: Betting probe ‘hell’

Stevens, who faced a possible career-ending ban if charges against him had been proven, is featuring in a DVD which will be shown to all county cricketers ahead of the new season in a bid to raise awareness of corrupt activities in the sport.

His mistake, while playing in the Bangladesh Premier League, was a failure to properly recognise a suspicious approach for what it was – and immediately report it.

Stevens, 38, described the consequences for him as “horrific”, before he was finally cleared by a ??Bangladesh Cricket Board anti-corruption tribunal in February last year.

And he warns even apparently innocuous conversations can spell danger.

He was playing for Dhaka Gladiators when his problems began with one such exchange over the telephone. He was asked by the owner to captain the team but told captain Mohammad Ashraful, since banned for his transgressions, would still “run the game on the pitch”.

Stevens declined, but months later took another call – from an official at the International Cricket Council’s anti-corruption unit.

“Over the phone he said to me: ‘Can we have a meeting about Bangladesh?’. It wasn’t too bad at the start, but then it got worse and worse and worse.”

All Stevens could do throughout was keep telling the truth in the hope of eventually clearing his name.

In the DVD, which will be shown to all county cricketers before the start of the new season, he said: “When I got two charges through, I wouldn’t wish it on anybody – it was brutal.

“The next meeting was a four-and-a-half hour meeting in London.

“After that, it was hours and hours and hours of meetings with my lawyer going through everything – going through how the next six months up to the trial were probably going to pan out and then finally getting out to Bangladesh and going through everything.”

The stakes could hardly have been higher, with Stevens’ reputation and livelihood on the line in the latter years of a successful career which began in 1997 with his native Leicestershire and had brought him England Lions recognition.

“The trial in Bangladesh was in a small room in a bank – with cameras everywhere, all different lawyers from all over the place in the same room, you just felt claustrophobic.

“I was there for nearly four weeks, five days a week in court going through everything. Just sitting there in court was more nerve-wracking than anything I have ever done.

“I was on the stand for seven hours, five hours on the day and two-and-half hours on the morning.

“It was really hard. Cricket is my life and has been for 25-30 years. Every day that I was playing, it just felt like it was going to be my last game.”

Stevens might easily have lost so much more, and is trying to make sure no one else pays the price for the sake of better awareness of a scourge of cricket.

“It was horrific,” he said. “Because I didn’t report at that time a suspicious act, I have gone through hell over the last two years.”

He would still encourage colleagues to take the opportunities offered to further their careers playing abroad, but added: “In any of these tournaments, anywhere around the world whatever tournament you are playing in, if you do come across anything suspicious just report it immediately.”