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Digging towards the roots of fixing in cricket

Salman Butt and Mohd Asif
(© Getty Images)

Today the sport of cricket, predominantly restricted to the commonwealth nations is now going leaps and bounds in terms of the reach of the sport to different parts of the world. The international governing body for the sport, the ICC has a host of international tournaments for teams which are equally matched in terms of skill levels and exposure to the game.

The game is growing for sure and so is the money making potential from the sport both on and off the field, perhaps more so off the field. A host of players touting themselves as ‘investors’ engage in secret and suspicious engagements in hotel rooms, sharing anecdotes, information and more so orders rather the preferred outcomes of a cricket match and the player in question agrees to bend the limits of a potentially match-winning performance to something perhaps more suited to the vested interests of those working behind the closed doors of those luxury hotel rooms.

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I remember those naïve and yet spirited discussions which would see the kids in my school bet on the possible outcomes of a cricket or one of the premier league football matches and yes! People did actually exchange money when they lost a bet; it wasn’t one of those naïve betting episodes where money exchange was an unfulfilled promise always.

It makes you wonder whether those betting instincts and perhaps the enjoyment derived from betting and then actually winning the bet is maybe a finely tuned and naïve example of the deep rootedness or perhaps the compulsive obsession of knowing the outcome of a sporting contest but what if, as kids we had the resources to actually make sure that we invest our 10 or 20 or at the extreme a 100 bucks on the team we knew would win for sure? It sounds like an interesting investment proposal and only few would want to lose out on, so much so that they brave the close down of legal structures on them all the while intoxicated by the single thought, “What if I win the bet?” The material rewards are just too hard to ignore and let go of for an opportunistic person.

Also read – Twitter Reactions: Kevin Pietersen gets mixed response after taking aim at Mohammad Amir

The ever widening clout and the growing clutches of the match-fixers over the years has made the ICC turn a watchful eye towards the issue and much like sex-education DVD’S made for teens on the threshold of adolescence, videos are being made by the ICC to educate aspiring cricketers what they stand to lose if they engage in match fixing.

These videos often include anecdotes and quotations from players who have been embroiled in the dirty world of match fixing and at one point of time, stood to lose much of what their potential had earned or could have earned them on the cricketing field. Mohammad Amir’s guilty plea to the ICC as well as his active involvement in ICC’s anti-corruption program made sure that the youngster got an early return to cricket confirmed for himself. His involvement in this educative program of the ICC added further impetus and perhaps, a stamp of validity and genuineness to his constant contrition and earned him brownie points for the same.

In recent times, the ICC has laid down stringent guidelines against match-fixing including the rule that a cricketer should at no times fail to report a matter of fixing which is happening to his knowledge even though he/she may not be directly involved in the matter themselves. They should also report the approaches made to them, money offered to them by bookies etc. Failure to abide by these rules has resulted in Hong Kong cricketer Irfan Ahmed, one of the bright prospects in an otherwise depleted bowling lineup to be banned from cricket for 30 months.

Former New Zealand cricketer Lou Vincent was booked on similar charges although, the players reluctance to report approaches made by bookies may be understandable considering that the betting syndicate, though invisible to us has unprecedented power in its arsenal and is willing to remove people who could potentially prove to be a financial block in their otherwise profitable yet on the edge business.

In 2007, in the wake of the death of Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer, Nottinghamshire coach Clive Rice talked about a possible theory linking the deaths of both Woolmer and Hansie Cronje saying that both were killed on the orders of a betting syndicate. The mystery surrounding both the deaths added a stamp of possibility to the horrifying alternative logic proposed by Rice who went on to acknowledge the power of bookies as unprecedented and yet invisible to the naked eye.

Also read – Mohammad Amir had to live with the consequences, he tarnished cricket: Alastair Cook

Shantanu Guha Ray, author of Fixed!: Cash and Corruption in Cricket asserts that match-fixing in cricket is as routine as laying a pitch and yet like empty bottles lying near the boundary rope, no one really cares! He points out how text messages disclosing minute details of how the match would turn out were doing the rounds just before the 2011 World Cup semi-final! He points out that in India and more so in the subcontinent, the loopholes are plenty for the accused in match-fixing to walk free and this results’ in a fair share of boldness on the part of the bookies.

On camera they will refuse all the allegations against them and you strike up a friendly conversation with them and once they are assured that the tape recorder in your pocket is switched off, they will disclose all the dirty details of their nasty business, show you their text messages with prominent international cricketers and challenge you to prove them guilty in the court. It sounds shocking to someone who is an avid follower of the game and yet, now it seems like what we have been witnessing as cricket on television is more like pro-wrestling or in layman terms WWE! The matches have predetermined outcomes and while this was once a secret, it is now a widely accepted truth.

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