No-balls have never been so important in over 150 years of Test Match cricket as the last 10 days. Poor Suraj Randiv must be cursing his luck. Not only does he get vilified for bowling a no-ball that denied Virender Sehwag a century, but he didn’t get paid for it either!
Of course, the two bowlers who did deliver those no-balls – Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif – are in hotter water than Randiv. They were involved in a fix where they received money for bowling no-balls at specific moments during a match versus England so that illegal bookies could make profits. This week we bring you ten points about match fixing and its cousin spot fixing.
1. Cricket and fixing is a match made in heaven because of the opportunities the game provides bookies and players for micro-bets and fixes. The term ”match fixing” itself is used to define some activity(ies) that can determine the outcome of a match. Typically in a team sport like cricket, it involves many players to perform badly and throw or lose a match. Nobody can guarantee a win, of course!
2. “Spot-fixing” or “fancy-fixing” focuses on smaller events and these need not necessarily impact the result of the game. Bookies place bets on incidents such as no-balls, wides, deliberately misfielding, who will bowl first change, whether a player will sunglasses or a sun hat, how many times a fielder will attack the stumps directly for a run-out and so on.
3. Now, cricket is not the only sport to be tainted with corruption. Fixing is age old as gambling and sports. From athletes in the ancient Olympics (the ones held about 2600 years ago in Greece) being bribed to throw races, to some professional Russian tennis players who were alleged to have tanked games, the lure of illegal lucre has proved to be too much for some sportspeople. One of the most infamous scandals was the 1919 Black Sox scandal that affected the US baseball league.
4. In cricket, allegations of match fixing were thrown around during the 90s, but things came to a head in April 2000 when the Delhi police charged South African captain Hansie Cronje for illegal dealings with a bookmaker. It opened a can of worms with allegations and counter allegations involving sub-continental bookmakers and players around the world including Shane Warne, Mark Waugh, Brian Lara, Kapil Dev etc. The Indian government put the Central Bureau of Investigation on the case while the cricket boards of Pakistan and South Africa set up independent enquiry commissions
5. The list of cricketers who were found guilty and punished – some of the them with life-time bans – included Mohammed Azharuddin, Salim Malik, Ata-ur-Rehman, Herschelle Gibbs, Manoj Prabhakar, Maurice Odumbe, Marlon Samuels et al.
6. The International Cricket Council or ICC launched an Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) to battle what it describes as the gravest challenge facing cricket since the Bodyline series of the 30s and the Packer revolution in the 70s. As the latest events show, cricket administrators are still tackling the problem.
7. To be sure, the ICC has introduced a host of measures to eradicate fixing such as banning mobile phones in dressing rooms, restricting access to the players during matches and a 26-page legalese heavy ‘anti-corruption code for players and player support personnel. (I didn’t find an Urdu or Hindi version on the ICC website, so I doubt Aamer read it)
8. The ICC has also defined specific punishments ranging from 5-year to life-time bans and legal procedures for tackling this issue. The player’s age or experience at the international level and the seriousness of the offence (read whether it could affect match result), previous infringements are among the factors that the council will look before doling out punishment.
9. The sub-continent in general and Pakistanis – who seem to have a finger in every controversy affecting the game - are seen at the epicenter of cricket’s gravest scandal. Ask Sarfraz Nawaz or Rashid Latif the self-styled evangelists of anti-corruption in that country. Forget scuffing up the pitch and dining on match balls, Asif and Aamer are just the latest additions to a long list that starts with Saleem Malik. Days before the two fast bowlers were implicated, the Essex police was investigating Pak leggie Danish Kaneria.
10. Despite two decades of allegations about match fixing, the Pakistan Cricket Board doesn’t seem to have done much about tackling the issue. Even the Justice Qayyum report on this issue couldn’t weed out the issue as some players who were guilty were let off or treated with kid gloves.