Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bet its not Cricket!

Pakistani cricket players, former captain Salman Butt, opening bowlers: Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir, are convicted in a match fixing case in UK, may end up 7 years in jail. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2011/nov/01/pakistan-cricket-trio-convicted-conspiracy?newsfeed=true).

So why do players do what these three did?

Cricket is just not another sport in Pakistan, like India, it is a passion. It is a very sad situation for any sport when the outcome of a match is decided outside the playing area. But in the case of cricket, when it comes to the Indian subcontinent, it is worse than treachery.

In the past, players from Indian Subcontinent, South Africa were found involved in match fixing. This is not new. It is an ongoing phenomenon that is only growing in scale with the every passing year.

Cricket-because of the kind of popularity it commands-is a money spinner like no other activity in India. That is why India is now the new powerhouse of cricket as 70 percent of the cricket revenue is sourced here. The focus is shifted to the Indian Subcontinent from England and Australia. It is no more a gentleman's game, cricket is the sport of the masses.

It is also the favorite sport for betting cartel in this part of the world. Some Rs 10,000 crore worth of betting took place during the one-day cricket world cup last year. The most recent, twenty-twenty format is very  conducive for betting: offers quick results, quick bucks!. The 'spot betting' has ensured that outcome of every delivery bowled is up for betting: would it be a hit for a six, or four, or will it be a no ball or a wide? Make your bet.  Every aspect of the sport is to play for in a gamble house.

The bookies are desperate. Lot is at stake. They have to, somehow, influence the outcome of the match in a way that makes them big money. They need to have prior knowledge of micro and macro outcome of a match. The bigger the match, more is at stake. India-Pakistan encounter in a cricket field is a golden opportunity for the match fixers that comes rarely. One such match can earn them hundreds of crores of rupees. Bookies will leave no stone unturned to caste their shadow on the match.

While some players cannot deal with the temptation that quick bucks offers, the match fixing cartel does not operate only with the support of some of these unscrupulous players. The cricket management, umpires, referees, even players' support staff and groundsmen all have their part to play, all have their claim to the booty.

It is the parallel economy of cricket. It is not about the game, but manipulation of the game. Cricket match is a like a stage where players (read performers) enact their preordained part.

This is really not going to stop because of the big money is involved. A friend in the income tax department told me that cops, politicians, industrialists and other categories of respectable citizens actively indulge in cricket betting. There is little hope.

There can only be a deterrence value if match fixing cases are investigated and players punished/convicted, as is happened in this case where three Pakistani players are staring at 7 years of imprisonment. They can at best make cricket match fixing less safe a crime. 

Till then, all Indian victories, or lossess for that matter, would appear fixed to some reasonably skeptic fans. 

  


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