Tag Archives: Betting

Cricket is in a “fix” and a “spot” of bother

There are many things wrong with Pakistan at the moment including the cricket “spot fixing” scandal. However, in comparison to (a) the impact of the floods that have ravaged the country, (b) a 10%-regime, (c) random and uncontrolled terrorist attacks and (d) geo-political instability, the spot-fixing scandal — and a potential link to a larger and more exhaustive and consuming match-fixing scandal — perhaps registers a mere blip on the trouble-scale. The many other dangers and calamities might make this latest scandal insignificant in terms of its impact on the larger issues of public governance, social security, peace, self-confidence and plight of her people.

However, every scandal, whatever its magnitude, is a reflection of a nations’ pride, a mirror to a nations’ moral fabric and a pointer to a nations’ collective conscience. A few crooks, thugs and hoons do not a nation make. I agree. However, a repeat offence by the same offender who had been “let off” earlier seems to suggest a governance body that is tolerant of cheats, or a problem that is endemic and systemic, or a vacuum in societal leadership, or a punctured national integrity or an intelligentsia that has a permanent sore throat and brain freeze! Or, more frighteningly, ALL of the above!

Where are the voices of reason emanating out of that land? Who are they? Who are the role models for young lads with sometimes-errant-behaviour to follow?

As the Pakistani daily, The NEWS, writes yesterday, “The evidence appears conclusive and we are exposed to the world as cheats and frauds once again.” The key phrase in that sentence is “once again”. The missing phrase in that sentence is “and by the same sports people who ought to have faced stiff punishment earlier”.

The problem, however, is that for every voice like the above, we have The Daily Express that screams, “The match-fixing scandal is an Indian conspiracy against the Pakistan team.”

Aaah! The “foreign hand” conspiracy theory that doubles as a convenient denial-blanket! I can only sigh in utter despair!

We can’t be smug in India. There is endemic corruption in all walks of life here. But there is an intelligentsia that will ensure that checks-and-balances exist. These voices may sometimes be ineffective and public accountability often suffers. Witness the (Un)Common Wealth Games (Shames) and the many other political scandals, for example. But there is a societal voice. There is societal leadership. And if all else fails, there are sane voices of people like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble!

For many years now, I have watched Pakistan cricket implode at key moments. Cricket fans have often put it down to the mercurial nature of her players and their unpredictability. Often this unpredictability was the charm that Pakistan cricket brought to the table. I loved seeing Shahid Afridi score 100 of 50 balls one day and 5 the very next day, out to a wild swing off a full-toss. I salivated over the prospect of watching Mohammed Aamer grow into a Wasim Akram and looked forward to the youngsters’ skill and prowess being admired for long, just as I had admired Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis before him. I was amazed that this land threw up another sensation in Wahab Riaz just a few matches later!

But no more.

I have had enough.

Yes, the allegations are yet unproven and they are mere allegations at this stage. However, I have seen enough evidence to assure me that I was a fool to be as excited as I was to see Michael Hussey and Peter Siddle claw their way to a strong position in the Sydney Test. They were in a cruel play that was being enacted which involved a few honest sportsmen, a few crooks and millions of innocent fans. As a Team India fan and an ardent fan of Pakistan crickets’ flamboyance and Australian crickets’ grit, I was glued to that Test Match as it unfolded. The drama was compelling. But I was wrong. I was cheated by the thugs that took a few thousand dollars to drop catches and miss run-outs deliberately!

The thugs had manipulated us.

I am switching off all things Pakistan UNLESS I am convinced that her people are shamed by this; unless concrete action is taken.

In the future, I believe that the ICC should have licensed agents and only they can have access to players, sign contracts and make endorsement deals. Player contracts should specify that players” incomes should be declared and be open to scrutiny. There are other mechanisms and instruments that cricket should borrow from soccer.

This is a rude wake-up call and a clarion call for the cleansing of cricket and its inappropriate under-belly.

Cricket is in a “fix” and a “spot” of bother!

— Mohan

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Indian Sports Minister fumes at 6UP

There are several good things that the IPL is doing for cricket. And there are several things that it is doing that are plainly irritating. For example, we do not have sixes anymore! These are now known as DLFers or “DLF maximums”. We do not have a brilliant fielding that affects a run out or a brilliant catch anymore. We have a “Citi moment of success”!

While it is irritating to see a sixer being referred to as a DLFer, what the IPL is certainly doing, is associating the sponsors brand much more closely and intimately with the product itself! Sponsors like DLF, Vodofone, Citi, Fly Kingfisher, Hero Honda and Sony SetMax appear to be reaping the benefits of their association with cricket through the IPL.

A more recent entrant to the field is one that has raised the ire of the Indian sports ministry!

The Indian sports minister MS Gill has rapped the IPL on the knuckles for its official sanction of an SMS text-messaging product during IPL games. This product is also promoted actively by the same commentators that promote the DLFers and “Citi moment of success” through their commentary! The competition, called 6UP is one in which users can win by predicting either the run-sequence in an over or the number of runs per over. The sports minister has taken offense to this — as this is akin to betting and gambling which are banned in India — and has requested the BCCI to ban this competition.

6UP is an SMS mobile game. Fans can send their predictions as to how many runs will be scored on each ball of an over, before the start of every over at Rs 5 per SMS. The company that runs offers 6UP is “IPLAYUP Interactive Entertainment”, a UK-based mobile business generation company. They have tied up with Vodafone to offer the product. George Tomeski, co-founder and managing partner of IPLAYUP Interactive Entertainment, has indicated that every day a few fans can make a few lakhs of rupees.

The business model is simple: Out of every Rs 5 SMS sent during a live game, a minimum of 50 per cent of the total pool (number of people who send the SMS multiplied by Rs 5) goes to the person who sends the message, while the remaining part goes to telecom company (Vodafone), governmental tax and Australian ex-captain Steve Waugh’s charity – Steve Waugh Foundation. So there is a charity angle to it too!

Cute!

There are some loosely justifiable claims, perhaps, for this to be classified as “gambling” or “betting”! However, while he is at it, is the Honourable Sports Minister also going to make efforts to ban illegal betting and gambling on cricket? Or perhaps he can allow the IPL to legalise gambling and betting in cricket in India and actually earn the Government money that can be used to either line pockets or be pumped into other sports that are worse off in India?

Furthermore, these proclamations from the Sports Minister would actually hold water if the ministry demonstrated tangible evidence of adding value to sports in the country!

If the Sports Minister had concentrated on the real issues — betting and the potential for ‘match fixing’ — and stopped there, that may have won him his day in court. However, instead of doing there, he went on to take a swipe at cricket and spilled all his sour grapes, thereby, bringing to question his real motives!

He went on to say, “I see the commercial use of cricket for business gains that is going on. I am concerned at knowledgeable comments from serious followers of cricket about the latest venture of encouraging viewers to make ball-by-ball predictions of runs scored for economic gain in the shape of cash prizes. This is viewed as ‘openly encouraging gambling and betting’, which official bodies do not resort to, even in countries where betting is legal; all this ‘to make money and enlarge their TV viewership base'”.

Let us de-construct this comment.

There is really nothing inherently wrong with the commercialisation of cricket. Nor is there anything wrong with either making money or enlarging TV viewership! Indeed, that is one sure way for hockey to become popular again in India! What is of relevance is (a) the actual act of “betting” and (b) match fixing.

Perhaps the sports minister was better off focusing his attention just on (a) and (b) above rather than spill his sour grapes!

Although betting and gambling is considered illegal in India, there is a horse racing and gaming industry in India. This is officially sanctioned! Moreover, we do have state sanctioned lotteries. Millions of rupees are routinely lost, mainly by India’s poor, who wish to invest in these statistically remote make-it-rich-quick lottery schemes in these state run lotteries. The sports minister did not comment on these officially sanctioned gambling mechanisms in India. While it is not necessary for him to have done so, the argument can be mounted that, given the existence of these schemes, could the country not allow another scheme — especially if the Government can use the funds thus generated to improve the plight of sports funding in other neglected sports?

Fundamentally however, what needs to be investigated here is whether the course of a match can be altered through this product. Possible questions that need to be asked are

(a) Can a single user, as a result of an investment of 5 Rupees (roughly 10 cents American) alter the course of a game through her bet?

I would have thought that that would be close to impossible.

(b) Can this lead to “match fixing”?

Theoretically this is possible. It is possible for an “investor” to pay off two powerful hitting batsmen to take 3 singles each in an over to deliver a sequence of “111111” or, say, deliver a sequence “000000” in an over. The “investor” can then place a bet on that specific sequence and hope that (a) no one else has bet on that specific sequence so that the “rigged investment” pays off, (b) a large number of bettors have placed bets on an alternative sequence — so that the “rigged investment” is worth it.

These, and other similar questions, are more pertinent rather than the commercialisation of cricket in India. The sport is banking on its popularity and is finding new ways of delivering value to the brands that support it. Nothing wrong with those principles. What is important is an assessment of whether the game itself is letting itself open to be manipulated by means and instruments other than sporting skill.

— Mohan