Saturday, August 20th, 2022 05:25:52

Spot Fixing For PCB it is much ado about nothing

Updated: September 18, 2010 12:59 pm

Pakistan has done it again. After Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani came out with a strange statement that allegations of spot fixing by three cricketers have forced the “nation hang its head in shame”. “I have ordered a thorough inquiry into these allegations so that action could be taken against those who are proven guilty.” he asserted and it was assumed that sincere efforts will be made to clean the mess in the game and guilty will not be spared.

                President Asif Ali Zardari has expressed his disappointment at the claims while sports minister Ijaz Jakhrani promised that any players found guilty would be severely punished. However after three days of ‘noise’ and ‘self condemnation’ the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and establishment have tried to turn the table.

                “The Players are innocent till proved guilty,” ranted federal interior minister and sports minister. “And then they took their offensive on the absurd heights. This sting operation was against Pakistan. It was done to bring bad name to Pakistan Cricket,” (but they forget that no team wants to play cricket in their country).

                The PCB officials after initial hesitations also showed their true colours and were quoted assaying that “Players have been shabbily treated by the Scotland Yard and this is not acceptable to us. There is a conspiracy against Pakistan. There are elements which are anti-Pakistan and they are involved in this sordid affair,” they said. Pakistan’s High Commissioner to London has already declared them innocent, even though the three accused players have been dropped by the ICC to play further for now. As it was not enough, there are amazing stories doing rounds in Pakistani Media and being discussed on country’s television channels. One of them is that these players were forced into spot fixing as they did not get to play in the IPL.

                According to veteran cricket writer of Pakistan Shahid Hashmi: “There are reports that Butt, Asif and Aamer had bought palatial houses and expensive cars in anticipation of the huge money they were expecting from IPL. Since they were not allowed to play the IPL, they ran into huge debt and to clear those debts they took to spot fixing.

                Ever heard more ridiculous defence of corruption than this. It looks that while whole cricket world is shaken by this incident, for the PCB it is much a do about nothing.

                How it started: The News of the World arranged a sting operation to expose the dirty dealings of the Pakistan cricketer players and to bring to the public notice the ugly face of the spot fixing in the game. The newspaper said it paid (alleged bookie/fixer) Mazhar Majeed 150,000 pounds (230,000 dollars, 185,000 euros) in return for advance details about the timing of three no-balls in the fourth and final test.

                According to the report in the paper, which stunned the cricket world, “Aamer and Asif delivered blatant no-balls at the exact points in the match indicated by the alleged middleman (Majeed). The paper published a photograph, video and audio of its encounters with Majeed. He was pictured counting wads of banknotes given to him by a reporter posing as a front man for a betting syndicate.”

                Footage from the film shows Mazhar Majeed (35) counting the money while telling the reporter of paper that Pakistani bowlers would bowl three no-balls on the first day of the match on Thursday. Next day, three no-balls were bowled by Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif exactly at the times he predicted. In a conversation, secretly filmed in a West London hotel, Majeed is seen and heard telling the reporter, “I’m going to give you three no-balls to prove to you firstly that this is what’s happening. They’ve all been organised, okay? This is exactly what’s going to happen, you’re going to see these three things happen. I’m telling you, if you play this right you’re going to make a lot of money, believe me!” The newspaper said: “Having already treasured a £10,000 upfront deposit, which he insisted had gone to the stars, Majeed eagerly counted out the £140,000 balance in bundles of crisp £50 notes. “In return for their suitcase of money Majeed then calmly detailed what would happen—and when—on the field of play next day, as a taster of all the lucrative information he could supply in future.” Majeed said “Absolutely millions, millions could be made by paying him up to £450,000 a time for information on matches, then placing bets on the fixed outcome. About the players,” he said: “These poor boys need to. They’re paid peanuts.”

               WHAT IS SPOT FIXING

After Betting, Gambling and Match fixing, another world has been added to the Cricket vocabulary—spot fixing. In fact, spot fixing is not a new phenomenon but has hit the headlines after London’s News of the World’s sting opetration which showed England based “bookie” Mazhar Majeed virtually dictating the three Pakistanis-Skipper Salman Butt, Mohd Asif and Mohd Aamer—to perform as per his dictate in lieu of huge money.

                Spot fixing is different than match fixing—it is simple and very difficult to prove. But for this sting operation, nobody would have ever imagined that at the fourth test at Lord’s against England, teenager Aamer and seasoned pacer Mohd Asif bowled three intentional no balls at the behest of a bookie.

                What is spot fixing and how it works chief executive of the international players’ union FICA Tim May is of the view that with the large number of Twenty20 matches now being played could tempt players to take money from bookmakers in return for spot fixing. His reasoning is that Twenty20 cricket is susceptible because it is so fast that individual performances tend to get forgotten.

                Spot fixing is direct clandestine agreement between a bookie and a player in which later agrees to (under)perform as per the directions. For example, a batsman may deliberately under-perform. He cannot assure the bookie of scoring 50 or 100 runs but he can definitely under-perform say, scoring less then ten runs or getting out without scoring. A bowler might bowl consecutive wides or no balls as told or directed by his master. A wicket keeper may concede byes or drop catch(es) or fumble while stumping.

How a bookie benefits

It may hurt some Indian fans, those who see Cricket as religion and treat players as Demy-Gods but the fact is that betting on cricket matches televised in the Indian is rampant as it fetches huge money. Bookie makes fortune as he knows in advance what a particular bowler or batsman is going to do. Bets can be placed on every delivery. Illegal betting worth billions of dollars mostly on cricket originates from the sub continent.

How to spot fixing

Spot fixing came into picture as rumours started doing rounds since the start of the (defunct) Indian Cricket League (ICL) and then Indian Premier League (IPL). However despite the rumours and whispers nobody was caught or charged. During last year’s Ashes tour of England, an Australian player reported that he had been approached by a suspected illegal bookmaker in the team’s London hotel.

                In a newspaper column former England captain Michael Atherton said that one leading former international had told him categorically that spot fixing was a regular occurrence. Former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif also told Reuters that he knew of match fixing in the now defunct Indian Cricket League. (HSB)

According to former captain Ramiz Raja, “The case against our players—four of whom have been named—is watertight. His (Majeed) comments that the captain, wicket-keeper and three other players were also on his payroll may be more difficult to substantiate but it is near impossible to believe that the no-ball predictions could be purely coincidental. No ordinary spectator can provide such information.”

                “Mohammad Aamir… What a waste of talent… He was caught in a quick-fix mentality and will now pay the price. He will regret this for the rest of his life and the game has lost a great asset. For them to do it at Lord’s, the Mecca of cricket brings extreme shame and sadness. Yes nothing has been proved so far but the ‘evidence’ appears damning,” he said while adding a rider saying: “India is a hub of match fixing…”

                Former English captain Mike Atherton added no dimension to this controversy. He was of the view that the shifting of cricket’s power base to the Indian sub-continent has fuelled illegal bookmaking. “Given the shift of cricket’s power to the east, given the way cricket is uniquely placed to offer betting opportunities, given that it is a game played by human beings and given that the governing body is weak, it is unlikely that an absolute end to corruption will come any time soon,” he opined.

                Legendary cricketer Imran Khan, whose first reaction was that suspected players be given exemplary punishment including life ban. “They (the suspected players) should understand that crime does not pay.” Despite being hugely popular cricketer, Imran is a fledgling poltician and two days later he changed his stand, tone and tenor. He started pointing out the difference between spot fixing and match fixing saying that both terms are different and should not be mixed.


 Mohammad Aamer: As per the News of the World sting, Aamer is claimed to have bowled no-balls at the exact point in last month’s Lord’s Test against England that were agreed with alleged fixer Mazhar Majeed. The 18-year-old left-arm seamer comes from a very poor background. His rise has been rapid after he was picked up at the age of 11 and was brought to Sports Academy in Rawalpindi, from his remote village of Gujjar Khan.

                The youngest of seven children, he played for under-19 side and impressed with his swing and pace, attributes which led to experts comparing him with former Pakistan left-arm great Wasim Akram. Touted as a star in the making, he took a career-best six wickets in England’s innings at the Lord’s match before Pakistan lost the test. Aamer made his debut in July 2009 against Sri Lanka and has since played 14 Tests, bagging 51 wickets at an average of 29.09.

Mohammad Asif: Controversy is not new to 27-year-old Asif, the other bowler involved in the spot fixing. Like Aamer, he hails from a poor, remote village and got his break in January 2005 against Australia. He bowled 18 overs without taking a wicket and was dropped. He made a comeback a year later.

                Surprisingly, he earned a contract with Leicestershire in the English county championship but was tested positive for a banned steroid in 2006. Though banned for a year but that ban was overturned on appeal. Asif again failed a drugs test in the inaugural Indian Premier League (IPL) season in 2008 and this time a two-year ban was slapped on him. Even after the IPL ban ended, Asif’s career was hit by a scandal with a film star Veena Malik, who alleged he owed her huge amounts of money in debts. She has alleged that Asif is a seriel fixer and a cheat.

                He was once compared to Australia’s Glenn McGrath for his accurate pace. In recent months rose to the top of the International Cricket Council bowlers’ rankings. He has so far claimed 106 wickets in 23 Tests at an average of 24.36.

Salman Butt: 25-year-old Salman Butt became the captain of the beleaguered Pakistan team on July 17 after Shahid Afridi announced his retirement from Test cricket. Butt is the team’s 28th skipper overall and fifth since January 2009. Born and educated in Lahore, Butt was selected for national under-17 team and later got into the senior squad in 2003, making his debut against Bangladesh.

                A left-handed opening batsman, he cornered the spot light in 2004 when he scored his first one-day century against India at Eden Gardens and then went on to notch a maiden Test century in Sydney later in the year. He has so far played in 33 Tests, scoring 1,889 runs at an average of 30.46 with a top score of 122. Butt who speaks good English has already been questioned by Scotland Yard detectives about the controversy. (HSB)

In an interview to Indian television channel, Imran argued like a lawyer saying: “Spot fixing is not throwing away the complete match but match fixing is just that. By bowling no-balls and playing a maiden over does not affect the outcome of the game but in the match fixing the whole team deliberately gets involved and change the outcome of the game.” He said he was not in favour of a life ban to players involved in spot fixing and said players involved should be dealt seriously and imposing heavy fines and not life ban. There should be some definite amount of ban given but not life ban for the players who are involved in spot fixing.

                Imran however forgot that Majeed had boasted that a player can make millions if only he is in ‘right company’ so no amount of heavy fine can be any deterrent to a player who is not banned. “Crime does not pay, so the players who are involved in spot fixing should be fined heavily. There should be huge fine so that players suffer financially and it should hurt their pockets,” he added. “Spot fixing is just the way of making quick money and it is impossible to find out, so the players should be fined heavily and maybe a limited ban should be imposed but not a life ban.”

                But not every body was impressed by Imran’s defence or argument. London paper Daily Mail wrote that Imran should neither sermon nor preach. “Imran Khan had himself admitted using a bottle top to roughen-up a cricket ball is not an ideal figure to lecture us on such matters? In a 1994 biography he freely admitted to cheating in a county game for Sussex in 1981 when he illegally used a bottle top to roughen-up the ball in order to make it swing, helping his side to win the match.”

                But Imran’s defence was that those things happened in a very different era, when lifting the seam or rubbing face cream into the ball were quite normal, and even at their worst of quite a different order of magnitude to a gambling conspiracy.

                Despite PCB and Imran Khan’s bravado, there is not going to be any respite to the players or Pakistan team until strict corrective measures are taken. Former ICC chief-executive Malcolm Speed (2001-2008) went one-step further saying there was a compelling case to suspend Pakistan from world cricket after explosive match-rigging allegations hit the national team. Suspension was a ‘serious’ option for Pakistan. It looks as though it is endemic that several of the team members are involved and have been for some time,” Speed told Australia national radio. “So perhaps they need a rest. It looks a fairly compelling case. Cricket was still bedevilled by corruption. Corrupt bookmakers and gamblers are still out there, (It’s) great that they’ve been caught in England where there is a very sophisticated legal system that deals with conspiracy and specifically with cheating in sport,” he added.

                However, ICC president Sharad Pawar has taken a very cautious stand. “The allegations of match fixing against Pakistani cricketers are very serious but the ICC would wait for a report from the police in London before deciding on its course of action,” was his reaction to this episode.

                “Until and unless the process of investigation is over, it is improper for me to react. We have discussed it within the ICC and have decided that let us wait for the police’s investigation report. After that we have to take a viewpoint of the two Boards, the PCB the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB). I am absolutely confident that both Boards will never encourage protecting anybody who has done a wrong thing. Whatever the allegations, the allegations themselves are quite serious,” Pawar who took over as ICC chief in July, said.

                But for PCB’s discomfort several former cricketers have demanded life bans for the guilty to wipe out corruption from the sport. Will ICC show the spine this time or it will let PCB and players go scoot free this time also…your guess is as good as mine?

 By Harpal Singh Bedi

Comments are closed here.