The un-fixing of match-fixing

Jack sap (koholla) sticks. Once upon a time a farmer had a problem where his poultry was being singled out for attack by an animal and he wanted to know what it was. So he made a dummy fowl out of sticky koholla and kept it in his compound overnight.

In the night the jackal, who was feasting on the farmer’s chicks, saw one right on his compound and thought ‘Oh! It’s my day” and promptly attacked the fowl. But, what really happened was with every move that he made the Jackal was getting more entangled in the sticky goo till the farmer himself wandered out of his house to check what was making this huge racket in his compound.

Yes, the farmer set the trap and caught the jackal that was a threat to him. But, did he address the situation? No, because there would be another jackal who would take his predecessor’s place to give the farmer the headache of battling his perennial problem.

Though a bit more complex, in cricket match-fixing comes in the same line. It is a direct culmination of human greed of those who are willing to make fodder out of it for their own benefit. However, of late a new (if you can call it so) addition to this scenario has emerged and the cricket and ICC authorities have named it spot-fixing. First we should discuss as to what this spot fixing is.

Spot-fixing differs from outright match-fixing in one crucial regard -- whereas match-fixing sees the entire result of a sporting contest manipulated, spot-fixing relates to specific incidents within the game.

For instance, it could be a no-ball, some one getting a hundred, runs that would be scored in a particular over or during a particular session – the circumstances could vary from bet to bet.

However, it must be reiterated that match-fixing is not confined to cricket. There have been instances of match-fixing or result fixing from early Roman Olympics to modern day football. With the upheaval about spot-fixing that transpired during the current England-Pakistan series the ugly head of this dirty monster has risen again.

At the same time we come up with the question, what could the authorities do to deal with it or can they do it? Former England captain Peter May, discussing the situation prevailing in England, in an article to the Sky Cricket website, Cricket365, says, “Similarly the calls for Pakistan to be exiled from international cricket are disgraceful. For one thing, the game needs Pakistan as much as the other way round. For another, it relies on the dangerous assumption that Pakistan is unique in its criminality -- that the least among all Pakistan players' misdeeds is greater than any by any player from any other nation. Hansie who? In fact, players from every major cricket-playing nation have been embroiled to some extent in the last decade. It seems likely these are just the latest to have gotten caught.

“Cricket has to accept a number of inconvenient truths: many people are weak and/or vulnerable; the money gambled illegally in Asia is colossal and will remain dangerously hidden; cricket's magnificent complexity means that all gambling frauds cannot possibly be detected.

“The conclusion is clear -- match-fixing will continue to go on in cricket in the future as it has in the past. This is not an opportunity to eradicate player corruption, which is an ongoing inevitability. Instead it is a chance to accept the reality that has been ignored for a decade and to implement a coordinated and serious set of measures to minimise it as best we can.

“Certainly that has to start with this crisis but who believes the national and international boards are capable either of just logical punishments or careful, considered rebuilding? Many familiar PCB faces wield power from the Qayyum Report a decade ago, not only at board level but senior coaches and former players. Their record in dispensing justice is pitiful at best.”

Now let’s bring the episode back home. Last week for the first time the monster raised his head in Sri Lanka. Though in a rather vague manner, there was some substance in the utterances. But, at the same time one may ask as to how strong the bookie industry in Sri Lanka is and how influential it is.
What we learn is the Lankan bookie business is limited to a few individuals who generally import their business from happenings overseas and bulk of the matter is confined to horse racing. Yes, in race-by-race spots there are cricket bets too, but, they are also with the legally operated stuff, and still spot-fixing etc is novel to Sri Lanka.

Generally, the most influential and lethal bookie mafia prevails in India and works internationally. Besides India, the other stronghold in this especially illegal operation is England. The gentry who are involved in this illegal activity operate internationally and they are a lethal force that would not stop at any red lights and would infiltrate into any unsuspecting mind given the slightest chance. Mind you, if they could have derailed the minds of powerful cricketing personalities like Hansie Cronje – the former South African Cricket captain and Mohammed Azharuddin the former Indian captain who was almost a demi-god in the cricket crazy subcontinent, why not a young unsuspecting Lankan cricketer.

Adding to the problem the Indian IPL also cannot be called the cleanest and most honest cricket tournament that was ever conducted. With moves of that nature it is the bookie that has emerged as a forceful industry.

Then cricket banned Azharuddin. But, the law-breaker ended up at the Indian Lok Sabha as a lawmaker.
Now it is up to the ICC to look at the whole scenario in a different perspective. First they would have to educate the cricketing brood about the repercussions of this. Then they would have to improvise a system that would cover the cricketers in a manner that would keep them away from evil. Also it should be done on a continual basis.

Nearer to home the Lankan authorities also must understand that in the past two decades it has been the non-cosmopolitan village lads who have donned the national caps on a more regular basis. Then the authorities must understand their values, aspirations and vulnerability and try to make them understand the importance of continued service to the motherland than killing the hen that lays the golden egg.
If not another Jackal would be in the farmer’s cage uninvited.

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