Format raises fixing temptations, officials fear
London: Only 10 months after Pakistan captain Younus Khan held the Twenty20 World Cup aloft at Lord’s, a third edition of the global tournament opens in the West Indies on Friday.
The rapid growth of Twenty20 cricket has fuelled fears that the game is open to corruption akin to the match-fixing scandal which rocked the summer game of the British Commonwealth at the end of the 1990s.
What Are These Fears?
Because of its all-action nature, with wickets tumbling and runs scored at breakneck speed, Twenty20 cricket is particularly susceptible to "spot-fixing" in which matches are not necessarily fixed but individual events within the game are.
Tim May, the chief executive of the international players’ union FICA, is one of several influential figures in the game who believes that the number of Twenty20 matches now being played could tempt players to take money from bookmakers in return for spot-fixing.
How Does Spot-Fixing Work?
Spot-fixing involves a player agreeing to under-perform. For example, a bowler might deliberately bowl consecutive wides in his second over or a batsman could make sure he does not reach double figures. So much happens so quickly in a Twenty20 match that individual performances can soon be forgotten or dismissed as inconsequential.
Betting on cricket matches televised in India is a hugely lucrative business. Fortunes can be made if a gambler knows in advance what a particular bowler or batsman is going to do. Bets are placed on every delivery in a 50- or 20-overs match.
Only betting on horse racing at trackside is allowed in India but in practice around half of a market worth billions of dollars is estimated to be illegal betting, mostly on cricket.
What Evidence Is There Of Spot-Fixing?
Rumours have abounded since the advent of the Indian Premier League (IPL) two years ago although nobody has ever been 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.
Former England captain Michael Atherton, who is now the cricket correspondent for The Times, said in his column on Thursday that one leading former international had told him "categorically" that spot-fixing was a regular occurrence.
What Was The Match-Fixing Scandal?
Three international captains Hansie Cronje (South Africa), Salim Malik (Pakistan) and Mohammed Azharuddin (India) were banned for life in 2000 for helping to influence the results of matches.
Match-fixing had become established in one-day cricket in the 1990s and suspicion centred, in particular, on the one-day tournaments staged at Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates.
As a result of its investigations the International Cricket Council (ICC) founded its Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) to monitor all international matches. The ACSU monitored the IPL tournament in India this year but not the second in South Africa last year because the Indian board thought the fee charged by the ICC was too high.