x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Cricket: A game made for gambling

"If you were designing a game to fix, you would design cricket, because it is a whole series of discrete events, and every ball you can bet on." — Lord Condon.

"If you were designing a game to fix, you would design cricket, because it is a whole series of discrete events, and every ball you can bet on." – Lord (Paul) Condon

A Test match lasts five days and, if it goes the distance, 2,700 legal deliveries are bowled through that period. In one-day internationals (ODIs), it is 600 balls, and in Twenty20 (T20) the number is 240.

If someone could get a cricketer to fix just five or six balls in a match, they could collect huge gambling profits without anyone noticing. And the possibilities for fixes are almost endless.

Before the match

Bets are taken on predicting the playing squad, and fixers have allegedly prevailed upon players to pull out minutes before the start of a game. The toss comes next, and, in the past, a corrupt captain could fix even that, by quickly picking up the coin and congratulating the opposing captain on his "winning" the toss.

Bets can also be placed on who will open the batting and from which ends, and on who is going to bowl the first over. Such decisions are somewhat random and therefore fixes are hard to detect.

During the match

Punters can wager on any event and on every ball. Examples: how many runs a batsman will score; if he will hit the next ball for a six, four, single or simply pat it back to the bowler; the mode of his dismissal; which bowler is going to get him out; or when a bowler will deliver a no-ball or wide.

"The odds of a batsman getting out hit-wicket are as high as 80 to one," a Mumbai bookmaker said. "So imagine the money to be made if a punter or bookmaker could convince a batsman to get out in that mode."

The same applies to no-balls. Lord Condon, a former policeman and also the former chief of the International Cricket Council's anti-corruption and security unit, said: "If you know in advance when a bowler is going to bowl a no-ball, it's like knowing when red or black is going to come up on a roulette wheel."

Betting on "brackets"

One of the most popular forms of betting is on the outcome of short periods of play, or brackets. It involves betting on the number of runs that will be scored in 15 overs in Tests and ODIs, or 10 overs in T20s.

If a batsman gets off to a fast start, it will encourage gamblers to wager on a high run target. If the batsman is in on the fix, he will slow his production to ensure the target is not reached. A bowler who is involved can affect the bracket with deliberate no-balls.

Why spot-fixing is popular

Gone are the days when a fixer had to get entire squads on board to rig the outcome of a match. With spot-fixing, a fixer can make money with the help of just one or two players.

"Fixing matches was always difficult," a Mumbai bookmaker said. "You had to bribe seven or eight players and even then honest players could win the game."

How information is passed

Elaborate signals have been devised by cricketers to let their cohorts know when a fix is on, even if they are watching on television. It could be a change of gloves or a batsman walking down the pitch to a tap on the ground.

A former India all-rounder allegedly would tie his shoelaces as a signal to his accomplices; this would mean his next delivery would be hit for a four. The re-strapping of pads is also used as an indicator.

arizvi@thenational.ae