On March 30, 2011, India played Pakistan at Mohali, in a clash of the titans in the semi-final of the World Cup. Bookies across India predicted the verdict accurately: In response to India?s score of 260, Pakistan would cruise to 100, then lose two quick wickets, throw away five wickets by 150 and lose by a margin of over 20. India won by 29 runs in the presence of prime ministers of India and Pakistan, in what was said to be a predetermined verdict.
In Bookie Gambler Fixer Spy, English journalist and cricket tipster Ed Hawkins unravels the nexus between bookies and players that has tainted the game. The ICC has rejected the fixing claims as spurious and the BCCI believes it is an insult to the Indian team. But with a 2010 News of the Worldsting nailing three Pakistani cricketers for fixing and former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi claiming he was threatened for refusing to fix IPL matches, the credibility of the game appears in danger.
Take a look at excerpts from the book in these numbered pages.
The game's corrupt core exposed
In April 2012 it was understood that an investigation into the semi-final had been launched by a Pakistan intelligence agency, either the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the chief investigative agency of the government, or the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Karachi-based lawyer Karim, bursting with pride that ?the Mohali disgrace will be exposed', said that the match would be 'nailed'.
The spy was not easy to contact. It took almost weekly Skype contact between Karim and a go-between to set up a 'meeting'. Then there were the 44 emails that were sent with more than 900 conversation threads. Most of these were discussing the theories and possible reasons as to why a game of such importance would be rigged. There are many. Some appear to be utterly far-fetched, others more prosaic in the context of this book: A good, old-fashioned gambling scam, for example.
The justification for any fix is the same, however, for every story one hears. That is that India could not countenance Pakistan playing in a World Cup final in Mumbai, the city which was hit by a terrorist attack in 2008 orchestrated from within Pakistan and by Pakistanis. The shame for Indians would be too much to bear, they say. And imagine the reaction if Pakistan had won the final? Parading and dancing with the trophy on soil which had previously been scarred by Indian blood would have been torment.
So the conspiracy theorists claim that one of two plots was hatched. The first, that the Indian business lobby, powerful and unimaginably rich, pooled cash to buy off the Pakistan team and ensure no ignominy. The other that the two governments, recognising the state of peril the region could find itself in with Pakistan playing a World Cup final in Mumbai, struck a deal. For the victory, India would reinvigorate trade between the two countries. It is claimed that 400 MoUs with regard to trade were signed in the wake of Mohali. MoUs, of course, mean nothing on their own, but there has been an improvement in relations. The two signed Favoured Nation Status agreements and a new terminal was opened in April 2012 at the Wagah-Attari border. There are also rumours of the Pakistan Cricket Board being paid US$1 million for their cooperation.
The Gods Of Gambling In India
Four syndicates have a vice-like grip on illegal betting
There are four syndicates in India, which have a monopoly on first-, second- and third-tier bookmakers. The live match betting odds are provided by Shobhan Mehta, the Mumbai-based bookie, to whom (Mumbai-based bookie) Parthiv and (his 'boss') Big G are connected. Jayanti Malad, (Nagpur-based bookie) Vinay's friend and the syndicate he sometimes sets the odds for, offers the pre-match betting odds. A third syndicate, known as the Shibu, offers just session betting (the brackets-runs in the first ten overs). Labu Delhi is Shibu's lead bookmaker. A fourth, and a 'rival' to Mehta's live odds, are the Nagpur syndicate, organised by a bookie called Jeetu Nagpur. Between them, the syndicates control the match odds, innings runs, brackets and lunch favourite market, the only betting markets available on the Indian system.
Lankan lions laid low
Star cricketer says four changes in a final was suspicious
There had been rumours surrounding the Sri Lanka team for some time. Hashan Tillakaratne, the former captain, said in April 2011 that match-fixing had been going on in the team since 1992. He was suspicious about the World Cup final against India in 2011. 'I am not saying that this match was fixed. But why were four players changed for this match? We who have played cricket talk about this. We were playing an entirely different side.'
There is also an obscure fact about the Sri Lanka team that took the field in Cardiff (first Test between England and Sri Lanka in May 2011) that will ensure scandalous tongues wag at his conspiracy theory... they had not been paid since the end of the World Cup in April. Not a single rupee in more than eight weeks.
It does not take a particularly cynical mind to come to the conclusion that a cricketer who has been treated with such little regard for his welfare and that of his family, might-just might-be tempted by the offer of payment to throw a Test match, particularly a Sri Lanka player who suffered the harrowing experience of being a target for terrorists in Pakistan in March 2009. Players are paid to play for their country, but it is often assumed they would do so only for the love of the national flag. When one has almost been killed in the line of doing his duty as an entertainer and then suffered the indignation of empty pay cheques, it is a stinging slap in the face...
Tillakaratne was attacked by his own board for daring to pipe up about fixing that took place during his days as a player and his fears over the current team. Zulqarnain Haider, the Pakistan wicketkeeper who (in 2010) said he was threatened with violence for not playing along with the fixers, had his intelligence and mental faculties questioned by players and the Pakistan Cricket Board, who for good measure fined him when he left a tour of Dubai (for a series against South Africa) because of fears over his safety. Tony Palladino, the Essex whistleblower (who reported team-mate Mervyn Westfield for spot-fixing in a county match against Durham in 2009), was made to feel an outsider. The BCCI refused to take seriously the claims of Mazhar Majeed, a convicted fixer, that he had access to India players. The New Zealand Cricket Board balked at The Sunday Times article (in March 2012) which questioned some of their players (quoting an Indian bookmaker who claimed he turned down a chance to sign up New Zealand players for match-fixing).
The Czar On His Lost Domain
Modi says he resisted underworld attempts to fix matches
The ACSU's (Anti-Corruption and Security Unit) record in bringing players to justice is not impressive. Since 2000 only two players have been disciplined: Marlon Samuels, the West Indies batsman, was banned for two years for passing on information to a punter, and in 2004 Maurice Odumbe, the former Kenya captain, was banned for five years for receiving money from bookies.
The ACSU was slow to act on the threat posed by Mazhar Majeed, too. Twice they missed opportunities. In the Asia Cup in Sri Lanka in 2010 an ACSU officer was aware that Salman Butt and another player had lied to the team management about the reason they were leaving the hotel. They said they wanted to find some Pakistani food, but instead they went to meet Majeed. Then in the early part of summer 2010, a whistleblower emailed the ACSU with messages downloaded from Majeed's BlackBerry. The ACSU claim they did not have the manpower to react. The whistleblower instead went to the News of the World.
The ACSU lacks betting expertise. During the spot-fixing trial at Southwark there was disbelief in court when Ravi Sawani, who had quit his post as general manager of the ACSU in 2011, admitted that he didn't know what a bracket was. It was a damaging moment for the unit's credibility.
Condon (Lord Paul Condon, the former chairman of ACSU) and I disagree on whether it is possible in India to bet on the weird and wonderful markets that the ACSU have spoken of in the past: At which end a bowler will bowl, fielding positions, no-balls or wides of specific deliveries. I suggest to him that even a fundamental understanding of gambling in the country would raise doubts that such bets would be possible because of the way the bookmakers operate...
I have just told Lalit Modi that Lord Condon says that the illegal Indian betting industry is no longer run by the men whom Modi claims are trying to end his life. 'Where are they living?' he exclaims, the pitch of his voice pinging the ears. 'On which planet are they living?' 'I'm shocked to hear that. I'm in shock. I have had three assassination attempts on me for my stand on anti-corruption.'
Modi goes on to give details of the three incidents, claiming they were because he had refused to kowtow to the 'gangsters' in their attempt to fix matches in IPL. One was in Mumbai at the end of March 2009. "There was a shootout outside my house and one guy got killed and one guy got picked up,' he says. The other attempts came in South Africa in April of the same year and in Phuket, Thailand, in January 2010. On each occasion he was warned by police or the intelligence agencies.
'The entire underground betting system in India stops at the top of the pyramid. They are the book. Everybody else is a bookmaker, laying the bets. They are based in India, outside India, some across the border, in the Middle East.'
'Their access is very well known in India into other industries. Their access into working with many people and politicians is well known. They have respectable front men. Let' put it this way: A lot of the underworld have respectable front faces. People at the front will give you no inkling of the connection at the back.'
But what of the allegations of match-fixing in IPL-that Modi, to use his words against him, was that 'respectable' front? 'Absolute fantasy,' he says. 'Malicious fantasy. Some people are out to get me and they are desperate so they make things up. It's sad.'
The IPL, however, does have a poor reputation in the game for corruption. The ACSU were alarmed that it had no official ICC anti-corruption coverage in its first two years, while bookmakers like Parthiv and Vinay expect matches to be fixed. Even bookmakers in the UK had a distrust of the tournament.
'Spot-fixing is rife in the game. And I'm talking globally. It's a Pandora's box. It's staring you straight in the face, but difficult to prove. Almost impossible to prove. I say that from experience in cricket: Watching, broadcasting, dealing as an administrator for many years, looking at it and seeing it. I've been seeing, hearing what's been happening and that's not just from the IPL, but cricket as whole. IPL is one of the best-covered tournaments now, doesn't mean the others aren't, but are we doing enough?'
'Fixing can be done in many ways; it's not just the players. It can be other than players, those associated with the game who have an impact on the game. Pitch condition, giving out team information.'
Surely it is impossible, then, to claim that the IPL, particularly in the first two editions without ACSU protection, was clean? 'I think it was clean, but I could never, sitting here today, categorically tell you that we picked up everything for spot-fixing, and that goes for all games, not just IPL. It's extremely difficult to spot. We found undesirable elements in the stadium and removed them. We found them touring with players or managers of players who were in touch with the bookmakers and we removed them.'
On a previous meeting with Modi, he had given me the names of players he believed were involved with 'undesirables'. It was before Cairns won a libel suit against him so his tongue was looser. 'I have to be careful now,' he laughs. 'I don't want another libel case, nor do I want to get shot.' The players he named included superstars. The jaw would drop.
'Yes,' he says. 'They are big names. And I know a lot of players today globally who fraternise with big bookmakers, legal or illegal, and I don't see any reason why that should be (allowed).'
'I had to speak to the players myself sometimes. Of course, the conversation would go, "We haven't done it, it's not true, it's circumstantial, me? How's it possible? Me?" And that's how it went. I would say: "We know what we know, and we know what you know, so get it out of the game. Let there not be another incident." To everything there was an explanation. They had an answer for everything.'
'If a player is a soft target, he is a soft target, and there is not much anyone can do about that. IPL is not to blame for that. Twenty20 is not to blame for that. The ACSU have blamed Twenty20 in the past. Whether it's T20, odi or Test match, the same players play all formats of the game. Once the bookmaker makes you taste money he will extract his pound of flesh, he'll ensure he gets the co-operation in any format.'
Glamour And The Go-Between
Pakistani starlet tried to buy Indian players
It is easy to find Dheeraj Dixit. Helpfully, the Indian media plastered his address across sport and news sections for much of September 2011. The cricket photographer, who travelled the world following the India team, had been accused of match-fixing. The claims were made by Veena Malik, a Bollywood actress of Pakistani origin who added the titillation to the story that had everything: The Pakistan spot-fixing scandal.
Veena was a former girlfriend of Mohammad Asif, the Pakistan bowler who was found guilty of producing no-balls to order. She had been on Indian television to expose Dheeraj Dixit as a fixer, a go-between. She claimed that Dixit and Asif had met in Bangkok to discuss fixing and she provided the ICC's ACSU with phone records in an attempt to prove it.
Veena, speaking on television, said of Dixit's claims: 'Come up with the proof. That's the easiest thing to do... the character assassination of a woman.'
Dixit, who admits to being 'very, very good friends' with Asif, did not keep his silence either and an old-fashioned war of words erupted between the two. Dixit said that it was Veena who was the go-between for Mazhar Majeed, the players' agent jailed at the Southwark trial of Asif, Salman Butt and Mohammad Amir. Dixit has alleged that Veena had approached him to put her in contact with Indian cricketers. Dixit is 'known of by the ACSU', whilst Veena has been 'spoken with'.
Regardless of who was speaking the truth, Veena appeared to get one thing right: Dixit knows a lot of Indian celebrities. This much is evident as I sit on the sofa of his apartment in the wholesome north Delhi neighbourhood of Pitampura. There is a picture of him, his wife and two children with Sachin Tendulkar hanging on the wall behind me. But that is not all.
'Look, I show you,' he says, beginning to scroll through pictures on his iPhone with various past and present international cricket personalities, interrupted by other stars and the odd tourist snap: Waqar Younis, Danish Kaneria ('in New Zealand'), the House of Commons, the mayor of Bromley ('receiving award for good pictures'), Benazir Bhutto ('she has died'), M.S. Dhoni, VVS Laxman, Pooja Bedi, a Bollywood actress, M.S. Dhoni again ('me and Dhoni in his hotel room'), Preity Zinta, another Bollywood actress, 'Pakistan winning the Twenty20 World Cup... here I am carrying the trophy at Lord's ... I am carrying the trophy here too', Sachin Tendulkar, Simon Taufel the umpire, Dhoni again, this time at Lord's, Tendulkar ('at the Lord's again, he is a very good man'). Get the picture?
His apparent access to players attracted Veena to Dixit. Dixit claims she called his home three times 'after 12 a.m.' when he was on tour with India in Bangladesh in January 2010, his wife answering each time. She said, "OK, is it possible to give his mobile number in Bangladesh?" She gave it. Veena Malik called me three days running. She told me, "I am Hindu, people in Pakistan are not safe." She was trying to get emotional intimacy. She wanted to meet Indian players. She also took the name of a few players, who she met, but I don't want to disclose the names because it is sensitive.' She met India players? 'Yeah.'
The reason why Veena was keen to meet players is a twist to the Pakistan spot-fixing saga, according to Dixit. Veena, he says, worked for Majeed and Asif.
'Majeed's a very cunning man. I don't know him, I've never met him.'
Dixit explains that Majeed was beginning to lose his grip on the Pakistan players, fearing that they were being bought off by rival match-fixers and that he needed new players to attempt to corrupt. 'Majeed's scared of all Pakistan players. Sometimes Veena Malik told me that they had ditched Majeed. That is why he was looking for Indian players. They demand four times bigger money, she told me. That is why she approached me. Asif told her only one man can do it and "that's Dheeraj". I was close with Asif. My friend. Yes, we were in Thailand (on holiday), but there was nothing shady. I helped him with many things when he came to Delhi to play in IPL, that's where I first met him. Now, as soon as I heard he was in match-fixing I don't know him.
'She offered me big sums. She wants me to be go-between. I said "no". I didn't take a single penny. It is not my culture. She told me, "Come to London, Pakistan matches are fixed in London." The last tour. I said: "How can you say that?" and she replied: "This year's matches are already fixed."
If Dixit is to be believed, then the timing of this information predates Pakistan's tour of England. Recalling that he said Veena contacted him on 13 January 2010, that is around seven months before the first Test at Nottingham. 'I think she wanted to show... I think she wanted to give me money to attract Indian players. She said "I can give you 15 lakh rupees (£18,000)." That's a lot of money. "If you fulfil your requirements."'
I asked Dixit whether it would have been so bad to take the money from Veena to introduce his friends in the India team. 'I can't do it 'cos my culture never allows me.' In fact, Dixit, who insists he only met Veena once but spoke 'many times' on the phone, says that he attempted to play whistle-blower by recording Veena's offers. He says he went to a newspaper reporter whom he regarded as a friend. 'I called a senior reporter in India that some girl from Pakistan is offering me money to fix matches. She had also told me to look for big businessman in India. Everything she said I told the reporter. I don't want to take his name. He told me how to record her voice. But I didn't know how to operate the voice recording when someone is calling you. She called me and asked: "What did you think about? I've already met the Indian player." 'I can't say who. I will be in trouble.' I mention the names of two players I have heard a lot of talk about. 'It's them isn't it?'
'You can do the permutation, but I will not take the name.' I press Dixit again for the names of the two players. Dixit shakes his head and wags his finger. 'I will not take the name!'
Azhar's Wheel Of Fortune
Charged with match-fixing, vindicated after 12 years
'I am not surprised to see him where he is now, no,' says K. Madhavan, appointed by the BCCI to conduct an inquiry into the match-fixing report authored by M.A. Ganapathy. 'Honesty is not a necessary ingredient in India to becoming an MP. But, please, I have changed my view of him after these years. Of course, what he did was despicable. Please remember that all these people (cricketers) become big by the time they are 22 or 23. Considering the wisdom that comes at age of 35 to 40 by making mistakes, I don't know whether he was crooked or it was his age.'
Azharuddin was three hours late for his appointment with Madhavan at the Ramada Manohar Hotel on 16 November 2000. 'He was deeply worried,' Madhavan recalls. 'He was ashamed he was caught. When initially I called him, he refused to come. Then through a messenger I showed him my purpose was not a witch-hunt, my purpose was a fair inquiry and to only fault people who had committed some crime or some irregularities.' Having put Azharuddin at ease, Madhavan's first question was 'Aur tum desh ko kab se bechne mein lage huay ho?' (Since when have you been selling the country?) Azharuddin buried his face in his hands.
Despite his show of emotion and anxiety, Azharuddin stonewalled. He defended himself. Having admitted in Ganapathy's report that he had 'done' three matches, he denied he had done anything wrong to Madhavan. 'Most of the people who are caught in India,' Madhavan says, 'they keep denying until the end. Even after the Supreme Court says they are guilty, they deny. But there is one redeeming feature of the West-that 50 per cent of the people confess. Clinton finally confessed he had an affair with Monica (Lewinsky). In the past 50 years no Indian politician has confessed. No one confesses. Even crossing a red light they will deny, which is a very minor violation.'
I take a sun lounger nearby, attempting to eavesdrop on conversations. Jonathan Trott and Samit Patel make an appearance before leaving in the direction of the gym. (Ian) Bell, (Jonny) Bairstow and (Graham) Onions take to the pool for lengths with the fitness coach, a barrel of a chap, monitoring the session. When the drill is over, I splash in. Onions is taking time out at one end, Bell the other.
Onions is guarded. He is not going to be playing, but this is not news. He 'thinks' England will play the same team that was beaten in the last game in Mohali. 'Thinks' is not likely to cut it with Parthiv or Vinay. Onions does reveal that the pitch is 'very flat' and that 'dew won't be an issue'.
I take a few lengths of the pool before approaching Bell, who is supporting his weight on his arms, which rest on the ledge of the pool, held tilted back and soaking up the rays.
'I'm hoping I'll be watching you bat later, Ian,' I say, truthfully. He is widely regarded as a certain addition to the England team by both India and English media, a remedy for a spluttering batting line-up so far.
'No such chance,' he says.
'Really? I thought you were a certainty to play.'
'Well, unless there's going to be a last-minute change of heart?'
I dry off and go back to my room, sharing a lift with Trevor Penney (India's fielding coach). He says the wicket should spin. I text Parthiv and Vinay: 'Bell not playing. Two changes to Eng bowling, but waiting for final look at pitch. Meaker has good chance. Pitch is v flat. Eng say no dew.'
A few quid in a brown envelope slid under a hotel room door, perhaps an iPad left at reception or a drink bought at the bar would be all it would take for Onions, Bell and Penney, in the eyes of the ACSU, to be guilty of corruption. It is as easy as that. In its simplicity, the difficulty facing the sport is clear. These are the types of conversations players have over and over again when they encounter supporters. They would almost certainly consider them banal and harmless. Nine-nine times out of 100 they would be right. Today was a one cent day.