Hansie Cronje during his cross-examination at the King Commission of Inquiry into allegations of cricket match-fixing in 2000
There are many famous sports, more famous than cricket, involving huge number of fans and money that would bedazzle a common man. Yet, cricket, with all its glitz and glamour is considered to be the sport played by gentlemen. This was at first; the literal truth due to the fact that only the nobles were able to afford the game, while the lesser beings toiled for a daily living.
Having said that, the game has definitely evolved with the passage of time. The level of the game is becoming increasingly competitive and the obscene amount of money involved has only increased the worth of the brand, if not anything else.
There are negatives attached to all the positive things in the world. Some might say it lends the necessary balance but match-fixing is something else altogether.
The shadows of match-fixing, has latched itself to the game, creeping slowly through the tender minds of youngsters, luring them towards the unbelievable, yet petty luxuries of life. The virus of match-fixing has taken its roots all over the game even as authorities are trying to find a suitable remedy to cure the disease.
What is match-fixing?
The theory of fixing a match is quite simple. There are a network of people who place bets on the outcome of a match, and in order to win the bet they try and acquire the services of certain players who are willing to throw the match away for money, usually through a middle man known as a bookie. The ‘fixed’ player or players deliberately lose the match, thereby cheating millions of fans who have paid to watch their team in action.
The advent of spot-fixing:
Having been busted on so many occasions on trying to fix matches, the bookies then came up with a smart way of earning quick bucks through a relatively easier method called ‘spot-fixing’. In this category, the fixed player has to simply underperform at the stipulated time, thereby helping the bookmakers to earn millions of money. This could go undetected, for its sheer sensibility in its modus operandi. Nobody would suspect an awry over, or an easy wicket.
The Australian dominance seeks trouble: (Year: 1995)
In 1995, two of Australia’s renowned players were marred by match-fixing allegations for passing on pitch conditions to an Indian bookmaker. Though they later reported the incident to their board, they were put on stand and slammed with hefty fines. This would only be a minor incidence in Australia’s cricketing books, but the board was quick to declare their intolerance against such practices in the future.
The South African shock: (Year: 1999-00)
The earliest incident of match-fixing, one that shook the bases of cricket would involve a handful of South African players led by their skipper Hansie Cronje. He, along with a few team members, was involved in the scandal that included a few Indian stars as well. It was a well-publicized affair at that time, one that threatened to tarnish the reputation of the game itself. They were invariably caught in the process, having had to forsake their career and reputation.
Other players were scrutinized and an anti-corruption unit was set up by the governing council to prevent outside parties from having access to the players. The board was severely criticized for its negligence and lack of organization.
The Indian allegations: (Year 1999)
The involvement of a few Indian players in the betting scandals were just beginning to surface when Manoj Prabhakar, an ex-Indian fast bowler claimed to have evidence of match-fixing against the legendary Indian all-rounder, Kapil Dev. It went unproven and as a twist of events, Prabhakar himself was caught for his involvement in fixing matches and was banned from playing for India.
The tainted trio from Pakistan: (Year: 2010)
Probably one of the worst and the most publicized scandal of till today. Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Amir and Salman Butt, otherwise known as the ‘tainted trio’ were caught for their involvement in spot-fixing in the year 2010. The news came to light through an undercover journalist who managed to unravel their plot through a bookie named Mazhar Majeed.
The players were asked to underperform deliberately which came down as a huge shock for the cricketing fraternity. They were banned from playing cricket for the next five years, including a term in jail. It was unfortunate, especially for Mohammad Amir who was just making a mark for himself on the international circuit.
The IPL saga part I: (Year: 2012)
Though not as major as the other episodes, five Indian players were caught in a sting operation conducted by India TV, a news channel. Bans, ranging from one-year to life, were handed to five players who were caught in the process.
The IPL saga part II: (Year: 2013)
The spat of spot-fixing scandals did not leave the cricketing world alone, when once again it happened in the Indian Premier League. This time it was one of India’s star bowlers S. Sreesanth who got mixed up in the fixing scandals along with two other domestic players. It threatened to put Indian cricket into disrepute and many fans lost faith in the game which could have meant the end of the game in the country.
But the board acted swiftly to ensure that it did not happen and the Indian players responded brilliantly by winning the Champions Trophy competition and restoring faith for the common cricket fan.
There are other incidents involving some players including Pakistan’s frontline spin bowler Danish Kaneria. Frankly, cricketers are not being educated on the negatives of fixing and it has affected the game, dented its pride. It can never be the same again.
The colossal effect and the collateral damage – the aftermath
We see a close match, we consider it fixing. We see a sudden collapse, we consider it fixing. It has taken the belief out of the extraordinary that could happen in cricket. It has put the game into a grave perspective, one that could be called cheap, indicating that some of those real gentlemen could be a cheat after all. Honestly, suspicion makes us lose the love for the game. It should be stopped before the game loses its sheen, the attraction and the integrity.
The game is plagued by bookies and it has led us to a point where we aren’t sure whom to believe any more. Salman Butt, Hansie Cronje, Sreesanth and all the other players who got caught in the scandals would have had so many fans that would have idolized them and those who wanted to be like them in the future. To those fans, it is just a slap in the face to know that their idols are not what they portrayed to be. The emotional dejection would be too much to bear.
Things have to change; rules should be enforced more strongly. Fixing should be made a criminal offence and should have the highest possible punishment. It is not just about money, but about faith, pride and the belief that we have on the players that gets shattered. Players should be educated more on the subject and should be taken care off properly.
There is no immediate solution but with the right kind of education and preventive measures, cricket could regain its lost pride. It is not just a game for us, but a religion!
It has indeed changed the game.