I HAVE recently had a chance to read the extract of Ed Hawkin’s book ‘BOOKIE GAMBLER FIXER SPY: A JOURNEY TO THE CORRUPT HEART OF CRICKET’S UNDERWORLD’, where a sensational allegation has been made that the India-Pakistan semi-final match of the World Cup 2011 was fixed. This allegation was based on an SMS received from a bookie pertaining to the broad contours of what would happen in the match. A match cannot be said to be fixed just based upon the SMS enumerating some match predictions. A keen follower of cricket would surely have known that Pakistan has never defeated India in a World Cup match; hence the odds were anyways stacked against them particularly when chasing 260 in the semi-final.
The next allegation is that the Indian team’s score were predicted rather accurately. Mr Hawkins himself admits that the SMS was received near the end of India’s innings. An ardent cricket statistician knowing the pitch conditions and Pakistan’s bowlers ability to bowl death overs could have easily predicted that the score would be around 260, again this would not be termed as rocket science and an assumption of match fixing based upon these broad predictions is rather far fetched.
Passionate punters, contrary to the popular belief, do not act on gut feeling; they generally have a good understanding of the game and have a team of cricket statisticians backing up their bets. In addition most of them also rely on the data available on renowned sports betting websites to judge the odds available and the predictions of the people watching the match. In essence a punter is exercising his skill to predict the result based upon the data available with him.
There are a number of messages that are circulated by stock broking houses where they predict what value a particular script is likely to attain in a predicted period of time. These predictions are based on research of the data and information available as well as the application of the skill of the broker in analyzing this data. By the logic of the Mr Hawkins, every time a skilled stock broker gets his set of predictions right, the business community should assume that the dealing in the stock has been manipulated to attain the target. Such is not the case hence it is absolutely irrational when a particular bookie who gets his set of predictions right can lead to an inference that a match has been fixed.
It has also been conveniently disregarded that other sets of SMS were also received by people predicting the results of other matches in the World Cup. In fact every Indian including myself consider ourselves experts of cricket and periodically predict certain outcomes or comment on how a particular shot should have been played or a ball should have been bowled. As these predictions didn’t exactly come true, Mr Hawkins hypotheses is baseless.
I remember with some fondness and awe, how octopus Paul was able to predict the result of the football World Cup matches with accuracy. Should we now draw an inference that all matches of the football World Cup were also fixed in collusion with the owner of Paul. It would be rather prudent that sensational claims are not made on mere predictions and a prudent inquiry is undertaken of facts and evidence before raising such allegations which damage the spirit of the game and the reputation of the players.
Cricket matches have had a number of incidents which defy logic and rational thinking. For instance in the 1987 World Cup Final in Calcutta, England were coasting towards victory chasing 253 and were 135 for 2, when Mike Gatting played an uncharacteristic reverse sweep to the part time bowler Alan Border and got out, leading to an English batting collapse and defeat. Nobody questioned this incident or the integrity of Mike Gatting on that occasion.
Are some countries increasingly becoming uncomfortable with the success of sub-continental countries? Whereas allegations have been raised against Asian victories on the field in a cynical and unjustified manner, there is a demand of parity of power and bigger role for other non-test playing nations. This is completely opposed to the earlier functioning of the ICC where the axis of power was dominated by England, Australia and South Africa, to the detriment of the other countries.
Such stories are a reflection of the growing discomfort with the rising influence of the sub-continental countries, both on and off the cricket field.
Retd. Justice Mukul Mudgal is currently the Chairman of the Committee constituted to review the Draft National Sports (Development) Bill, 2011. Previously, (Retd.) Justice Mudgal has served as the Chief Justice of the Punjab & Haryana High Court as well as a Judge at the Delhi High Court. (Retd.) Justice Mudgal has delivered judgments on a number of prominent cases relating to sport. He is also the author of ‘Law and Sports in India – Development, Issues and Challenges’.