Twenty20: too much of a good thing raises the odds for match-fixing

2012-05-26 00:00

THE Indian Premier League is the reason why suspended Cricket South Africa chief executive Gerald Majola is going through a disciplinary hearing. Now the cricket jamboree has a match-fixing albatross it needs to deal with.

The IPL is essentially an Indian domestic tournament which caters for the needs of the cricket-drugged Indian viewer.

However, too much of a good thing is just not good for anybody and at some stage that ugly, incurable cancer called match-fixing was going to rear its ugly head.

Two of cricket’s biggest controversies — ball-tampering and fixing — are often traced back to Pakistan and India.

The former was seen as the preserve of Pakistan, while in the latter, cricketers from both countries were caught with their hands in the cookie jar. South Africa were also tainted by the scourge, with then South African captain Hansie Cronje spoiling what would have been a glittering career. If Test and one-day cricket did not come out clean from the match-fixing saga, how was a domestic tournament held in a country with a ban of cricket betting going to survive match-fixing-related scandals that have afflicted its more esteemed siblings? Not a chance.

The equation is simple: too many games will increase the chance of matches being fixed.

Cricketing governing bodies have not yet been able to deal with this can of worms. A perfect example is the spot-fixing scandal, which has most probably ended the careers of Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif. The incident happened at the most hallowed of cricket venues, Lord’s in London, and it took a newspaper sting to uncover Butt’s dishonesty.

Lest it be forgotten, it was the sterling work of the Central Bureau of Investigations and the Delhi police that ensured that the late Cronje and Mohammad Azharrudin would take no further part in cricket.

Like any tournament with more than four teams, the IPL was bound to throw up a few mismatches here and there, for when there is nothing to play for, any reward besides match fees would be doubly enticing. Those dud games are the ones that are targeted the most by bookies and in the case of Mohammad Amir, it is the young players who lie in the crosshairs of these faceless, unscrupulous people.

The league provides them an opportunity to mingle and eat with the big boys, knowing fully that it is the closest most them will come to playing any sort of international cricket. Bookies also know that those players’ shelf lives — especially in India — are limited because of how many cricketers the country produces.

The pay discrepancies for local and overseas players in the IPL would also play a greater role in increasing the threat of fixing ,because an Indian domestic player, irrespective of his abilities, will not command as much money as an overseas player if he does not have an international cap to back up his résumé.

Making the Indian cricket team in any format is as difficult as finding a Premier Soccer League striker who will bang in 30 goals a season, and that is something bookies and players know all too well.

At the end of the cricket is a livelihood and it ensures a player’s energies are channelled into the game, but when they know they could add a few bucks in the money surplus that surrounds them, what could stop them?

The Board of Control for Cricket in India has moved swiftly to suspend the accused players, but the stench will still remain.

T20 is short and sharp and a distant memory once the series is done and dusted.

Cricket still has to go a long way before eradicating the cancer that is eating away at the game and, unfortunately, the perfect chemotherapy has yet to be found.

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