Thursday, February 14, 2013

Men's Cricket - Nothing but staged Drama

If someone were to question me on my public claim of staged cricket:

Q. In an interview you have said that your book ‘Inside The Boundary Line’ aims at making the readers understand that cricket now is nothing more than a staged drama. How do you say cricket is staged?
A. It is not very complicated. Rather it is simple. Anyone who has knowledge of the betting (satta) market and sees the matches being telecast continuously with an open mind should know it. Most of the bookies and many bettors should be knowing it. Though the catch lies in being able to see the matches with ‘open’ mind. With commentators’ words and expert-analysis bombarding one, and so much hype being created about cricket matches in and through print and electronic media, to have an open mind becomes rather difficult for an average viewer, and it may be difficult for him/her to comprehend this fact of staged cricket.

Q. Yes? Please go on.
A. General public knows that there is betting on a team winning or losing. They don’t know that the odds for betting are continuously changing with the progress of a match and more importantly they don’t know that there is also continuous betting, known as session betting, on number of runs to be scored in a bracket of overs, say 1-10, 10-20, and so on for major part of a match. This fact has also been brought out in Hawkins’ book, published after (almost simultaneously) my book. It is knowledge of this session betting that led me to understand years back that the cricket being played was continuously scripted.

Q. Can you please elaborate how knowledge of session betting led you to know about match-fixing?
A. In fact match-fixing may not be a proper word. Because it is not that some odd match is fixed as people generally have come to believe. It was years ago – an ODI between Zimbabwe and Australia. Australia were batting first, with openers Gilchrist and Hayden on the crease. In 13 overs, the score was 80 and odd runs. Still the next two overs were played maiden by these two most explosive batsmen of that time. Those times session betting used to be for brackets of 1-15, 15-30, and then up to innings end (for first innings of an ODI). This experience finds a mention in my book, though with names changed and a sprinkling of fiction..
It is worth mention here that Gilchrist is considered to be the top honest cricketer. And he is. It was he, the only playing cricketer, who while still playing in IPL, said about a year ago that it would be naive to think that cricket was not fixed. I consider it as supreme honesty; to have been playing scripted cricket could have been a professional necessity for the cricketers as a result of our evolution process.

Q. Just on the basis of those two overs, you reach such a scandalous conclusion?
A. Certainly I won’t be such a fool. That was just the beginning of opening of my eyes. After that I have experienced viewing peculiar scoring patterns in sessions with all the subtleties, in hundreds of matches (thousands of sessions) from domestic leagues like Friends T20 in England, Bangladesh Premiere League, IPL, to the international matches, played all over the world and shown on TV. Giving some recent examples, crawl by India between 21st to 30th over and 31st to 35th over (both brackets for session betting), and then heavy scoring thereafter (just after one of the set batsman was out) in first ODI against Pak; Australia crawling from 11th to 20th over (20th over, the last over of the bracket, being maiden), hitting more than 12 runs in the 21st over in the recent 5th ODI against Sri Lanka; Crawl and then suddenly scoring of 15 plus runs in the last over of the two brackets (1-6 and 7-10) by Rangpur Riders against Khulna in BPL on the 25th Jan, 2013; all are dictated by session betting.
Thousands of such peculiarities can be seen from the recordings which many times don’t have much cricketing explanation. Through these sessions, each and every cricketer over last few years, without naming anyone, can be seen to be acting like a puppet being controlled by external forces, once eyes are opened.

Q. Is session betting all, that leads one to the knowledge of staged cricket?
A. While knowledge and thorough understanding of session betting makes the existence of continuous staged cricket very obvious and clear to one and is essential for the purpose, there are many other things that supplement/complement it. Some of those readily coming to mind are listed below:
a) Sea- change not only in form of individual players but teams as a whole from one match to next within a couple of days or so, not once a while, but time and again, across formats (i.e. T20 or test match or ODI), across countries.
 A recent classic example: In the last bilateral ODI series between Ind and SL in SriLanka, India scores 315 runs in the first ODI after having lost first wicket cheaply i.e. strong batting performance by the middle order. In the very next match on 24/7/12 from 31/0 in 3 overs they get bundled out for 138. Chasing, SL are 78-0 in 10 overs, surely no devils in the pitch. As one can easily imagine, at Ind 31/0 there must have been overwhelming betting in favour of India winning (with India’s strong batting performance fresh in the minds of the punters) and sudden collapse and no reprieve for Ind at any stage from there on would have ensured a kill for the bookies and fixers.
Hundreds of such examples involving various teams may be seen over a couple of years. To name a few: Newzealand, during their last tour of SA, losing two consecutive test matches to SA by big margins of an innings and then consecutively won the two ODI’s to follow, England dictated the last test series against India in India after losing Ist test match and came back to get dictated by India in the ODI series to follow.
b) Teams ‘throwing’ matches such that it becomes too obvious to any viewer: Happens very frequently now a days because of T20 leagues and large number of matches taking place.
Apart from tens of matches in T 20 leagues, classical recent examples would be- India losing last T 20 to Newzealand, Pakistan losing last ODI to India, Australia losing last test match to Newzealand in Australia. There are many more. A test match thrown by England to Australia years back and another thrown by Australia to India in Mohali have been taken inspiration from, in the book.
Caution: A word of caution here. The common mistake people do is in feeling that only the matches so clearly being lost by teams from sure winning position are the matches fixed. No. The book is meant to make one understand that it is not so. Pre-scripting of matches, even those that look natural enough on the surface, is a continuous process.  
c) Hundreds and thousands of individual shots played, balls bowled, or acts in the field which have been inexplicable. Many times even commentators say so. Why should players supposed to be playing to win do self-defeating inexplicable acts time and again? A classical example is: In the 14th over of the 4th ODI of bilateral series between India and SL on the 31st July, 2013, a faint edge off Dilshan’s edge goes straight into Dhoni’s gloves. Dhoni can be seen to be deliberately throwing it out of his hands. Only explanation can be that Dilshan getting out at that point was not scripted. Another prominent example- Md Hafiz getting out caught at leg slip in the last ODI between Ind and Pak, a match Pakistan are commonly believed to have lost willingly. See the recordings and the list will be endless.   
d) More often than not, may be 80% of times, the predictions of the experts go awfully wrong. See the recordings of matches over any continuous period of a month or more and you will know. One could say that a prediction could go wrong. But why should it happen repeatedly and why services of such experts, who fail miserably in their assessment, should continue to be utilised over years? Low scores are made on pitches said to be full of runs (for example England were all out for 155 in the 3rd ODI of last series with India, though curator (in newspaper headlines) as well as experts proclaimed it to be 350 plus pitch) and large scores are posted on pitches said to be tricky.
Examples: Ravi Shastri (probably it was) expecting a draw in the last test match between India and Newzealand in India in the test series prior to last one- the match indicated in the epilogue of the book. Ganguly telling 150 to be a formidable/winning total in the last T20 between Ind and England-India score 177 and lose. Again see the recordings and see how often and how much off the mark the experts have been.
e) Very often the captains and the players brag publicly about their team’s forthcoming performance to follow it with abysmal performance in reality. Happens too frequently across teams and nations to be brushed off as a coincidence. Some classical examples in this regard have been indicated in the book.
f) Other than session betting, for betting for a win/loss etc, one would think that odds were changing objectively based on some mathematical formulation. It would appear so but many times the odds or changes in odds are too whimsical, mostly showing in the end that the bookies had the right whims.  
g) Some players acquire/ are credited with the reputation of big match winners on their own. After such reputation is permanently attached with them, they fail nine if not ten out of ten times, hardly ever winning a game for their team. Why does that happen? Because bettors expecting them to perform lose rather than gain when they fail. Names of Shahid Afridi, Chris Gayle (while playing for W. Indies) readily come to mind. 
Q. Do you mean that above proves beyond doubt that the cricket now is a staged drama?
A. The book clearly tells that nothing can be proved in a court of law through above. That can happen only if those involved spill the beans or fixers are caught. And that is very unlikely. But applying the principle of preponderance of probabilities one would understand as one should understand. I expect an intelligent cricket enthusiast to be much wiser after reading my book. And if people become aware, the evil will go away slowly but surely.

Q.  How does awareness help in getting rid of match-fixing?
A. Everything is done to befool the bettors/punters and attract large crowds through manufacturing thrilling matches now and then.  If bettors become wise that they are playing into the hands of the fixers and stop betting, the fixing will die a natural death. Otherwise to cleanse the system through establishment, all the existing players, experts, commentators, coaches, and officials will have to be sacked and to my mind that won’t be possible because on date they combined are powerful enough to influence those in power, across the world.

Q. Don’t you feel what you say is quite shocking?
A. Yes, it is shocking beyond comprehension. But one can’t escape truth forever. Better to face it sooner than later. Very recently a large scale fixing in world football has been detected. Though detection is now, fixing was taking place all the time and people had been  viewing fixed matches passionately. I feel people must know that what they view is not a game but staged drama controlled from outside the boundary line. Then it would be up to them whether they want to spend time and energy for such cricket or not. But one has a right not to be cheated - by making one view staged cricket as natural cricket.

Q. Do you want an investigation to start based on what you say?
A. Who will investigate whom? If those at the helm of the affairs don’t know, they have to be living in some other world or have to be first rate fools. Thousands of people who run the betting market have to know that cricket is cooked. Only utter fools/novices among them won’t be knowing.

Q. But those running cricket will have their arguments to counter what you say.
A. Yes, they will have. I am ready to face them for a fair public debate with nothing but recordings of matches to assist me. And before that let them counter the examples I have given. Just saying that anything can happen in cricket should not suffice. When one counters them with particular shots, balls bowled, or acts in the field through past recordings (there will be thousands of those), they will have no legs to stand on in people’s court. And I may have no legs to stand on in a court of law if law doesn’t value common-sense. On a larger canvas, it also goes to show that law and truth are two different things.
Past cricketers having alleged match-fixing from time to time has not been my doing. All such allegations and stings surfacing now and then have conveniently been swept under the carpet by the authorities and the staged cricket has been allowed to continue.
And when Hawkins came out with a book (at about same time as my book was published) based on the script of an Ind-Pak world cup match he had come across before the match, ICC even refused to take cognizance of what he had to say, leave alone starting an investigation.

Q. How is your book different from Hawkins’ book?
A. Hawkins’ book has been written as a non-fiction and my book as a fiction. A non-fiction has its limitations. The only worthwhile revelations that seem to come out of Hawkins’ book are- prior knowledge of a world cup match script that to a large extent comes out true, the trapped Pakistani trio not having been motivated by any spot fixing but just having been trapped, a few glimpses from illegal Indian betting industry, and the belief with the bookies that cricket was fixed. In contrast, the book ‘Inside The Boundary Line’ is a very comprehensive book on staged cricket that attempts to address all the related issues, and there are many of those, much beyond what has been said above. Fiction becomes a necessity in conveying things as comprehensively as I had to. I have tried to find answers to many questions that staged cricket raises. All my answers may not be perfectly correct but would certainly be indicative to an intelligent mind. My book also visits the civilization around me beyond cricket. The two books are on the same subject but miles apart in approach and reach. Yet the two complement each other. It is a great coincidence that these two books written in isolation in different parts of the globe got published around same time.
Here I have an interesting story to tell. Like Hawkins, I came to know after half time of the last T 20 World Cup final between WI and SL (after having written the book) that the rumour was for WI to win and while chasing SL would be 50 for 2. Exactly that happened. One would say that if the scripts leak out correctly, then bettors can make a killing and bookies will lose. Right, but these rumours are not always correct. As part of the script leaked to Hawkins was incorrect. (Hawkins grossly misinterpreted that since part of the script involving Indian batting was incorrect, probably India were not involved. If Pakistan batted in the second half with a purpose to lose, would they be doing so just on their own, without others being aware of it?). It was rumoured that India would win the last test match against England. My sense told me it won’t be so and this was a rumour to mislead. I tweeted (a matter of record) to this effect on the second day of the test that I expected match to be a draw against rumour of Indian win. For the final ODI between Ind and Pak, the rumour was that India would win, by the 35th over. India did win but they were in a hopeless position at the end of the 35th over. It is from there on that Pakistan seemingly threw the match. So the rumours are planted to be-fool the bettors and make them fall in trap. Bettors can’t know beforehand which script will be correct and to what extent. But such rumours, coming true even once a while, would go to show that there is pre-scripting and there is execution as per those scripts.

Q. What has been your motivation in writing the book and coming out with interviews thereafter?
A. I want to share my knowledge (though others may call it belief but I consider it nothing less than knowledge just as 2+2=4, if there is something called common-sense) with the passionate cricket viewers the world over, millions of them, that the matches we feel so passionate about are nothing more than staged drama. My doing could also be said to be revenge/reaction of an individual being and having been cheated day in and day out of his existence through bombardment of cooked cricket as real cricket by the media and the cricketing and other celebrities. I won't blame the players so much as probably, though a beneficiary of the fraud, they are powerless as mentioned in Hawkins' book.

Q. Would you like to say anything else?
A. Yes. I would just like to spell/repeat some of the implications of what I am saying. 
i) Either all cricket bodies in all the cricket playing nations (of course including ICC)  must be knowing of staged cricket, or these must being manned by fools of the highest order, or are living in fool's paradise.
ii) So much analysis of, discussions and coverage (apart from the news regarding outcome of specific matches) on cricket appearing in print and electronic media, the world over, has no meaning and is a total waste of time and energy, apart from being outright ridiculous.
iii) It also means that media, at least Indian media, is the greatest facilitator of this greatest or one of the greatest organised international frauds, through the hype it creates or allows to be created through it for promotion of the game as it exists.
iv) The involvement of hundreds of big names in cricket, past and present, players as well as those having run or running cricket, big politicians included, across the globe.
v) But this doesn’t mean to undermine the talent of the cricketers on the scene. Even for staging drama, they have to be very good in cricket. In fact, at times, they have to have more talent than necessary for playing natural cricket.
vi) The passionate millions of cricket fans and viewers across the world have been led to be fools all these years by a few hundreds or a few thousands.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Media - The Facilitator of Corruption

Media, especially the Indian media at large, is the greatest facilitator of corruption, and yet they are the one who make so much noise against corruption and the corrupt. Before I proceed further, this is what one of them had to say about them, quite recently.

“……but then, one reason why the game is today left in the wretched condition that the book only partly reveals is that India’s media, exceptional interludes notwithstanding, basically clothes it in glamorous habiliments because it has a vested interest in normal service never being interrupted: segments of it are in the IPL and, collectively, it is more interested in the glamour conferred consensually on it than on the degradations attendant upon the enterprise…….”

This is sports editor of The Statesman talking about corruption in Cricket while reviewing a book on match-fixing. And very ironically, typical of Indian media and unlike The Statesman, this media house also chose to keep its eyes closed when the crunch time came and they were presented with the real explosive and comprehensive stuff on corruption in cricket. International cricket, on date, is the largest or one of the largest organised frauds, the Indian media being its greatest facilitator.

I am not saying this in the coziness of my drawing room. I have written a book conveying so, and have conveyed it directly through an interview published in the Deccan Chronicle and Asian Age dated 27/1/2013. The interview is reproduced below:

Q  What are the revelations we can expect from your book?

A The book conveys to the readers that match-fixing in cricket is not something sporadic, but it is there all the time. To such an extent that men's cricket on the international scene is nothing more than staged drama, ball by ball. Cricket on ground is continuously dictated by the betting and fixing syndicates outside and not only are the officials, cricket experts and commentators in the `know', many other experts assist in misleading the viewing public.

Q Which country do you think is the biggest player in match fixing?

A It is easy to comprehend that with T20 leagues like IPL taking place everywhere, there are no clear demarcations left between countries in this context. Some countries like Pakistan have earned a bad name, but there is no bigger or lesser player. All countries are neck deep in this.

Q Has match fixing reached World Cup levels too?

A Without any doubt. Vinod Kambli, not long ago, talked about fixing during a World Cup match he participated in, years ago. Hawkins (the British author) has written a book detailing suspicion of fixing in a match during the previous World Cup.

Q What prompted you to start this book?

A Four years ago was when I became sure that cricket on TV , between any two teams, was pre-scripted. I tried to share this newfound knowledge with my friends and family members and they told me I was talking crazy . So I understood that I had to explain things in detail for people to start grasping this truth. And then I started writing the book. Today same people tell me, “What is so great about your opinion on match-fixing?

Everyone knows about it.“ But they still don't know its extent and depth. I aim to tell them that through my book.

It took me about three years in completing and then another year in refining and getting published.

Received no moral support from anyone during the writing of this book and getting it published from a reasonable publisher wasn't easy either.

Q Did you face any threats while writing this book?

A No. I never faced any threats because, other than a few ones close to me, nobody had a clue that I was writing such a book. But I did feel scared all the time while trying to keep my book a secret. My family was always discouraging me. But now I realise my fears were ill-founded as those running international cricket are least bothered and feel way too secure in their power. It took them a day in dismissing Kambli's allegations and a minute in dismissing Hawkins' book as nonsense. There is no one to ask them questions. Even Kambli and Hawkins seem to have gone quiet. Not being taken seriously may be a blessing in disguise.

Q Do you want people to stop watching international cricket?

A International cricket is a big source of recreation for the masses. What is happening today is the sum-total result of how things have evolved. It may not be in power of one to change the course of evolution. But one should know the truth. I would simply like people to know and understand what is happening, and will happen for some time. Then it would be up to them whether they watch cricket as staged drama or not.

Q Can match-fixing ever be wiped out?

A No. As long as large-scale betting continues. Hawkins also ends his book on the note that fixing was there and will be there. Also, fixing will remain proportional to the betting going on.

And then I went ahead with the press conference/meet, I had called before publication of this interview, to convey that international men's cricket was no more a game but continuous staged drama. I myself was amazed at what I had set on doing. A non entity had decided to take on the combined might of the cricketing world (that as well controls the world by the look of things). I expected them to devour me. But the Indian media showed its true colour. Most of the big names chose to remain indoors and I am not aware if any of those who attended covered what I had to say.To ignore a truth that they couldn't stand/face/challenge suited them the most and they did just that. 

The above facts prove it beyond doubt once again, at least to my mind, that the Indian media at large is the greatest facilitator of corruption, contrary to the general public opinion about it. Probably it is professional necessity for them as to play staged cricket is for the cricketers.