A Clean World Cup?
Dave Richardson, CEO of ICC has very recently assured the world that all the potential fixers, more than 100 of them, had been identified, and it won’t be possible for them to approach players during the ensuing Cricket World Cup in February and March, 2015. He assured us of a clean World Cup. It may or may not imply the acceptance that earlier World Cups had not been clean, but it does imply that Mr Richardson believes fixing to be the handiwork of some outsiders or he would like the world to believe so. In fact, the world does believe so as it has all along been made to believe so. In this context, it will be really interesting to see some bare facts.
In the recently concluded ODI between India and Australia at Melbourne on the 18th Jan, 2015, Wasim Akram while commentating in Hindi casually mentioned in the 34th over that 10 runs per over can be scored in last 6 overs if there are wickets in hand. After 42 overs (India 219/4) Arunlal mentioned that even if further 8 runs are scored in remaining 8 overs, score would be 283. Wasim Akram added that 280 would be scored but India should add further 20 runs to compensate for their (India’s) fast bowlers.
After 44 overs, India were well placed at 237/4, 10 runs having been scored of the last (44th) over. The first of the last 6 overs (45th) was a double wicket maiden and India ended up at 267/8, scoring just 30 runs in last 6 overs.
A few days earlier, on 28th December, 2014 at Melbourne, during the 3rd day of the 3rd Test match India vs Australia, it was again Wasim Akram who was commentating when play resumed after Tea (India 336/3). In reply to Australian first innings score of 530, India were going strong. Wasim Akram specifically told us that first 30-40 minutes were crucial for India and the set batsmen not to lose wicket. And if they could see through that period safely, there should not be further much problems for Indian batting. The opposite happened. Indian batsmen did see through that period and a bit more, scoring runs and without losing any wicket, and in the 13th over after Tea they were 409/3 when the 4th wicket fell. Indian batting collapsed thereafter to be all out for 465 in their first innings.
At the end of the first day’s play in the same Test match with Australia at 259/5, Saurabh Ganguly interviewed Indian pace bowler Umesh Yadav. Yadav told that game plan would be to take remaining wickets early and restrict runs next morning. For that Indian game plan, Australia scored rather briskly and rather excessively, scoring 271 more runs for the last 5 wickets in just two sessions.
In the first Test match of the same series at Adelaide, Kapil Dev was commentating towards the end of the 2nd day’s play. He repeatedly told us that Australia should/would bat next day also for sometime before declaring. Australia declared next morning at overnight score of 517/7.
Around same time, in the 5th ODI between Srilanka and England at Pallekele, Srilanka, on 10th Dec, 2014, England won the toss and elected to field. The commentators repeatedly told us that 220-230 would be a very good total on this pitch. They wondered why England had fielded first with Srilanka having 4 good spinners in their ranks. Dilshan was supposed to be very effective (as spinner). England lost 2 quick wickets but chased comfortably thereafter when spinners were supposed to get more assistance from the pitch. The bottom line being that score of 230 plus was easily conquered and Dilshan proved expensive, picking up one wicket only towards the end when it didn’t matter.
In the second ODI of the aborted series between India and West Indies on the 11th October, 2014 at Delhi, West Indies were required to chase down 263 runs posted by India to win the match. The commentators repeatedly told us that India needed to take early wickets to bring the good hitters down the line in the West Indies side under some pressure. Just the opposite happened again. West Indies were very comfortable with 170/2 in the 36th over and then collapsed to be all out for 215 in the 47th over.
In IPL 7, in the match between KKR and RCB on the 22nd May, 2014, KKR lost Gambhir in the first over at score of 5. Commentating in Hindi, Navjyot Singh Sidhu told us, “KKR should now be playing for 130-40 runs in 20 overs.” They scored 195/4.
SRH took on KXIP on the 14th May at Hyderabad. The commentators told us at the start that the pitch was going to slow down in the 2nd innings and so thought the captain of KXIP, George Bailey. Yet he decided to bowl first on winning the toss. SRH, considered to be a strong bowling side, especially on their home ground, posted a massive 205 in 20 overs. And KXIP chased it down like a child’s play in the 19th over. There was no slowness of the wicket but only fastness of scoring in the 2nd innings that became visible.
On the 13th May, batting second CSK were chasing 148 scored by RR. Match had gone into the 20th over with CSK still requiring 12 runs, CSK having allowed the match to drift after having been in a very comfortable position at one stage. With Dhoni on crease, the Hindi commentator—Shoaib Akhtar or Waqar Younus it was—made a very interesting comment. “A big hit may be difficult to come by and the batsman may play some dot balls, being new to the crease.” No one ever comments like that with Dhoni on the crease, and it was an extra-ordinary comment given the state of the match. You must have guessed it right by now—the next ball was hit for six by Dhoni and CSK won with 2 balls to spare.
Let us go to 4th Ashes Test between Australia and England held from 9th August to 12th August, 2013 (the match ended on the 4th day). Following are the brief scores for the match:
England 238 and 330; Australia 270 and 224 (68.3 overs, target: 299). England won by 74 runs.
Towards the end of the 2nd innings of England, before commencement of Australian 2nd innings, one of the commentators emphasized that it had been difficult to negotiate the new ball on this pitch as the match had progressed, and that would be the main challenge for Australia when they batted second. Both, Australia in their first innings and England in their second innings, had lost their top 3 wickets in first 15 overs, earlier in the match.
What happened was just opposite to what the commentators had subtly suggested. In their second innings, Australia lost their first wicket in the 30th over at 109; and still went on to lose the match by a comfortable margin of 74 runs, chasing a moderate 299 to win. Australia having successfully negotiated the new ball (the real threat as per commentators) and with less than 200 runs required with 10 wickets intact, one would have taken their winning, at least now (after 2 losses and one draw), for granted, but it was not to be.
While commentating, Sunil Gavaskar expected a draw in the last test match between India and Newzealand in the Test series played in India in, Nov, 2010. The match ended with more than a day and half to spare. Ganguly while commentating on another occasion, in the last T20 between India and England in India in Dec 2012, told that 150 would be a formidable/winning total. India scored 177 and lost.
I can go on and on. And with the recordings of telecast of cricket matches in all formats available, from recently started Caribbean Premiere League to Ashes to World Cups to Big Bash, anyone can go on adding to above examples, the list literally becoming endless, given the number of matches being played now a days.
Now let us give some exercise to our grey cells. Were above instances all random or coincidences when opposite to what commentators and experts thought or painstakingly tried to make us expect further in the match, happened? Many, especially those who control cricket, and who benefit from cricket and its marketing, will dismiss it as such. If so, some questions remain unanswered. How is it that the commentating expert cricketers are and have been wrong so often in their assessment of the game and the pitch? Can a similar thing happening again and again not hundreds but thousands of times over the years be randomness or coincidence?
Was it just a coincidence that Wasim Akram specifically mentioned of last 6 overs (generally one mentions of last 5 overs or last 10 overs) in the first example mentioned above? And India started collapsing exactly in the first of the last six overs? Was extraordinary comment leading us to expect Dhoni to play dot balls at another occasion just a coincidence?
If the above and hundreds or thousands of similar occurrences can’t be dismissed as random or coincidences, then what can these be? These can mean one and only one thing. That is, the commentators are well aware of the script of the game that is going to unfold, and subtly and purposefully make such comments that would make the viewers, and consequently the bettors within the viewers, expect further outcome in a match by way of runs to be scored in specific overs or in the innings or by way of outcome of the match, contrary to what was actually going to happen.
Here one must know that along with betting for the result of a match, large scale betting also takes place for the runs to be scored in specific number of overs (called brackets) or in the innings, both in legal and illegal betting markets.
Let us see another very special occurrence.
Let us go to the IPL 7 match between DD and RR on the 15th May, 2014 and play the Hindi Commentary. In the 20th over of RR innings, the bowler Shukla got hit for a six by Faulkner. The commentator (it was a Pakistani one, probably Waqar Younus—a big name in cricket) commented 'Why did he switch to over the wicket and got hit for two sixes?' Something like this. Point is—by then only one six had been hit. The commentator realized his mistake and corrected himself saying 'by now only one six has been hit'. Sure enough a six was hit off the very next ball, and the next ball (being the last ball of the innings) was a dot meaning that two, and only two consecutive sixes were hit at that point.
It was a slip of tongue by the commentator alright, but was it just a slip? Or was it a slip caused by prior knowledge in the mind of the commentator that at this stage two and only two sixes were going to be hit? By now your guess should be as good as mine.
If the cricketing greats and legends also are commentating to purposefully mislead the masses, and players and coaches are making comments on the sidelines for same purpose, not once a while but repeatedly (though not always, they have to be right once a while), then what does it mean? This is happening so in T20’s, ODI’s, and Tests alike; and also in Premiere Leagues, bi-series, or tri-series, international tournaments or World Cups alike. This simply and unambiguously means that international cricket is staged drama in totality. It is not only IPL that is a stinking hole as a few are heard saying on TV channels, it is the international cricket as a whole that is the stinking hole. Who all are involved? Think a bit and you will find your answers.
The fixing to the extent as indicated above again can mean one and only one thing. That all or almost all the players, commentators, umpires, officials, administrators, coaches, and mentors have to be in the know-how and involved. That also tells us that fixing is institutionalised and is an insider job. It is not an outsider job by some dons or their handymen luring some fringe players. That means that identifying of hundred or more fixers by ICC has nothing to do with promise of a clean World Cup.
But some fixers and bookies being in touch with some players from time to time is also a matter of record. What is that if fixing is always there, being managed institutionally? That can again mean one and only one thing. There is attempt from some anti-socials to lure some players to get inside information or to make them do some fixing within fixing for the sake and advantage of these bookies/ anti-socials. Irrespective of such attempts, successful or unsuccessful, by the big bookies from time to time, the institutionally fixed cricket goes on intact.
Many will say that it may be so, but what is the evidence or where is the evidence? What do we mean by evidence? Shouldn’t evidence mean something that shows or tells what is what without any ambiguity? Surely, there can’t be and won’t be documentary evidence for fixed cricket played. The examples given above are only some indicative examples. When we go through the recordings of continuous matches, there is no scope left for any ambiguity as to what has been happening in what we call international men’s cricket.
And above is not all. In fact, above is only a small part of all what is available to us as evidence of the fact that fixing in international cricket has been total and institutionalized for quite some years. Though the above should be easily comprehensible to all cricket fans, bettors or non-bettors, and these simple undisputable facts easily convey the extent of involvement of people and the depth of fixing.
There is irrefutable scientific mathematical evidence available based on application of theory of probability to the scoring patterns to prove existence of continuous institutionalised fixing. And then there is evidence of logic and cricketing logic applied to the available facts in the public domain (like IPL 6 scandal involving Sreesanth and others), and to the inter-connection of matches and their unfolding scripts in a series or a tournament. The deafening silence of the cricketing greats and cricket administrators on the betting and fixing scandals also confirms institutionalisation of fixing.
All the evidence in the world, one may like to call it circumstantial evidence, is available for those to whom peculiar shots played and balls bowled, and peculiar plays contrary to requirements of the occasion and defying competitive cricket, particularly at crucial junctures, don’t convey and mean anything. Volumes can be written to mention such plays also. Again, the evidence can help only those who would like to look at it.
Unfortunately, Indian media has been obsessed with Srinivasan and his fate as BCCI chief, and the Supreme Court verdicts for last more than a year, the real and much larger issue of fixing in cricket escaping their attention. The man in the street is not much bothered about who runs BCCI or how BCCI is run, he is not interested in the arguments the highly paid counsels present in the courts, or in the fruitless TV debates; all he or she wants is pure unadulterated cricket.
To keep the real issue under wraps suits all those who control cricket and the world. But then people like Mr Richardson should not knowingly make such false assurances that the ensuing World Cup will be clean. That hurts.