Monthly Archives: August 2010

Is Spot-Fixing So Bad?

Now that the shock is beginning to subside, some difficult and uncomfortable questions are being asked about the current Pakistani bookie scandal. Such as: is it so wrong to agree to bowl a no-ball when you still deliver the goods in the match? Andrew Miller spells out the debate in Cricinfo:

Asif and Amir can point to some of the most sensational fast bowling seen in England for two decades – 31 wickets at 24.29 doesn’t look like the work of a pair of under-achievers – while Butt can restate his boast that both Australia and England have been brought low on this tour – no matter how circuitous the route to both victories turned out to be.

There in a nutshell is the paradox of spot-fixing. It need not affect the end-game, and as this investigation unfolds, it may even prove to be so endemic that the players themselves see no harm in accepting the bonuses that come along the way. A sporting career is, after all, distinctly finite – even one as youthful and brimful with promise as Amir’s. And in a country as traumatised as Pakistan, where one’s brief time at the top could transform not only one’s own life but that of everyone around you, it is so wrong to reach that extra metre? A love of money may be the root of all evil, but can it always be classified as a sin?

This is a tough question, but let’s try and articulate the moral case against spot-fixing.

A) You are not performing at the level you could, thus depriving yourself, your teammates, and the opposing side of a fair game. (E.g. What would have happened if Aamer picked up a wicket on that ball?)

B) In countries where gambling is legal, you are colluding in a massive conspiracy that cheats thousands of people. Granted, I think it’s foolish for anyone to bet on something as insignificant as a no-ball or wide, but people who do it under the purview of the law shouldn’t lose their cash because of “insider trading.” Chance is chance.

C) The “gateway” argument, that is, spot-fixing could easily lead to match-fixing. There are already claims in the News of the World that the Sydney Test was rigged, and that the upcoming ODIs would have been as well. To allow spot-fixing is to make the slope toward match-fixing much, much easier to travel. (This is more of a consequentialist argument, but important to consider.)

Any other arguments against spot-fixing?

Test Cricket Dead? Not To The Pakistanis’ Bookie

During the News Of The World tape sting, Mazhar Majeed, the Pakistani agent-slash-crookie-bookie, made a dubious case in favor of Test cricket. Explaining how he helped fix Pakistan’s dramatic collapse in the Sydney Test, he said:

“We let them get up to 150 then everyone lost their wickets,” Majeed revealed. ”That one we made £1.3 [million]. But that’s what I mean, you can get up to a million. Tests is where the biggest money is because those situations arise.”

Ah, the irony. While the world’s boards and broadcasters fret about what will happen to the oldest form of the game, the bookies seem to be its most loyal fans. Unbelievable.

Meanwhile, The Fake IPL Player Revealed

Didn’t see this story when it came out, but at least one cricket mystery (a much more innocuous one than current headlines) has been solved. Gentlemen, I give you the Fake IPL Player:

Meet Anupam Mukerji, a Bangalore marketing executive, who gave some of our cricketing heroes nicknames they must have hated, personalities they would be advised to shed and reputations guaranteed to leave all involved red-faced during IPL’s second season in South Africa.

Story here.

A Note Of Caution On Pakistan And Gambling

A very, very sensible post from tootingtrumpet at 99.94. A bit too light on the punishment side for my tastes, but a much-needed theme of reason:

At the time of writing, the allegations in the News of the World are just that – allegations – but, in a sense, these specific allegations don’t matter. Cricket has gambling, good and bad, in its DNA and it’s not going to go away anytime soon. So let’s deal with it in that light and not talk of a game shamed or lifetime bans. There are some frightened cricketers in London right now – cricket should first assure their safety, then assist the law in taking its course and then think about how to treat these young men (and some are very young). Casting these men out will do them immeasurable harm well beyond their professional lives and the game little good – cricket can only push back on gambling, never defeat it. And those caught up in cricket’s and gambling’s love – hate relationship are victims, not innocent, but victims all the same, of that Faustian bargain. We should treat them as such.

How I Feel About Mohammed Aamer Now

A bit nerdish of me: Obi-wan Kanobi said it best when he confronted Anakin Skywalker in Episode 3. “You were The Chosen One! It was said you would destroy the Sith, not join them!” See below:

Pakistan’s Match-Fixing Scandal

I second JRod’s utter contempt and shock at the revelations that have emerged about Pakistan’s cricket team. Yes, full judgment needs to be reserved until the facts are all confirmed, but the initial — gasp, videotaped — evidence is unbelievably damning, and even the circumstantial stuff (photos of Pakistani cricketers with the alleged bookie) is worrying.

This type of scandal forces you to think about the difference between public and private images. Before this scandal, no one believed the Pakistani team was a paragon of team management, and most assumed the constant rivalries between Malik/Afridi/Yousuf/Younis (and so on) had more to do with incompatible personalities or goals. But few — at least, not me — thought there were potentially thousands of dollars also at stake, with team members worried that whoever ascended to the greasy pole would cut off the spigot of spot-fixing.

The shock is even more personal than that, alas. Think about Salman Butt, who appeared to  all as an eloquent, calm presence in a jittery team. Those press conferences; the victory in the 3rd Test; the pledge to do all he could to give a gift to victims of the Pakistani floods. As the alleged ringleader, Butt also deserves much of the blame for pushing Mohammed Aamer toward the Dark Side, possibly the worst cut of all, given the bowler’s age and unmistakable talent.

So where does this all leave us? Some may be content to think this merely another example of Pakistani mayhem, but not I’m not one of them. We’ve just heard allegations that Lalit Modi and the BCCI secretary colluded during the IPL auctions, pushing players here and there to suit their own needs. Like it or not, cricket has been pushed from the gentleman’s pastime to global currency sport, and it’s high time we moved to protect it. If it’s not match-fixing, it’ll soon be drugs or steroids — stay on guard.

Mohammad Yousuf Is Annoying When…

…He feels he needs to join discussions to review umpire’s decisions. Ideally, you want only three people involved: the captain, the bowler and the wicketkeeper. Anyone else sticking their opinion into the debate is not helping.

And that ‘anyone else’ includes a certain someone, a.k.a. Yousuf, who has not played cricket in a while; nearly ruined a great team with his constant machinations and hare-brained captaincy; retired in a fit of pique only to return when his former colleagues looked weak.

Stay in the field and catch balls when they come to you, Yousuf. A century or two wouldn’t hurt either. That’s all we need from you.

The Relative Ethics Of Randiv’s No-Ball

Poor Randiv. The guy has gone from a promising bowler and Murali-successor to subcontinental scourge, pilloried by one of the greatest Test batsmen of our time, as well as his own cricket board.

Granted, his crime — deliberately no-balling a delivery to deny Virender Sehwag centurion status — doesn’t deserve any plaudits. It was also strange: Randiv bowled a couple of deliveries, which Sehwag hit straight to a fielder, but then, apparently after a word from T. Dilshan, he decided he had enough and prematurely ended the show.

OK. He apologized, Sangakarra apologized, India’s cricket team manager accepted. All well and good. But I think the scandal speaks to the double standard that bowlers have to endure in cricket. Batsmen don’t have to walk after nicking a ball; they can pull out of a delivery if they’re not ready, and they can even stop play if they don’t like their bat or gloves. What unwritten rights do bowlers really have?

Take another example: if two batsmen are struggling to make it to the end of a day’s play in a Test match, they will do all they can to delay each over. Frequent conversations, gardening, you name it. And that’s allowed! Sure, some forward umpires will frown about it, but most authorities generally accept the practice.

It’s not a perfect analogy to the Randiv incident, I realize. Randiv had nothing to gain from the match by no-balling; it was nothing less than a mean-spirited play to deny another play a token award. But if you’re a bowler in the modern era, embattled and bruised as you are by what counts for a proper pitch these days, you’ll take any small liberties you can. And if that means sticking it to a batsman, so be it.

India’s Selection Woes

Two contrasting analyses on India’s selection issues from Cricinfo. The first, from Harsha Bhogle, on India’s no. 7 (all-rounder) problem:

India’s wish list is pretty obvious really, and a first reading will expose the biggest problem with it. Ideally this is what I suspect Kirsten and Dhoni and Srikkanth would be looking at the evening before the first game: SachinTendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar or Ashish Nehra, Zaheer Khan, Pragyan Ojha. Eleven of those 12 names look settled, but for India to be strong at the World Cup, No. 7 needs to be identified, and at the moment Irfan Pathan has gone underground.

Sure, there’s a problem there, but for the most part, the team is settled. Now, the preview of India’s game against Sri Lanka tomorrow:

India’s questions are several: Is Ravindra Jadeja good enough? Is there an in-form allrounder who can replace Jadeja, or should the part-time spinners fill the role of the fifth bowler in the subcontinent? Is medium-pacer Abhimanyu Mithun good enough? Should Virat Kohli play in the middle order, or should Rohit Sharma be persisted with? Will Ishant Sharma’s form dip further if he is looted for runs in this format? And how long will Dinesh Karthik continue to squander starts?

Injuries obviously complicate the picture, as do the selectors’ decision (the right one, I believe) to rest some key players. Still, the relative merits of Kohli, Sharma and Karthik will determine India’s lineup in the long-term — and I’m not sure it’s an issue easily settled.

Stuart Broad Needs To Calm Down

In case you haven’t seen it, here’s the video of Stuart Broad throwing a ball at debutante star Zulqarnain Haider, Day 3, 2nd Test. Pretty mean stuff, especially Broad’s cursory apology:

And this is Simon Jones throwing a ball at Matthew Hayden. There are some differences: Hayden did step out of his crease for a bit, but more importantly, Jones had the decency to go up to him and apologize and take Hayden’s curses to his face:

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