The Fix is Still On

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Fan fury Bangladesh cricket fans were furious over some of the umpiring decisions
Fan fury Bangladesh cricket fans were furious over some of the umpiring decisions. Photo Courtesy: Asaduzzaman Pramanik/bdnews24.com

It seems the International Cricket Council (ICC) has become the Indian Cricket Council — Mustafa Kamal, former ICC president who resigned recently, after the India-Bangladesh quarterfinals in the 2015 World Cup
We would have won (the match) had the umpires not taken those wrong decisions…. Bangladesh will become world champions someday — Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh PM, after the same quarterfinals
Why were four players changed for this match? Those are questions that should be asked — Hashan Tillakaratne, former skipper, Sri Lanka, after the India-Sri Lanka finals in the 2011 World Cup
But now the ICC is not strong enough. That’s why DS de Silva is allowed to continue as the Chairman of Sri Lanka Cricket. DS and his wife have links to a bookie family — Arjuna Ranatunga, former captain, Sri Lanka, in 2012
The theory going around… is that (Bob) Woolmer might have been killed by those who wanted to silence him on the issue of match-fixing — Sarfaraz Nawaz, former Pakistan player, after the death of team’s coach during the 2007 World Cup
These are some of the questions for which nobody has an answer. After the match-fixing scandal of the late 1990s and the ICC’s efforts to set things right, controversies continue to cloud World Cup ODI matches in this century as well. The last four World Cups were wracked by match-fixing, illegal bookies, bad umpiring and even murder. Before each tournament, the ICC categorically and confidently said that this would be the cleanest World Cup. Unfortunately, it was proved wrong.
Ironically, most of the teams, whose names figured in match-fixing were from the subcontinent — Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and, yes, India. These are the nations, where cricket is a passion and the opium of the masses, big bucks stalk cricketers, mafia terrorises teams to accept to their demands and bookies scout for players, who are likely to choose money, and not their teams.
The cat was set among pigeons in the 2015 World Cup during India’s quarterfinals with Bangladesh. India batted first, and were 196-4 in the 40th over. Rohit Sharma was on 90, when he holed out to a full toss at midwicket. The third umpire ruled it a no-ball, as he thought it was over the waist. If Sharma had walked back to the pavilion, India may have scored less than 300, and possibly lost the game.
The Bangladeshi players, and millions of global viewers, thought otherwise. Kamal, who is also a minister in the Bangladesh government, lambasted the umpires. “From what I have seen, the umpiring was poor. There was no quality in the umpiring. It seemed as if they had gone into the match with some other thing on their minds,” he said. The former ICC president said further that the 2015 World Cup was ‘fixed’ so that India could easily reach the finals. Close on the heels of these outbursts when he quit from the post of ICC president there were no surprises.
Obviously, the ICC, whose controversial chairman, N Srinivasan, a former BCCI president, reacted to the charges. Srinivasan said, “The umpire’s decision is final and must be respected. Any suggestion that the match officials had ‘an agenda’ or did anything other than perform to the best of their ability is baseless and is refuted in strongest possible terms.”
These allegations seem mild compared to the music that India faced in the 2011 World Cup. Ed Hawkins wrote in his book, Bookie Gambler Fixer Spy, that towards the end of India’s innings in the 2011 semifinals against Pakistan, he got a tweet update from an Indian bookie. “India will bat first and score over 260, 3 wickets will fall within the first 15 overs, Pak will cruise to 100, then lose 2 quick wickets, at 150 they will be 5 down and crumble and lose by a margin of over 20 runs,” it said.
India ended at 260, which wasn’t exactly what the bookie said — India will score over 260. Pakistan started well — 43 for no loss at the end of the eighth over. It was 100 for 2 at the end of 27 overs. Suddenly, Pakistan was 106 for 4 — the bookie had said two quick wickets after 100. The fifth wicket fell at 142. Finally, India won by 29 runs — Pakistan will lose by a margin of over 20 runs, as claimed by the bookie earlier.
The bookie’s script was perfect — the match progressed as per the illegal director’s cues. Hawkins checked with a statistician if the bookie had simply made a ‘lucky’ guess. The latter found that in matches, where a team chased 250 to 280 runs, such a sequence appeared six times in 2,434 matches. “As a percentage, this is 0.24650780608052586. Translated into odds, it is a 405:1 against shot. To put it into context, a hat-trick is a 106:1 change, a five-wicket haul is 8:1 and a century 11:2. This is not impossible but a long chance nonetheless.”
If this was merely a fluke, the worst was yet to come. It was then alleged that the 2011 finals between India and Sri Lanka was also fixed. India won the World Cup, but two former Sri Lankan skippers, Ranatunga and Tillakaratne, claimed that there were several things fishy about the selection of the Sri Lankan team.
Tillakaratne said that he was surprised that four players, who played in the semifinals, were not in the finals. He questioned why Ajantha Mendis, and Chamara Silva were not included in the final? “Kapugedara was never among runs but he was chosen to replace Chamara Silva. It isn’t fair, is it?” he said. Ranatunga said, “Although the selectors could select the team, the captain should have the authority to pick the best ones to play, which is not happening now.”
However, the worst incidents happened in the 2007 World Cup. There were allegations that Pakistan deliberately lost its league matches against West Indies and Ireland. Former Pakistan medium pace bowler, Sarfaraz Nawaz, said he had doubts about the 2007 game with West Indies. He added that the matches “Pakistan lost to Bangladesh and India in the 1999 World Cup were fixed. All the five matches Pakistan played against India in the World Cups were fixed”.
When Pakistan’s coach, Bob Woolmer, died after his team’s defeat to Ireland in 2007, the talk was that he was murdered. People speculated whether he was strangled to death or poisoned because he was about to reveal the dirty and dark secrets about match-fixing in his forthcoming book. Although the police finally claimed it was a natural death, most cricket enthusiasts refused to believe it.
Clearly, there are several disturbing questions hanging over international cricket, including the World Cups. It is not enough to brush these charges under the carpet. The ICC and the national cricket boards have to insist on a thorough probe into the controversies surrounding the World Cups. Or else the fans will sit at home, and mute their TVs.
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