Cricket betting, if done through legal and proper channels, is a highly exciting and lucrative opportunity. However, the underlying integrity of betting on cricket games has been under intense scrutiny in the recent past, mainly due to the various controversies that have been a part of the industry for well over a century. Match fixing in cricket is not a stranger to ardent cricket fans, as there have been countless instances of match fixing and spot fixing in the news from various outlets.
The concept of match fixing was also popularized by the media and cricketing journalists as they bid to create a sensational news story out of the existing corruption in the industry. Due to the news value, several undercover sting operations have ousted the dark world of match fixing in cricket betting, where top bookies, athletes, teams, cricket boards, and even nations try to profit through dishonest means.
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What Is Match Fixing?
In general terms, the concept of match fixing arises from the process of tampering with the results of an organized sport through active or passive intervention into the games, which is usually accomplished through dishonest practices such as corruption, bribery, blackmail, or through any other means.
The practice creates an unlawful and unnatural outcome of a match, which can often result in the game not living up to its true potential. Sporting events are organized according to rules that are based on an ethical code of conduct. Every participant of a game, regardless of their role, is required to follow these laws and regulations, failing which, the integrity of the game will be put into question.
In cricket, matches are fixed through different means, with the betting industry paying particular interest towards the different in-game match fixing options available due to the length of the game. Match fixing became hugely popular during the 80s, 90s, and the 2000s, where several illegal bookies lured wealthy clients into the industry with the promise of hefty payouts. Even to this day, we constantly come across the news of several high-profile cases where renowned personalities succumb to the allure of making money on a fixed event by making extremely large wagers without batting an eyelid.
The problem with gambling as a whole is its inherently addictive nature, where both winning and losing money on a bet creates a tendency to gamble even more. The promise of a hefty payday also forces athletes, both top-rated and minor players, into modifying their performances in select matches to derail the natural outcome of a match. Therefore, illegal bookmakers and underground bookies take undue advantage of gamblers as well as such athletes, in return for massive profits. Match fixing is always performed through dubious means, in order to force the hands of the players and change the underlying circumstances of an event according to the bookie’s requirements.
How Does Match Fixing Affect the Integrity of a Cricket Game?
Cricket is a game that involves the efforts of 22 players (11 players on each side), their substitutes, team managers, coaches, support staff, match officials, and mainly, the millions of fans that root for their favorite teams with heart and vigor. Cricket is one of the longest sports events in the world in terms of the duration of play, as it can take up to five days for certain versions of the game to be completed. The minimum playing time for a cricket match is three hours, which means it can easily be a full day or a week-long affair. All team players, including the supporting staff, toil hard to perform well on the day, and fans expect their teams to give their best shot every single time they walk on to the field.
In a straightforward cricket match, it also makes matters simple for punters to bet on certain events and make a profit or a loss according to the outcome. All matters considered, it is a win-win situation for all parties concerned, as a single match can be hugely exciting for fans and result in fortunes changing hands according to the natural law of order. However, this seemingly innocent industry can be a potential pitfall for honest players, as match fixing can completely ruin the authentic experience.
On a normal day of cricket, players can have issues and may be prone to a drop in performance, which is quite natural. In some cases, players, and even teams, can experience a losing streak, which can affect the morale of both the players and the fans. Regardless, these problems are considered to be part and parcel of the game, and punters also expect such instances once in a while.
However, the main question of integrity and ethics in cricket and cricket betting becomes relevant when a single individual, a group of players (from the same team or different teams), or an entire team deliberately underperforms, in such a manner that they want to alter the outcome of the match as per external influence. The motivating factor can be anything, but the intent to change the course of the match for the profit of a few privileged people is nothing short of illegal and dishonest. It can also create unfavorable circumstances for punters who expect nothing but fairness and transparency in their team’s or individual’s performance.
The Different Forms of Cricket Fixing
Fixing in cricket matches are accomplished via two different forms, ‘Match Fixing’ and ‘Spot Fixing’, while some bookies also utilize ‘Point Shaving’. These three forms of fixing strategies in cricket have different outcomes, but the general theme can vary according to the league, the format, and the popularity of the game.
The simplest form of cricket fixing is called match fixing, where the result of the game is fixed by the bookies. Cricket matches can have three different outcomes, Win, Lose or Draw. Therefore, by coercing a team or individual players into performing poorly, bookies can determine the winner and loser of a match and give the upper-hand to its clients. Profit margins in fixed matches are quite high, and the results can be quite profound. Fixed matches are always predetermined, and the result of the match often reflects the intentions of the players on the field. Although all types of fixing strategies are illegal, match fixing is the most frowned upon.
Spot fixing is the process of altering a few moments of the game, such as runs scored, extras, no-balls/wides, giving away a wicket, initiating a run-out, and other similar instances. Spot fixing may or may not have an influence on the ultimate outcome of a match, but it still gives precedence for a few gamblers and bookies, along with monetary gain for the perpetrators.
Spot fixing is often predetermined, but players who are in on the fix will send innocuous gestures to pitchsiders to give them a hint that they are about to follow a predetermined play. In such cases, pitchsiders will promptly inform the bookies and their clients about the impeding fix, which can then be used by punters to take advantage of the odds.
Although not as common in cricket, point shaving is the process of winning or losing a match within a certain margin. The margin of runs is determined by the bookie and is done to accommodate the spread betting needs of the match fixers. Point shaving is a difficult strategy in cricket fixing, as it requires the collaboration of the majority of players, which is quite impossible.
Cricket in India Match Fixing
Being a cricket-loving nation, it is not surprising to find that match fixing is still a threat in the Indian cricketing world. Although cricket fixing is not as pronounced among Indian players as with other teams such as its neighboring Pakistan, there are still some high-profile cricket players who have taken part in match fixing in the past.
India vs Pakistan match fixing seems to the most popular among bookies, as there are several anti-social elements in both countries that are keen to take advantage of the rivalry between the two nations. It is currently estimated that India vs. Pakistan cricket match fixing results in millions of dollars’ worth of transactions through bookies from around the world, and by fixing several aspects of a match, several high-net-worth individuals stand to make insane profits from their wagers.
Aside from India-Pakistan cricket matches, cricket betting is also quite prominent in T20 leagues such as the Indian Premier League (IPL), the Pakistan Super League (PSL), and the Big Bash League. While IPL organizers are more open to scrutiny from the ICC and other anti-corruption agencies, leagues such as the PSL are not as fair and transparent in its operations.
PSL match fixing has been a prominent threat in the league, and there have been open admissions by players and betting operators about the extent of cricket fixing in such tournaments. On the other hand, the IPL and other major tournaments such as the World Cup and Test matches also face intense heat from organizers to avoid any form of corruption and match fixing, in order to protect the interests of both the game and its fans.
The Role of the ICC & Other Regional Boards in Curbing Cricket Match Fixing
The International Cricket Council (ICC) and other leading cricket organizations of nations such as the BCCI, the ECB, and the CA have a zero-tolerance policy towards match fixing in any form. If any player is found to have indulged in any form of cricket fixing, or if they have solicited any requests from third parties to profit by way of insider trading, the cricket board of that particular nation takes strict action against such player/s or teams. The ICC and its domestic member boards of various cricket playing nations are known to ban such players from the sport, along with initiating legal/criminal proceedings as the case may be.
The ICC has an Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) that routinely audits all the matches and tournaments played by cricket teams around the world and reserves the right to initiate investigations against any team or individual if they are not found to satisfy the basic code of conduct. Currently, the domestic boards of ten countries have modeled an anti-corruption unit along the lines of the ICC ACU, which allows uninterrupted access to ICC officials in case of any complaints or investigations.
Is Cricket Match Fixing Only Relevant for the Sports Betting Industry?
Match fixing is not only done by bookies and betting agents, as some teams purposefully resort to match fixing to improve their standings in a league or tournament. Match fixing in these cases is often used strategically by athletes and teams to join a relatively inexperienced pool or in a group with comparatively easier opponents. Therefore, with a strategic advantage, such teams and sports can earn crucial points and avoid the risk of an early exit from the tournament. These types of match fixing may be considered legal in some sports, but it is certainly frowned upon.
Should You Indulge in Fixed Matches to Make Profits?
We would not advise any punters to bet on fixed matches today, for a wide variety of reasons. First of all, it is illegal for anybody to fix matches and take advantage of the opportunity to make significant profits. Even if you are not involved directly with the fixing of matches or its allied activities, insider knowledge of the games is in itself considered to be an accessory to match fixing.
Then again, betting on fixed cricket matches can also attract unwanted attention from both the authorities, as well as dishonest and unethical bookies. Unlike fair online cricket bookmakers, other ones may indulge in anti-social behavior, which can result in an unpleasant experience for the punters. Another consequence of match fixing is that discovery by the authorities can often result in criminal proceedings, which will not only involve a hefty fine but can also lead to imprisonment, among other things.
How Can You Stay Safe from Match Fixing in Cricket Betting?
Due to the ultimate secrecy of match fixing and being unaware of the tell-tale signs of a fix that is about to take place, honest punters may fall prey to the highly unethical activity performed by few. However, there are some precautions to take that will help you to protect your money from betting on fixed matches:
- Take note of the body language of the players as they embark on the field. If they act contrary to their usual self, you should be careful about the match.
- If multiple players in a match underperform against expectations, the chances are that there is a fix in the match.
- If a team plays haphazard cricket with no intention of winning the game, cash out your existing bets and avoid the game at all costs.
- If a team or individual player bats or bowls carelessly, without due consideration for their team’s performance, you may be able to save your money from betting on such games.
- In high profile matches, pay close attention to any subtle physical gestures by players, which may indicate that there might be spot-fixing at play.