It’s just not cricket

The allegations against three members of the Pakistan cricket team that they deliberately colluded in a betting scam sparked angry scenes in Pakistan where cricket is seen almost a second religion.

It now seems certain that the trio at the centre of the allegations, captain, Salman Butt and the bowlers Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif, will play no further no part in the forthcoming Twenty 20 and one-day internationals and face an uncertain future in the game if found guilty of the allegations.

The three players were alleged to have been paid by ‘fixer’ Mazhar Majeed, to deliberately bowl no-balls during specific overs of the fourth Test against England at Lord’s as part of ‘spot betting’ scam.

Gambling is illegal in cricket-mad Pakistan and highly restricted in India, but “spot betting”, a form of gambling largely unknown in the UK is a very popular (if shady) form of betting elsewhere in the world, particularly in South East Asia.

But what is spot betting? In conventional betting, punters bet on the overall outcome of the match or race such as picking the winner of the Grand National, or the correct scoreline in the FA Cup Final.

Spot betting, though, sees gamblers staking their money on the minutiae of sporting encounters. Anything from the exact timing of the first throw-in during a football match to whether the first ball of a cricket match will be a wide or a no-ball.

Unlike match fixing where you would need to recruit several team members in order to guarantee a particular result, spot betting on cricket requires only one individual player to deliberately bowl a wide or no-ball at a pre-arranged time.

Knowledge of this is obviously of great value to bookmakers who fix the odds, but in this latest alleged case, it is the bookmakers themselves who would have been at the receiving end as punters betted on ‘sure things’ at advantageous odds.

Whatever the outcome of the inquiry into these allegations, it is certain that the reputation of a game once synonymous with values of fair play and sportsmanship, is certain to be tarnished.

The ICC has launched its own probe, alongside any enquiries by the police, and chief executive Haroon Lorgat insists they will show zero tolerance.

He said, “The integrity of the game is of paramount importance. Prompt and decisive action will be taken against those who seek to harm it.”

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