Famous Cricket Spot-Fixing and Betting Scandals

Cricket, a bat-and-ball game consisting of 11 players between two teams, and sports betting are almost synonymous. Cricket has an aristocratic, modern-day beginning in England during the 16th century. However, its current worldwide mega-status has sparked vices from a diverse demographic including prominent leaders, professional athletes, syndicate bosses, entertainers and royalty. Bettors are willing to risk everything for a five or six-figure payout. This article will trace the origins of cricket’s unsavory activities and highlight its most notorious spot-fixing and betting scandals.

Historical Account of Cricket’s Sports Betting

In the book Cricket edited by Horace G. Hutchinson during 1859 – 1932, Hutchinson states, “The elements of the nucleus…by the support that certain rich and influential people gave the game.” Because wealthy participants sponsored the game, it was common for them to place friendly wagers.  However, another popular book published in 1862, The Cricket-Field by Reverend James Pycroft stated “A match was quickly made, and money laid pretty thick on Fennex’s account.” Bookmakers, tricksters and blacklegs assembled at local pubs ostensibly to discuss the cricket matches – not place bets. The Cricket-Field serves as the first published acknowledgement of cricket’s illegal activities.

Prohibition Versus Legalization of Cricket’s Sports Betting  

Scandals affect the rules, perception and ultimately the future of cricket. In the book Bookie Gambler Fixer Spy: A Journey to the Heart of Cricket’s Underworld by Ed Hawkins, we learn that in the year 1744, “The first set of laws for the game were created, specifically to settle gambling disputes.” The act of betting on an activity – not the final match – was the beginning of the spot-bet.

Today, our national consciousness has a fanatical devotion to online sports betting. In the U.S., college and pro football, basketball and baseball account for a largest percentage of leisurely activities. On September 3, 2000, The Washington Post reported that “Australians may be the most sports-obsessed nation in the world… There’s Don Bradman, arguably the world’s best-ever cricket player and Australia’s greatest living hero, who led the national team in regular trouncings of England and other Commonwealth nations in the 1930s and ’40s.”

In an abstract entitled “A Reexamination of the Efficiency of the Betting Market on the National Hockey League Games” published by the Journal of Sports Economics, John M. Gandar proves “that actual returns on underdog bets consistently exceed expected returns and evidence of a reverse favorite-longshot bias.” Sporting events are a multibillion dollar industry; sports betting is equally profitable. The average price for ODI matches is 200 INR to 10,000 INR per ticket in India with seating totaling 20,000+ per match.

Because of the 2013 Indian Premier League (IPL) sport fixing and betting scandal, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) has petitioned the government to legalize sports betting. The Public Gambling Act of 1867 prohibits the operation of a public gaming house or the visitation to such an establishment. Penalties include a fine of 200 INR or imprisonment of three months. The Information Technology Act 2000 criminalizes the transmission of information that facilitates corrupt or immoral acts. The penalty for online gambling is harsher than its offline counterpart and incurs a fine of 100,000 INR or a five-year prison sentence.

However, despite the government’s efforts, India’s sports betting market is valued at almost $60 billion with 50 percent attributable to sports betting.  Jitendra Singh, India’s sports minister, plans to draft a law with stiffer sanctions making match-and spot-fixing illegal for all sports.

In the U.S., an article “Should Sports Betting Be Legal” published by U.S. News & World Report reported that New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie is supporting a lifting of the ban on sports betting in his state, a municipality that is home to 12 casinos and four horse racing tracks. Proponents of legalization say that it funds the state’s economic development, creates jobs and hinders criminal enterprises. Opponents say that it diminishes the integrity of the game.

Five Cricket Betting Scandals

John the bookmaker – 1995

Australia’s Mark Waugh, batsman, was paid $4,000 and Shane Warne, bowler, received $5,000 to provide information on pitch and weather conditions to an Indian bookmaker, “John” during a tour of Sri Lanka. Years later, the wrongdoing was revealed. Although the players received fines in 1995, the Australian Cricket Board (ACB) was vilified for its alleged co-conspiratorial cover-up in 1998.

Marlon Samuels – 2008

Armed with a taped conversation between Marlon Samuels, a West Indian cricketer, and a bookie, Mukesh Kochchar, Indian police accused Samuels of providing insider information about the West Indies and India in Nagpur in 2007.  Insufficient information led to the lesser charge of sports betting. Samuels was banned from playing cricket for two years by the International Cricket Council (ICC).

Glenn McGrath – 2003

Glenn McGrath, an Australian bowler, verbally threatened or “sledged” his opponent during a match against the West Indian batsman Ramnaresh Sarwan. The sexually explicit exchange entailed comments about McGrath’s wife who was suffering from terminal cancer. Light-hearted joking is an integral part of the game. However, this malice-filled altercation garnered worldwide attention.

Shane Warne – 2003

Shane Warne, Australian bowler and lothario, was banned from cricket due to positive testing for an illegal diuretic. While he admitted that he did take a fluid tablet, he professed ignorance about the drug’s prohibitive status as stipulated by the ABC.  Warne received 12 months of suspension.

Underarm Bowling – 1981

During the Benson & Hedges World Series Cup between Australia and New Zealand, Australian captain Greg Chappel instructor the bowler, Trevor Chappel, his brother, to deliver an underarm ball. But Dennis Lilee had not reached his position so technically the underarm ball was a no-ball (penalty against the fielding team). This move made it impossible to score a six. Brian McKechnie played the ball. However, he walked off the field in an unsportsmanlike manner

Betting allegations of the Pakistani Cricket team in England in 2010,

The spot-fixing scheme of three Pakistan players – Salman Butt, team captain, and bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir – marked the Pakistan Cricket Spot-Fixing Scandal of 2010.  Allegedly, Asif and Amir received funds to bowl no-balls during the opening day of the fourth Test resulting in a win by an inning and 225 runs.

The Guardian reported on August 30, 2010 that Scotland Yard officials investigated the claims of foul play entailing a payoff to a liaison in return for specific details of a final Test of the four-match series at Lord’s. The players were accused of accepting £150,000 to influence specific events within a match versus the actual match result.

However, amidst allegations the team continued their tour of England as law enforcement agencies delve deeper into the claims seizing cell phone and pertinent files. During the preliminary phase, Malcolm Speed, a former chief executive of the ICC, expressed concern about the depth of involvement of team members as well as the prolonged time period.

Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s interior minister, took a stalwart stance and launched his own investigated with the aid of the Federal Investigation Agency. Yousuf Raza Gilani, a Pakistani prime minister, expressed shame and resolved to sanction any guilty parties.

Butt and Asif were tried in a London court and found guilty of the charges. Amir plead guilty to similar charges. Prison sentences ranged from six to 30 months. In a related story published by The Guardian ICC president Sharad Pawar, vowed that the consequences of illegal activity would be “ruthless.” As promised, all three players were banned from the sport for five to 10 years.

The 1992-2000 India-South Africa Match Fixing Scandal

Dubbed the Cronje Affair, the illegal dealings between Sanjay Chawla, bookmaker, and Wessel Johannes “Hansie” Cronje, were recorded by Delhi police. Accused of fixing matches, the disgraced South African captain fell from grace in 2000.

However, during his career, Cronje earned a myriad of distinctions including participation in the 1992 World Cup against Australia at Sydney, impressive scoring (81 off 70 balls) in a triangular tournament with Pakistan and the designation of vice-captain for the Australian tour in 93 – 94.

In 2004, he earned the distinction of being the 11th greatest South African in spite of his match-fixing scandal and subsequent lifetime banning.

On May 2010, the The Telegraph reported that Cronje received payoffs totaling £65,000 from Indian bookmarker Mukesh Gupta also known as John. In 1996, Gupta convinced Cronje to throw a match during a Test in Kanpur. In 2000, Cronje also received £5,000 and a leather jacket for manipulating a win for Nasser Hussain’s tourists. Cronje refuted the allegations.

In 2000, Cronje admitted to his involvement in illegal activity to the King Commission. Additionally, Herschelle Gibbs, batsman, received $15,000 for under-performing even though he actually scored 74 in the 3rd One-Day International series. Henry Williams, bowler, also received money from Cronje for scoring more than 50 runs off his 10 overs. However, due to an injury, he actually bowled 11 balls. The ICC sanctioned both players to a six-month ban.

Even though Cronje had named fellow team mates as part of the scandal, Nicky Boje adamantly denied any offers by Cronje. Pieter Strydom was also acquitted of charges related to betting on the outcome of the Centurion Test against England.

In 2002, Cronje was a single passenger on a mail delivery flight that crashed. His death stirred speculation that the “accident” was ordered by the Indian betting syndicate and related to match-fixing.

2013 Indian Premier League (IPL) Spot-Fixing and Betting Scandal

On May 16, 2013, the 2013 Indian Premier League (IPL) Spot-Fixing and Betting Scandal proved the scale and power of bookies’ illegal operations. Arrested in Delhi and Chennai, bookies from across the country were operating out of local flats using sophisticated, high-tech telephone equipment. But this latest raid will not shut down business completely; some bookies fled and will quickly re-establish their money-making UK-based online betting sites in smaller towns.

The bookies’ impressive client roster includes Bollywood actor Vindu Dara Singh, known for his roles in television series “Jai Veer Hanuman” and “Master Chef 2” as well as a Pepsi commercial. He is also the son-in-law of the sport’s governing body. Asad Rauf, a Pakistani umpire officiating in IPL 6, was also part of police wiretapping.  He, too, has avoided arrest.

Sreesanth, cricketer for the Rajasthan Royals, along with teammates Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan were arrested for cheating and criminal conspiracy. The will also be charged for criminal  breach of trust due to allegations of bribery involving the concession of  a specified number of runs per over. Police officials consider Chandila a major conspirator in the IPL scandal and suspect he was acting on behalf of the notorious gangster Dawood Ibrahim.

Additionally, incriminating documents were found registered to Sreesanth showing a company whose goal was to operate a conglomeration of coaching centers, gymnasiums, health clubs, fitness centers and betting houses. Sivakumar Puzhankara, the minority partner of the enterprise, informed Indian television that the purpose of the businesses was to set up a betting house for Sreesanth after he retires.

The Rajasthan Royals have suspended the contracts of the three players pending investigation. However, Delhi police claim that Sreesanth and Chavan have pleaded guilty to spot fixing. Chandila has been accused of also recruiting other players including Chavan to participate in the illegal acts with the assistance of the bookies. The Board for Control of Cricket in India has also suspended the team members and the IPL Governing Council will issue severe sanctions.

In June 2013, Delhi police said the players along with 23 other violators were scheduled to receive the penalties imposed by the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act. However, Sreesanth, Chavan and 17 others were released on bail after a 27-day stint in jail. Officials have seized their passports. More arrests are expected to be made as Delhi police process the evidence provided by conversations recorded by mobile phones.

Because cultural, economic and technological elements sustain it, sports betting thrives. Although the ICC is officially against illegal acts, they are updating their rules and regulations to adjust to the ever-changing developments of the game. Additionally, the International Sports Betting Association, still in its infancy, has already enlisted thousands of members to promote its mission of “Lobbying the Gambling Commissions…decision-makers and opinion-formers for sensible regulation.”


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