ON November 4, 2011 Mr Justice Cooke delivered a withering verdict on the image of Test cricket.
“The integrity of what was once a game, but is now a business, is damaged in the eyes of all,” he declared.
“Now whenever people look back on a surprising event in a game or a surprising result, or whenever in the future there are surprising events or results, followers of the game will be left to wonder whether there has been fixing and whether what they have been watching is a genuine contest between bat and ball. What ought to be honest sporting competition may not be such at all.”
Mr Justice Cooke was passing sentence on Pakistani cricketers Salman Butt, Mohammed Asif and Mohammed Aamer, for betraying legions of fans for greed.
But was he correct? Has faith in Test cricket been irreparably eroded?
It seems that his Worship underestimated the resilience of the average cricket fan and punter, or perhaps their naivety.
England are touring the sub-continent this winter, with a four Test series in India.
And before a ball had even been bowled in the First Test, almost three-quarters of a million pounds had been staked on the outcome – on Betfair alone.
The sport’s integrity may have been damaged, but not the willingness of the fans to part with cash in trying to second guess the outcome.
Whether they are wise to do so is anyone’s guess.
The First Test is in Ahmedabad. On November 23 the second Test starts in Mumbai, an Indian city described in one leading Middle East newspaper as “the hub of illegal cricket betting.”
A year before Pakistan’s public shame, The National reported: “More than 2,000 illegal bookies are believed to operate in the city and the odds for matches are set here and circulated to illegal betting shops around the world. It is estimated that several billion dollars a year are wagered on cricket, and authorities allege that much of it is handled by a vast crime syndicate controlled by Dawood Ibrahim, a former Mumbai businessman who is ranked as the fourth most wanted criminal in the world by Forbes magazine.
“Authorities believe his organisation – called the ‘D Company’ – controls cricket betting and other illegal activities in several countries, including India, Pakistan, South Africa and England.
“Spot-betting – a wager on a specific segment of the match – dominates the illegal betting on cricket, accounting for more than 90 per cent.
“There are few takers for betting on match results nowadays.”
There are even fewer takers when Pakistan are in action.
Rahim Khan, a Mumbai businessman, told The National: “I often used to bet close to 8m rupees in a single day, but I have stopped. I know enough now and prefer to stay away. And those three cricketers (the jailed Pakistan players) are not just the only ones.
“Virtually every game is fixed in some way.
“The no-balls and wides, which seem normal; the dismissals in the 90s, which would seem like bad luck; the surprising declarations or bowling changes. And it is not just one team, Pakistan. Every team is involved, but unlike Pakistan, they may do one game in five or six. If you know the right people, you can make a killing on every session.”
Or your online account can get murdered.
Whether it’s Dennis Lillee having a wager on an unlikely England test victory in 1981, simply because the odds were so preposterous, or whether it’s South African cricket captain Hansie Cronje accepting money to throw matches, cricket is not the village green, cucumber sandwiches sport of yore.
Enjoy the series. But keep your cash in your pocket!