The slippery slope of spot-fixing

Allegations haunting cricket could have as-yet-unforeseen consequences as attention diverted by World Cup but there is an easy way to turn a crisis into an opportunity.

    Pakistan made light of the banning of three of their best players as they reached a Cricket World Cup semifinal against India but their excellence on the field shouldn't diminish the spectre of the spot-fixing scandal that hangs over the sport.

    Ousted captain Salman Butt, the outstanding young bowler Mohammad Amir and fellow paceman Mohammad Asif are on bail awaiting a May 20 date in the United Kingdom's Crown Court.

    They are in the curious position of having been found guilty of corruption by the game's governing body, pending appeal, and yet are still technically innocent in the eyes of the British legal system.

    The alleged offences came on British soil, at Lord's cricket ground in August last year, where the trio are said to have conspired to bowl no-balls – when the bowler trespasses beyond the pitch markings, meaning a wicket cannot be taken and a run is awarded to the batting side – in their Test match against England.

    It is claimed that they were paid to do so in order to allow betters or bookmakers to cash in.

    Should the allegations turn out to be true, the result could be both disastrous and unprecedented in the modern era.

    It means that England could become the top cricket side in the world.

    Chilling to contemplate. But as Test captains like Australia's Ricky Ponting and India's Mahendra Singh Dhoni railed against the damage to the sport's reputation, it is hard to believe that this dread thought did not also enter their heads.

    Let us take a hypothetical look at it.

    A few no-balls bowled at the England batsmen may just mean a few runs on the scoreboard. But it is a slippery slope.

    It takes just one ball to claim a wicket.

    Historically, the statistics show that the ball-to-wicket ratio increases by 93.7 per cent when that ball is bowled at an English batsman.


    And for each English wicket that falls, the Anglo-batting-collapse index rockets alarmingly as the run-rate plummets. That means victory for the opposing side and the stagnation of England in their rightful place, somewhere in the middle of the Test rankings.

    At least, that is how it used to be.

    "Talent", "good captaincy" and "holding the bat properly" have been peddled as easy arguments for England's considerable improvement but spot-fixing on the part of opponents, if proven, is easily capable of aiding and abetting those advances to the very pinnacle of the sport.

    It is natural that the International Cricket Council should want to snuff this out.

    What is somewhat more baffling is that the UK should haul people to court as soon as they appear to be doing something that benefits the national team.

    Personally, I would embrace the concept of spot-fixing for the good of all teams and, most importantly, the spectators.

    Technology such as Hawk-Eye, Hot Spot and Snicko, as well as the review system, has already added insight and excitement to the sport.

    Now, TV audiences could inch ever closer to the edge of their seats with the introduction of BetCam™.

    A split screen will show the conventional shot of the bowler running up to bowl on the left of your television set, while a box in the top right shows the intense concentration of the "fixer" as he watches to see if the lads are doing what he told them when he bunged them a briefcase of used notes.

    In the bottom right we see the jubilation or despair of gamblers as they look on from the comfort of their illegal betting den.

    It would also be good for fans in the ground, as they could hold up placards proclaiming 'NO-BALL!' as well as the conventional '6', '4' etc used to celebrate boundaries.

    The Bodyline tour of 1932-33 had everyone up in arms at the time. Now, with a few restrictions, targeting the head or body with a 600mph howitzer is just part of the game. Why not bring spot-fixing into the fold, too?


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