Saturday, August 28, 2010

The match-fixing story: More than just meets the eye

So the match fixing saga has returned yet again, after one whole decade of the ugly Hansie Cronje and Co. incident. It has been reported that upto seven Pakistan players are involved in match-fixing with pacers Mohammed Aamer and Mohammed Asif named at the forefront for bowling deliberate no-balls at predetermined times. The whole controversy centers around the arrest of an alleged match-fixer Mazhar Majeed who has reportedly been arrested from the team hotel.

Now we are not trying to deny any of the facts that have been reported in the media - it may ultimately be true - the manner in which all this has transpired raises quite a few questions.

This piece of news that has shaken the cricket world has been broken by News Of The World (NOTW). Their website puts it as the world exclusive while all other media is quoting NOTW in their reports. BBC, Sky Sports and Pakistani news channels flashed the news at about 2130 GMT. But the interesting part is that a Sky Sports reporter, reporting on Sky Sports News' News At Seven (1900 GMT onwards), spoke about a lot of things relating to the day's play and English cricket in general. The specific moment where things get interesting is when the reporter, speaking on England's chances in the Ashes, goes on to say that 'England will be more disciplined off the field unlike Pakistan who cannot even manage themselves in the hotel'. Without showing any reaction whatsoever on the statement, the news show host quickly changes the topic back to Pakistan's spectacular batting collapse on day three. Clearly the reporters statement made no sense whatsoever to the audience and the host, instead of seeking explanation, quickly moved in to interrupt and change the topic.

The point is, how did this piece of suggestive information reach Sky Sports before 2130 GMT. We all very clearly know how NOTW functions and breaks the news with a bang to the whole world simultaneously. Yet Sky Sports had an inkling at least 90 minutes prior to when the news became public. This poses serious doubts as to whether the story might have been cooked up. As it is, the alleged person Mazhar Majeed was not arrested from the hotel until that time and therefore, there were no signs that Pakistan cannot even manage themselves in the hotel. The reporter seems to have gone too far in saying this in anticipation really. The news show was available to viewers worldwide via free streaming links provided on

Secondly, the video released by NOTW shows
£150,000 recovered from the middleman during secretly taped video conversation with NOTW reporter. The money was not recovered from the players' rooms. While some news channels reported that the money was found from players' rooms, Sky Sports quickly stepped in to correct saying that money was not found from the players' rooms. The interesting part is that Sky Sports knew that cash was not recovered from the players rooms well before the video became public. Script gone all too wrong too quickly? Or is NOTW sharing its much-famed intelligence and reporting with Sky Sports?

Thirdly, and interestingly enough, the middleman has been arrested from the team hotel. The match-fixer and/or the middleman must be really inexperienced or insane to be coming to the hotel to make the payment. Simple logic says if parties are involved in a transaction with such an ulterior motive, they try to do it as secretively as possible. Yet we see a man coming to the official team hotel allegedly to make payments to the players who made Mazhar Majeed a fortune and a half with those no-balls. And that too in a green track suit, striking increasing resemblance with the Pakistan team colors. Defies logic?

And then there seems to be confusion over the amount made by the fixer Majeed and the amount allegedly to be transferred to the players. Did Majeed make £150,000 or were the players supposed to be paid £150,000? If they recovered £150,000 from the middleman arrested from the hotel, it surely must be the money he came with to transfer to the players. But then NOTW headline says 'Match-fixer pockets £150k as he rigs England test at Lord's'. So that should mean the match-fixer made £150,000 by winning bets on the timing of no-balls (among other possible incidents if any). But if Majeed made £150,000, the transfer amount to the player(s) would surely be less than that. But have a look at the caption of the following photo reproduced from NOTW's website.

CAUGHT: Fixer Majeed beckons to our man to begin the £150,000 handover

The caption suggests that Majeed has given the green signal to his middleman to initiate the handover to players of an amount of £150,000. So that means the players were supposed to receive £150,000? The only possibility that the two amounts (i.e. the sum made by Majeed and the total to be paid to players) can be the same is that Majeed was not working for profit or to make any money out of it. Not-for-profit fixer? Sounds like a fancy term. New concept maybe? There is an obviously direct conflict between the various parts of the reporting done by NOTW. Script of the report also going wrong? Hmm.

Finally, since Scotland Yard is studying every detail of the story, we thought we could give it a shot too. But even before we started our probe into it, something kept irritating us. News flash everywhere mentions the word match-fixing umpteenth times. However, even with our limited cricket knowledge, we like to question this. If Majeed made £150,000 by betting on the timing of the no-balls, does this amount to match-fixing? This is actually spot fixing. Quoting Cricinfo's definition on spot-fixing:
What is spot-fixing? Spot fixing is about getting players/officials to act in a specified predefined manner at a particular time or during a particular session of a match, with or without adversely affecting the overall outcome of the game. It is also known as micro-fixing or fancy-fixing.

As you can clearly see, those three no-balls would have no bearing on the outcome of the match since nothing extraordinary like a wicket falling happened on those deliveries nor is this match going down the wire that each run matters. To call it match-fixing is outrageous then as match-fixing involves deliberate efforts to achieve a predetermined result. Did NOTW not know the difference? Hard to believe so since they specialize to a greater degree in uncovering sports scandals. The title on their website also highlights 'Sports Exclusives' as their key strength. Moreover, the head NOTW reporter Mazher Mahmood specializes in unearthing sports scandals and is reportedly paid a whopping £120,000 per year salary. Then for him to call this match-fixing and not spot-fixing is really baffling.

And as a concluding thought, again using common sense, who would want to fix matches and pay Pakistan players for losing the match when in all likelihood they are going to lose anyway? Lets make no mistake about. In the six test matches this summer, Pakistan's batting has been miserable and even the two test matches they have won have gone down to the wire courtesy of their mental weakness in chasing down low targets. So having seen Pakistan's performance over the five test matches, you could be fairly sure that they are going to lose. Or even if you had your doubts following The Oval win, £150,000 for three no-balls to fix the match sounds illogical.

Scripted? Or unearthed? Decide.

(More to follow...)


  1. I think they're referring to it as match-fixing because they believe that they've only discovered the tip of the iceberg with this spot-fixing incident and that this is part of a larger match-fixing ring that has yet to be unearthed. Also, the NOTW says "...London-based fixer Mazhar Majeed, who let us in on the betting scam for £150,000" which implies that the money wasn't specifically for the three no-balls but to show them that he could actually rig matches or as in this case do spot-fixing. This is supported later in the article where it says "He promised: "I'm going to give you three no-balls to prove to you firstly that this is what's happening." And the undercover NOTW reporters were probably only one of his many customers. If some of those were paying more then he could probably get other things fixed like fall of wickets etc. which would definitely affect the result of the game.

    The 150,000 pounds that the NOTW refers to in it's headline is what they offered to Mazhar Majeed to engage in spot-fixing for them. From their point of view that's the amount he pocketed from this deal regardless of how much he would later pass on to the players involved.

    The NOTW report as well as the one carried by DAWN talks about how he was supposed to be an agent for the players; arranging sponsorships etc. He even brags about it in the NOTW report. That would explain why he was staying in the same hotel. He could claim that the money he was offering from sponsorships if he was indeed their agent.

    And the picture above does not involve a middleman. The other guy in the picture is the NOTW undercover reporter. By initiating the handover they're referring to NOTW handing over the 150K to Majeed, not the players. As subsequent photos on the NOTW website show Majeed proceeds to count the money and then leaves with the briefcase.

    Some of the details might be a little hazy but there's no doubt that the NOTW has uncovered a match-fixing racket and unfortunately a lot of "our boys" are involved in it.

  2. Hassaan has some points but it's speculation as yet.
    I second what Omar Khalid said above. My thoughts exactly Omar. This was done on purpose, a set-up to show that he represents some of Pakistani players and that he is a "professional". This was all done as an example, an ice-breaker sort of thing. Read some related stories on the NOTW as well I'd say
    In general NOTW has a questionable reputation.

  3. listen to urself's true, just face it!

  4. Luk boys we know that Pakistani cricketers have a history of sport or matching or even both types of fixing. Now if these players are convicted...and I am sure they will be.......then u r luking at a scenario where players are not completely loyal to the game and the country....So what if its not match fixing but spot fixing on its own is a big thing. It shows these players have no respect for the game and their country...U need all the concentration in the world while playing at the international arena....dont these players know the importance of each run and each ball without pressure???

  5. The no-balls were arranged to be bowled by the bowlers to show that they were doing wht Majeed asked them to do.

    It was a like a proof sort of thing, like when some one is kidnapped, the relatives talk to him to make sure that he's alive and actually being kidnapped.

    So if the bowlers had bowled the no-balls at the exact occasion as predicted by Majeed, so it meant that they would have done everything else wht Majeed had asked them to.

    This isn't something new, Wasim Akram's brother (a renowned bookie) earned 20 million Rs in 1999 Worldcup final b/w Pak and Aus, just by telling people that the first ball of Pakistan' s innings would be a wide-ball and guess what, it was bowled by Wasim Akram.

  6. here is in another betting scam... chances of all of this FIXING being a FIX itself!! cuz how do WE know that the recording was done before the balls were bowled???

  7. GBP150,000 for 3 no-balls in a test match? Are there so many idiots watching the game that they would bet money large enough on one ball to make a cumulative amount of "hundreds of thousands of pounds" making it worth for the bookies to pay GBP150,000 to get the confirm information about means that every Test match is a billion Pound business because it means that every ball has a some sort of bet on it (90 Overs x 6=540 balls/day)...if bookies make more than GBP 50,000 per ball (GBP27,000,000/day)..make it 5 days...Estimated GBP 135,000,000 per Test match...are you kidding me!

    Majeed is a pro in betting it seems...dosen't he know that if somebody is paying GBP150,000 against 3 know balls there is something fishy about it? or is it really a multi-million dollar business?

  8. And what if these allegation are false... A story created as before against Imran, Wasim & Waqar(which were proven also false to)... Then I would like the Media Magnates with the likes of Shakil-ur-Rehman(GEO), Zuberi Brothers(AJJ), The Lakhanis(EXPRESS) and many more, to go to the airport and welcome our players and put some bhangra and do some dancing with the fellow achors... Since the channels quotes themselves that they ones responsible for ruining the image of the country should be punished...

  9. what ever and how ever, lets just PRAY that it is false... As at this time, the last thing the nation would want is a black spot on the only thing they can talk good about.....

    the two M's.....

  10. but there can be a possibility that video was created after the england innings or after day 1when they know about the timing of deliveries bowled no-balls....

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