“Cricket’s Match Fixers”: The Al Jazeera Investigation Simply Explained
It appears that the spot fixing incident of 2010 was just the tip of the iceberg of corruption in cricket. A shocking documentary filmed by Al Jazeera has made some outrageous allegations and claims about fixing in cricket. Three English players are involved along with two Australian players, unnamed for legal reasons. They are said to have deliberately underperformed, for money, in certain Test matches against India recently. The exact Test matches have been named.
In addition to this, some corrupt businessmen have plans to set up a franchise T20 tournament in the UAE purely as a front for spot-fixing and match-fixing. This article breaks down the chilling documentary and looks at some of the most outrageous claims made, that will shake the sport to its roots if they are verified.
Aneel Munawar and D-Company
Aneel Munawar, from India, has been named in the documentary as one of the two people responsible for organising and fixing matches. Munawar is a D-Company operative, with D-Company being name after Dawood Ibrahim who is one of the world’s most wanted men. Ibrahim is a global terrorist and mafia kingpin with an estimated worth of $6.7 billion. In the undercover video footage, Munawar reveals that he has been fixing matches for six to seven years.
Al Jazeera’s undercover reporter asked him about the role of the ICC’s Anti-Corruption department and how they must surely cause problems for his syndicate. Munawar’s response is chilling:
“actually, if you have money you can do anything”.
Upon further questioning, Munawar says that he can fix “60 to 70% of matches” and says that they mainly fix internationals. He says that he has players in every international side.
With previous spot-fixing scandals increasing awareness of the growing issue, fixers have had to change the way in which they spot-fix. Now, they have turned to “Session Betting”. This is when a batsman deliberately underperforms in a period of either usually six or ten overs so that the number of runs scored by his side in those overs is fewer than normal.
Munawar said that session betting was the best type of betting he could offer since “you have more and more chances to bet”.
Bookmakers give odds about how many runs will be scored in a ten over session: for example the number or runs between overs 1-10, 11-20, 21-30 and so on. The bookmakers then give a value of runs, like 40 for instance, and betters can either bet on there being more runs than 40 or less runs that 40 in that session.
Embed from Getty Images
Match fixers then bribe players, using vast sums of money or other gifts (including “flats, watches and cars”), so that they then underperform and score slowly in the ten over period. This then allows the fixers to bet huge amounts of money on there being fewer runs than the bookmaker’s value. This method is used particularly in Test cricket.
Some players have justified taking part in session betting by saying that it has no impact on the overall outcome of the Test match, meaning that there is nothing wrong with it.
A former international player, whose identity was concealed, revealed that the fixers offered a sum of £200,000 to a player in 2015 to fix a match. The amount of money fixers offer to a player depends on the status of a player, and usually falls in the bracket of £50,000-£100,000.
The fixers then blackmail players and trap them with no escape.
This is also happening in T20 cricket, with Robin Morris being the chief fixer. The same session betting approach is used in the first ten overs and the second ten overs. Morris has been working alongside Hasan Raza, who was the youngest player to have ever played for Pakistan – making his debut aged just 14.
After they have confirmed the fix, with players using on-field signals to alert the fixers that they are ready to carry out what was arranged, the fixers then bet huge amounts of money across a network of different bookmakers.
Pitch Doctoring in Galle
Robin Morris, the second fixer, tells the undercover reporter that he has:
“people working on the ground during the match”
Morris and one of his colleagues bribe groundsmen to doctor pitches to favour either bowlers or batsmen. To fix one Test match, groundsmen get paid an amount eight times their yearly salary. Morris says that there is a “200%” chance of success, since the pitches “are made by me”.
This has been done in Galle, in Sri Lanka. Morris has bribed the groundsmen to make a very batting friendly surface and then places bets on the team batting first to score over 280 in the first innings. This supposedly happened in the Sri Lanka vs India Test (26th-29th July 2017) at that venue, where India, having won the toss, ended up scoring a first innings total of over 600.
Embed from Getty Images
The reason why this was possible is because they had bribed “the assistant manager of the Galle stadium and the main curator”. Tharanga Indika is the aforementioned groundsman and he is filmed by the undercover reporter as describing the ways in which he can make a bowling friendly surface in an unlawful way. He said that he did not use a roller and guaranteed a spinning pitch.
This was done in a recent Test match against Australia (4th-6th August 2016). Australia crumbled against the spin. The match was done in less than two and a half days. There were claims of pitch fixing at the time, but the ICC took no action.
India vs England at Chennai, 16th-20th December 2016
Munawar claimed that he had been able to fix one of the India vs England Test matches and said that he had several players from one team on board. When asked which team it was, he replied “England”. The price they were paid was around $60 thousand.
On the morning of the match, Munawar, via a middle man, tells the undercover reporter which sessions have been fixed (not revealed for legal reasons). He says that the batsmen will score below what the bookmakers have said for that session. Also, in addition to this, the last over of the session will be a ‘manda’ which is slang for an over in which two runs or less will be scored.
Embed from Getty Images
Betting corruption investigators have used the information and have identified the passage of play that was fixed. The evidence was compelling and revealed to be exactly what Munawar had predicted. He named the three players involved, but Al Jazeera chose not to name the players given the gravity of the situation.
Through their lawyers, the three England players “categorically denied the allegations” and claimed that it was almost impossible and improbable to fix a match in the way suggested. Moreover, Munawar suggested that he even had contacts in the ICC itself.
A Corrupt Cricket Tournament In The UAE
Gaurav Rajkumar is another fixer shown in the documentary. He grew up in Dubai and plaed a lot of cricket there and has connections in the councils. He had a plan to set up a corrupt cricket tournament in the UAE, similar to the T20 leagues found in India, England, Australia to name a few. Rajkumar prepared a detailed business plan including ensuring that it is broadcasted live on television so that betting on it can go ahead.
Furthermore, Rajkumar said that he had already spoken to the head of the Dubai cricket council and described him as being ‘very pro the idea’. The structure of the tournament would be as follows:
- Four teams from different parts of the UAE
- Teams would compromise of a mix of international stars and emirates cricket players
- It would be a T20 leageu
- Team names would be like “Sharjah Gladiators”, “Ajman Typhoons”, “Dubai Dynamite” and “Abu Dhabi Champs”
- Fifteen players per squad
The tournament will be complaint to the ICC mandates and Rajkumar had already secured several international players to come and play. He then named several players who would fix and would be aware that the whole tournament would be a front for match-fixing. Players involved with the fixing would be paid forty times more than those who aren’t. One of the players involved is a Test cricketer who has played 30-40 Tests. They targeted those beginning and ending their careers.
Each time would have four or five overseas players and all of these international stars would be working with Rajkumar to fix the matches. Bet-makers such as BetFair would be doing odds on the tournament. Morris, involved in this, had plans to do a similar thing in Sri Lanka when it succeeded in the UAE. In one of the meeting, Morris said:
“we don’t care about entertainment, we care about making money”
He further said that he had the whole UAE team in his power, having close relationships with five player (three batsmen and two bowlers).
Jeevantha Kulatunga, the Sri Lankan Women’s Team Coach, was part of those saying he would follow the fixers’ scripts since he still plays. Alongside him was Dilhara Lokuhettige, another Sri Lankan professional cricketer, saying he was also keen to do Morris’ work.
India vs Australia at Ranchi, 16th-20th March 2017
Another matched fixed by Munawar. He sets up another ten over session in the match and calls their middle man to say the runs in that session will be below what the bookmakers say. Again, the last over the session would be a ‘manda’.
The investigators watched the session that were alledgly fixed. The over which Munawar said would be a ‘manda’ was in fact a maiden. The investigators also said, upon wathcing the fixed session, that the batsmen showed no intent of scoring. Munawar was right.
Again, it was the tourists who were involved in the fix. Munawar names two Australian players who involved in his scheme. The two Ausralian players have not responded to the allegations after being contacted.
All of the fixers caught on camera did not respond to the allegations made by Al Jazeera. However, Robin Morris and Gaurav Rajkumar deny any wrongdoing and say that they were filmed to act in a movie for commerical purposes. The ICC declined to comment on allegation of corruption inside its organisation and allegations of pitch doctoring.
Morris revealed, in the last time the reporter spoke to him, that he had plans to doctor the pitch for the Sri Lanka vs England Test at Galle later this year (6th-10th November 2018). The groundsman confirmed that the Test would not last the full five days.
Embed from Getty Images