How does spot fixing work? An interview with Ed Hawkins

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http://thearmchairselector.com/2012/11/how-does-spot-fixing-work-an-interview-with-ed-hawkins/

Match fixing rumours won’t go away. They are increasing. We have had allegations of players, umpires and officials being involved in corrupting the game and attempting to make a profit out of influencing results. Players have been jailed for conspiracy to defraud a bookmaker and for accepting corrupt payments. There have been bans handed down by the cricketing authorities. The ICC assures us that the Anti Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) will be given all the resources they need to combat the issue. So with all these penalties and resources being thrown at the problem, why isn’t the problem decreasing?

Ed Hawkins, Author of a newly released book on the subject spoke to The Armchair Selector about match fixing. He made the decision to look into the allegations of match fixing in the summer of 2009 and travelled to India to spend time living with a bookmaker and seeing how he goes about his business. After the Lord’s “no balls for cash” scandal, Hawkins decided to turn his findings into a book.

Hawkins said: “There has been a huge amount of misinformation regarding the events surrounding the no ball allegations and how this relates to the Indian bookmaking markets. It is not possible to bet on events like a no ball or a batsman getting out for under 25 runs in India. It is a lot more subtle than that. Understanding that makes you realise how spot fixing works. There are only 4 markets in India, match results, who will be the “lunch favourite”, innings runs and the sessional brackets. The way corruptors work is to manipulate those markets. It is within this sessional brackets markets that spot fixing will occur. A no ball in an ODI or a T20 will affect the run projection odds that bookmakers are offering as will knowing when a batsman is going to get out.”

So the question we need to ask is what were those behind the no balls were up to? According to Hawkins, there is clear evidence that Mazhar Majeed, the man acting as the middle man between the Pakistani players and the News of the World reporters, had little understanding of how the betting markets worked. Majeed asked the newspaper reporters “You can bet on no balls then?” When they told him yes he took the money and put in the fix.

“When Majeed was told by those he was talking to that you could bet on no balls in India it should of set alarm bells ringing” Hawkins said. “He either knew less than he claimed or thought he had found a mug to take easy money from.”

This is not to say that Pakistani trio were not guilty of wrong doing, but it shows how naive people can be when there are piles of cash lying on the table in front of you.

Here in the UK you can bet legally on various in game outcomes, such as runs scored from a certain over, or who the next batsman dismissed. Hawkins says that although it is possible to bet on these events, it is not something that would be open to a fix. He says “You can bet on the number of runs scored in the over and other such outcomes, but you would never be able to bet enough to make money from a fix. The amounts that you can bet on those events are so small that you would have to place a massive amount of bets to make this pay. If I were a bookmaker and you came to me and said you had £1000 to bet on a certain over being a maiden, the first question I would ask is what do you know that I don’t. There would be huge suspicion of a fix.”

“This is an area where the ACSU might fall down. They may believe that you can bet on these things , but you can’t. They lack betting expertise but it is difficult to criticise them. They are all former policemen and betting can be quite a complicated subject for the layman to get to grips with. One of the problems for the ACSU is that they must hear a lot about matches, choosing the right ones to focus on must be difficult”.

As much as the betting and bookmaking industry in India is illegal and the transactions take place under the table, it would be a mistake to think that there are anything other than professionals running these operations. Bookmaking is run as a business and these markets in India are as sensitive to the prospect of being cheated as any other betting industry would be.

“These bookmakers are highly organised, there are 4 syndicates providing odds across the county. All the bookmakers are using odds that are almost the same.” Hawkins told us. “It works on a kind of franchise basis. The bookies are paying a fee to the syndicates to subscribe to their service. If one of these syndicates get inside information they can manipulate odds in their favour to get armies of punters to bet at lower odds that they would want to. That is how they make their money.”

It is not just the bookmakers that are seeking inside information. Increasingly the punters are attempting to gain access to players in an attempt to gain an advantage in these betting markets.

“Punters do cheat the bookmakers too. The bookmakers I speak to are saying that this is happening more often. Those wanting to cheat a bookie are going to the players, making friends with them and saying ‘can you do this one favour for me’ and then they will go around and place bets with various bookmakers, getting their friends to do the same, fanning the bets out. That is how the punter makes his money.”

One of the biggest stories to emerge from Hawkins’ book is the fact that he was sent an email during the 2011 World Cup semi final between India and Pakistan that appeared to be a script of what would happen in the game. This accusation of a fix in what many regard to be the biggest game in history has caused quite a stir. When this part of the book was serialised in the Daily Mail there was an angry reaction from many quarters. One of the first to comment on the accusations was Saeed Ajmal, the Pakistan off spinner who played in that match.

Speaking to the Duniya news channel Ajmal said that such claims were totally false and went on to say, “I think these allegations are being made now to just spoil our coming tour to India. There is no substance to the story. I played in the semi final and I know how every player fought tooth and nail in it”.

When Hawkins was asked about this accusation of an attempt to sabotage the upcoming tour of India by Ajmal’s side he said that he did not even know that Pakistan were playing India in December. He told us “People in India and Pakistan think that there is some sort of conspiracy against them. This is not an Indian problem, it is not a Pakistan problem, it’s a world problem and I have been saying that throughout. I always talk about Mervyn Westfield in county cricket and the Kent vs Sussex game that is being investigated by the ACSU. The other point I make is that the English invented match fixing back in the 1700s. You can try and stamp this out, but you never will because human beings are involved. 21 of those on the pitch might be extremely moral, but you only need one who isn’t and you have a spot fix going on.”

Any allegations relating to a specific match are difficult to prove without the kind of damning evidence we saw in the case of the Pakistani players at Lord’s. It may well be impossible to know the full extent of the corruption that takes place in cricket. However it is vital that we don’t decide that such allegations are false because they are difficult to prove. Mentioning individual matches will always engender an emotional response from the fans, players and officials of the teams involved. If we value integrity in cricket then those that love the game need to take allegations seriously.

Match fixing is the biggest threat to cricket, because if fans can’t trust the veracity of results why would they watch. It is by understanding how a fix will work that all those who are involved in the game will better placed to combat it.

Follow Peter on Twitter – @TheCricketGeek
 
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He can plug his book as much as he likes but I'm still not buying it.
 
If he is so much in the know.... why cant he identify the men behind it?
 
Sussex came out and mentioned its players approached by bookies for a CB series match..

the same match was mentioned in this book
 
He is simply talking his book nothing else.
 
The book has arrived through my letter box today.

Looking forward to reading it actually.

Hawkins was right about the Sussex v Kent match and as a result Sussex had to admit that the match was looked at by the ACSU.

As far as the India v Pakistan match in Mohali is concerned, I don't think we will ever get to the bottom of what (if anything) went on, unless one of the players confesses to something in years to come.
 
I do a lot of betting on cricket matches, and let me throw my 2 cents on fixing. As far as Mohali match is concerned, there was NOT a single bookie i know who was taking bets for that match. Market was literally closed as all the bookies had strict instructions from police not to operate on that day. Whether the match was fixed, i don't know and no one knows..Indians would say it wasn't, and Pakistanis would say it was to belittle our victory but no one would ever know the truth. And if at all it was fixed, then it would have been fixing at the political level and not at the players level.

But without a doubt, a few of international and a lot English county matches get fixed. These days, the 40 overs a side tournament that takes place in England is favorite amongst bookies bcoz the access to those players is very easy. They are not heavily guarded and scrutinized like players in international tournament.
 
Getting very sick of this guy's relentless quest for publicity. If you know something real, put it out there and defend it in court. Otherwise this is just more innuendo without substance.
 
I do a lot of betting on cricket matches, and let me throw my 2 cents on fixing. As far as Mohali match is concerned, there was NOT a single bookie i know who was taking bets for that match. Market was literally closed as all the bookies had strict instructions from police not to operate on that day. Whether the match was fixed, i don't know and no one knows..Indians would say it wasn't, and Pakistanis would say it was to belittle our victory but no one would ever know the truth. And if at all it was fixed, then it would have been fixing at the political level and not at the players level.

But without a doubt, a few of international and a lot English county matches get fixed. These days, the 40 overs a side tournament that takes place in England is favorite amongst bookies bcoz the access to those players is very easy. They are not heavily guarded and scrutinized like players in international tournament.

If it is true then ECB should restrict the access.
 
KARACHI: Writer and journalist Nadeem Farooq Paracha in conversation with author Omar Shahid Hamid to discuss his latest novel The Fix, which is about the networks of fixing in the world of cricket, has brought up so many controversial issues that at one point the author laughingly asked if there was a lawyer in the house to advise him about how to handle the questions being thrown his way.

For starters, the book’s protagonist is a woman and it’s women’s cricket that is dealing with fixed matches, fixing and fixers in the story. Then it also has some very interesting characters such as Saleem Euro, Tariq Zaman who wants to build a hospital and so many more about whom one can easily say who they have been inspired from. So it raises much controversy.

Meanwhile, the author, who is also a senior police officer, said that he only wanted to write a novel about match-fixing with reference to the Pakistan team for which while researching he talked to several journalists who cover cricket and many players, including the pioneers of women’s cricket, too.l

He also said that he had read the Justice Qayyum Report in 2000 but this time he went though it like an investigating police officer which made it “crystal clear that there were people involved in incorrect activity. But there has been silence on this issue. Why we never wanted to face up to these things?”

He said that fixing in sports, especially in cricket here, kept on happening again and again because the journalists here did not want to write much about it. “Then it was irresistible for me to write about match-fixing because if it is not easy to deal with the subject in non-fiction maybe I can highlight it through fiction,” he said.

On Mr Paracha’s asking how he came up with the character of Saleem Euro in his book, Mr Hamid replied that it also came right out of his policeman’s hat. “There was a criminal by the name of Saleem Dollar here with his partner who was named Jabir Dollar. So since I didn’t want to use ‘Dollar’ and ‘Pound’ didn’t sound that great I decided to make ‘Euro’ my character’s surname,” he laughed.

Coming back to match-fixing, he said it is often played down in South Asia with excuses such as lack of education or awareness although senior players such as Shane Warne and Mark Waugh of Australia and M.S. Dhoni of India have also been blamed or associated with it. “Perhaps it is career insecurity that makes senior players feel that they have to do something for themselves while they can,” he said.

Due to such aspects, he said that in 2011, he was approached by someone who had claimed to know the ‘script’ of the World Cup semi-final between Pakistan and India. “I did not believe him and laughed off the matter then but as I watched the match startlingly everything that happened was exactly like the predictions made before me,” he said.

Mr Paracha asked why he sounded rather cynical in the book as he seemed to think that the problem of fixing wasn’t going to get solved. Mr Hamid said that again it was because there was a lot of lip service on clean sport by the various cricket boards and the International Cricket Council but there was a quote from the tainted Salman Butt that has remained with him. “Butt, after getting caught, had said that they didn’t do anything as big as compared to what others have done before them.”

“It seems that every country’s board tries to defend their players by playing down incidents and by covering up. Even when Lt Gen Tauqir Zia told Gen Musharraf that he wanted to throw out eight players in the national team who he knew were involved he was told by the former ruler of the country that that would raise eyebrows. The board’s inability to do much then led to the Salman Butt and other incidents of spot-fixing later,” he said.

“It’s a conspiracy of silence about a bad experience which no one wants to touch. But it has taken away our innocence. We don’t want cricket to be like wrestling, which is scripted,” Mr Hamid concluded.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1493861
 
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