Asia Cup hots up in UAE | Sunday Observer

Asia Cup hots up in UAE

28 August, 2022

The Asia Cup is already heating up. But this is so in any tournament featuring South Asian rivals India and Pakistan. Competition is also at an all-time high leading to soaring ticket sales. Due to the increasing demand for tickets that are running out fast, the sale of fake tickets has now become a serious issue leading to the Dubai Police hatching various plans to bust fake ticket rackets.

The UAE for decades has been a hotbed for illegal bookies. Even as spectators prepare for the matches according to Pakistani and Indian media reports they have also already zeroed in on the Asia Cup in a bid to make millions of dollars in profit.

Millions of dollars

According to reports, the main target of these bookies is the match between India and Pakistan. The match is expected to draw in the most number of viewers from the world over, often matches between the two countries bring in millions of dollars for illegal bookies through various means. Therefore the media has taken a key interest in the activities of the bookies relating to the Asia Cup.

As political tensions flare during such matches between the two countries, it only increases following the outcome of the match. Depending on which team loses, the Indian cricketer’s homes come under the attack of upset cricketing fans while Pakistani cricketers must constantly face allegations of match-fixing following a loss.

While the International Cricket Council has set up many processes to monitor the Asia Cup, it is said the entire match has already been fixed according to the needs and wants of bookmakers. This has been happening for decades since the 90s and is a well-known secret. However, the reports of such incidents were few and far in between as the technology was not developed during the time.

Many incidents went unreported even though it was later revealed that fixing was commonplace even in matches played by the Sri Lanka cricket team. This was first said by former Sri Lankan batsmen Hashan Tillekeratne. According to him a number of players in the team were involved in match-fixing from 1992 onwards. The accusation made by Tillekeratne, who later served as a Western provincial councillor is even included in the Hansard in 2012. Indian newspaper ‘The Hindu’ also picked up the story and reported on it.

“I can tell this in agreement with my conscience. Match fixing is not something that started happening yesterday or today. According to my knowledge, it happened in 1992. I say this with great responsibility,” Tillekeratne had said.

“There were threats of this issue being exposed during various times. But it was pushed down by giving money to various people,” he added.

Sri Lanka

The Hindu also said Tillekeratne, who led the side in 10 Tests during his tenure as captain, stopped short of calling the World Cup final between India and Sri Lanka a fixed match but had some reservations about selection.

“The world cup team was selected on January. I questioned at a TV show why this team was picked on the day before the IPL auction. The IPL auction was on January 8. Then it was said that we have time when we pick the team before the IPL auction and it was said that we have enough time as there were ten more days.” he said. The concerns raised by Tillekeratne remain to this day.

“In this country, there is a side which you don’t know but I know. We discussed this. Inquire into this. Anyone can investigate this. Why was the team picked before the IPL?” he asked, leading us to think more deeply about the issue.

“This has been happening since 1992 and I know all the people who are connected to it. I say this with responsibility. It is just like a relay. I run my lap and hand over the baton to you, you complete your lap and give it to another. This is a network. No one can ever go out of it and no one can come into it” Tillekeratne had told The Hindu.

He also pointed out that the situation was always there. “When it came out from time to time, it was quietly swept under the carpet. If someone doesn’t intervene and stop this menace, within another two or three years in this country, with these politics, with these corrupt administrators, I believe this country won’t be second to Pakistan in the near future,” he said. Some international cricketers such as former Pakistani bowler Shoab Akthar later went on to prove the point made by Tillekeratne.

His statement accusing 12 fellow players in the team of fixing matches brought great shame to Pakistani cricket. It also created shockwaves in the international cricketing world but not among the Pakistani public as they were already aware of these traits in their cricketers. In fact, it was well known that the majority of the cricketers involved in match-fixing are Pakistanis.

“I can’t tolerate lies, hence I never fixed or even thought to fix a game,” he said. “12 of my former teammates were involved in match-fixing. I knew but I never said anything. My mother used to tell me: ‘never ever sell your country’,” the cricketer said. However despite the revelations, the officials unfortunately never took any action regarding this.

In the eighties, many felt that cricket was no longer a gentleman’s game due to the on-field fights between the players. By the end of the decade, the quality of the game fell further due to incidents of match-fixing for money.

Greatest betrayal

The seriousness of it became clear when the information of the greatest betrayal of the game was revealed in 2000 when two cricketing greats were accused of match-fixing. One was former Indian captain Mohamed Azharuddin and the other was the former South African captain Hansie Cronje. It was later revealed that more cricketers had fallen prey to underworld don and match-fixing mastermind Dawood Ibrahim.

This led to many cricketers having to appear in courts and face investigations launched by their respective countries. Statements were taken from cricketers involved and it was revealed Azharuddin had coordinated many of the fixing of matches.

Suspicious plane crash

This was also revealed by Cronje in courts and he admitted to having paid US$ 15 000 to South African cricketer Herschelle Gibbs.

Cronje died in a suspicious plane crash while Azharuddin was banned from cricket for life.

Despite being a cricketing giant and a talented player that scored three centuries in his first test match, it is clear he was part and parcel of match-fixing during the latter stages of his career. Indian intelligence agencies traced many calls from bookies to his mobile phone and their many connections.

Though Azharuddin joined politics later and his ban was lifted, it was too late for him to recommence his cricketing career.

The statement made by Sanjeev Chawla in courts following his arrest is also noteworthy. Chawla, an international bookie claimed that every cricket match that is played is fixed and that no cricket match is played fairly.

Chawla also revealed the involvement of a very big “syndicate/underworld mafia ” that controls whatever happens in every professional cricket match. A very big syndicate/underworld mafia is involved in this matter and they are dangerous people and if he says anything he will be killed”, Sanjeev Chawla said

Match fixing can take many forms. There is a high possibility that certain players, coaches or staff or officials of the selection committee can leak match details to the betting process which continues from the time of the toss to the end of the match.

The more money paid, the more inside information bookies are able to elicit from these individuals.

Betting is often based on this information obtained. People can earn millions by providing information on any key events of the match including who will bowl the first over, the opening batsmen, the player to face the first ball, will the next round be a no ball and many more.

A coach can for example earn millions by providing the bowling lineup of the team. This would have happened in the past and it is not possible to rule out it happening now as well.

Fake Uva T20 League

Despite Indians accusing Pakistanis of match fixing they often forget the crime began on Indian soil. Two years ago Indian Police raided a fake cricket match held in Mohali India where a Fake’ Uva T20 League was being held claiming it was happening in Badulla, Sri Lanka.

In fact the match was held in a village called Savara, 16 km from Mohali in India. The bookies had announced a timetable claiming the matches will be held between four teams consisting of Wellawaya Vipers, Moneragala Hornets, Badulla Sea Eagles and Mahiyanganaya Unilions. When the Police raided the match, unknown Indian players dressed in Sri Lankan jerseys bearing names of Sri Lankan cricketing greats were nabbed putting on a fake cricket match. A similar fake IPL match was also raided recently in the state of Gujarat.

It is difficult to speculate that there will be no match-fixing in the land of Emirates, which is a bookie’s paradise, where the Asian Cup will be held this year. The tournament will end successfully. The winning team will be awarded the Asia Cup. But at the end of the day, the bookies will emerge as the winners defeating the great game of cricket.