The other two, sure. But Amir? As if
November 3, 2011 4:21 AM   Subscribe

Unlike other forms of match fixing, spot fixing does not affect the final result, only specific events within a game. Last year, in a cricket match at Lord's between England and Pakistan, three Pakistani cricketers and one agent 'conspired to cheat'. Following the decision [PDF] at Southwark Crown Court today, all four men will face prison time ranging from six to 32 months. It is the first time this charge, brought in under the Gambling Act 2005, has led to a sportsperson's conviction.

The captain Salman Butt and bowler Mohammad Asif were both found guilty following the trial. They have received sentences of two and a half years and one year respectively. The third player, young bowler Mohammad Amir, pled guilty and was sentenced to six months - although as he is 19 that will be served at a Young Offenders Institution.

The prosecution's case was based around damning video evidence of the agent, Mazhar Majeed, predicting specific events within the game that later happened, provided by journalist Mazher Mahmood ('the Fake Sheikh') working for the now-defunct News of the World. Majeed also pled guilty, although the judge rejected the basis of his plea, and he has been sentenced to two years and eight months in prison. All four will be released on licence half-way through their sentences, pending good behaviour.

Earlier this year, the three players were banned by cricket's governing body, the ICC. Amir's ban was for five years, Asif's for seven (with two suspended), and Butt's for ten (with five suspended). Even this verdict will not be the end of the matter, with the ICC's Anti-Corruption in Sport Unit preparing to investigate further matches in last year's series, and Majeed indicating that a further (as yet unnamed) player was involved.

And, of course, the game itself goes on. Pakistan are currently playing against Sri Lanka in Sharjah.
posted by smcg (25 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Of course it affects the final result, just to a smaller degree. The fact that the outcome of the game isn't the subject of the bet doesn't mean the players aren't still hurting their team at the margin by deliberately incurring a penalty.
posted by pete_22 at 4:46 AM on November 3, 2011

What surprised me is that they willingly returned from Pakistan to stand trial in the UK. The UK has no means to extradite people from Pakistan so they could easily have stayed there and avoided the whole affair.
posted by bap98189 at 4:46 AM on November 3, 2011

As someone who loves test cricket, I'm starting to wonder/worry about the Sydney test.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 4:55 AM on November 3, 2011

So, how much was the guilty verdict paying out?
posted by Sys Rq at 5:21 AM on November 3, 2011 [10 favorites]

Ha! "He's inexperienced, we know that ... maybe he's finding it a little difficult because of the wet patches." No, he's fucking getting paid to step over that line.
posted by pracowity at 5:48 AM on November 3, 2011

pete_22: The fact that the outcome of the game isn't the subject of the bet doesn't mean the players aren't still hurting their team at the margin by deliberately incurring a penalty.

That's true, it would have been better if I had written that the bets are not placed on the result of the match.

Having said that, not many Tests are decided by a margin of less than (say) ten runs. And in this case, if the match was fixed, the no-balls were nothing to do with it: letting Trott and Broad score 300+ runs from 102/7 was the game-breaker.

Here are some links that didn't make it into the post. First, West Indian fast bowler Michael Holding's emotional reaction to the initial allegations. And then some background on the history between the two sides, although to go into detail on that would be a post on its own:

Matches between England and Pakistan have been no strangers to controversy. On England's 1987 tour of Pakistan, some dubious umpiring decisions and accusations of cheating so annoyed the England captain Mike Gatting that he became involved in a finger-wagging argument with the umpire Shakoor Rana. And, on Pakistan's last-but-one tour of England, the final Test match was abandoned following umpire Darrell Hair's (who himself is no stranger to etc.) award of five penalty runs to England for suspected ball tampering by Pakistan.
posted by smcg at 5:58 AM on November 3, 2011

This is a cancer which has been undermining cricket around the world, not just in Pakistan, for far too long and cricket lovers can only hope that the criminal conviction and sentencing of these players will act as a real deterrent in the future.
posted by joannemullen at 6:08 AM on November 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

One of my friends tweeted that the next Prisoners vs Guards cricket match just got a LOT more interesting...

also: lol Butt
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:22 AM on November 3, 2011

The captain Salman Butt

No relation.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:56 AM on November 3, 2011 [4 favorites]

Good old News of the World, how we will miss them.
posted by Major Tom at 6:56 AM on November 3, 2011

This is a cancer which has been undermining cricket around the world

See: South-Africa-India betting controversy, for example.
posted by bardophile at 6:58 AM on November 3, 2011

Meanwhile Scwarnie walks amongst us, dressed as a ninja, caring not for the weather.
posted by hawthorne at 7:13 AM on November 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I watched the first test of the series from the stands with my father, on the occasion of his seventieth birthday. It seemed, at the time at least, one of those occasions when you remember how sport can work to draw people in towards it, and therefore to each other. My Dad and I, both cricket lovers, absorbed by a devastating Matt Prior century and some brutal swing bowling by Jimmy Anderson, enjoying sharing some rare time together, doing something we both loved, and creating good and happy memories that we'll both treasure in the years to come. And then, four fucking weeks later, turning on the radio to hear Jonathan Agnew audibly shaken by what he was telling us, started a torrent of suspicion that whilst it threatens to derail cricket, also unavoidably tarnishes my memories from Trent Bridge. Corruption in sport is so corrosive. A bit of spot-fixing here and there, a couple of cheap no-balls, works to undermine everything we hold true and value about the contests that we witness. What am I seeing, I am forced to wonder, that is the outcome of skill and dedication and brilliant talent, and what is caused by the manipulating hand of naked ugly greed? Now when I think back to that cricket match, I don't think of being sat with my Dad sharing a moment of joy at Prior's boundaries or Jimmy's off-cutter; instead I fear that parts of what I saw were being engineered by people in hotel rooms, on mobile phones, with bags of cash by their sides. And that tarnishes all of it. And that makes me very, very sad.
posted by hydatius at 7:20 AM on November 3, 2011 [4 favorites]

Good. I hate cheats more than just about any kind of louse who doesn't commit actual bodily harm.
posted by Decani at 7:30 AM on November 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, to illuminate hawthorne's comment above, see this report about the Shane Warne and Mark Waugh corruption allegations.
posted by bardophile at 7:40 AM on November 3, 2011

First of all, great post, quite substantial.

Here's Osman Samiuddin's take on this. Always an interesting voice to read, when it comes to Pakistani cricket.

What surprised me is that they willingly returned from Pakistan to stand trial in the UK. The UK has no means to extradite people from Pakistan so they could easily have stayed there and avoided the whole affair.

Unlike Samiuddin, though, I'm much more cynical about this. The expression we use in these parts is "sacrificial lamb". It's a huuuuuuge mess, and I'm quite certain these kids were merely unlucky to be caught. Why? Read on.

Unlike other forms of match fixing, spot fixing does not affect the final result, only specific events within a game.

I disagree entirely, and here's why. You must remember: the reason these kids bowled no-balls was to demonstrate the control the bookies have over specific events in the game. Majeed was only flexing his muscles here; in fact, he was rooting for a bigger deal with Mahmood. Fact is, we have *absolutely no idea* what else is possible; if mere no-balls in the third over can be fixed, what else can be?

Also, crucially, this shit didn't start with the Cronje era, the 90's when sub-continental cricket came into money; the first murmurs in India were in the 1980's. In fact, so persistent and commonplace are the match/spot-fixing suggestions, that many cricket-writers from the 90's are disillusioned with the sport and have in fact, stopped writing about the game they love.

And again, this didn't start in the 80's either; as this piece in The Age puts it:
Because, for much of its early history, from its rise in the Restoration to deep into the Regency, cricket and gambling were inseparable associates. The nobility and gentry who fostered the game understood about the game what the match- and spot-fixers do now - that in a gaming sense it is a target-rich environment, full of possibilities for wagers.

The oldest surviving version of cricket's laws features extensive provision for the settling of bets.
All the enquiries from the Cronje era have been white-washes, all of ICC's anti-fixing efforts mere window-dressing. You really don't have to be a cynic to predict that no one else will be touched, and that all this crap will. continue. to. go. on until the next big sensational recording that will take its cut of sacrificial lambs.

Me, I've made my peace with it all. I follow cricket only for the chills; matches may be fixed, but as long as there are no spoilers, they still can be exciting. Don't really care for "skill" anymore; with all that noise in a T20 match, you can't even see cricketers in the zone anymore.
posted by the cydonian at 7:56 AM on November 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

So, how much was the guilty verdict paying out?
posted by Sys Rq at 5:21 AM on November 3 [6 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]

4-1 odds sez Sys Rq Will make a comment on guilty verdict within the first 4 comments

3-1 says there will be >3 <6> 5-1 says that lalochezia will comment on this process

17-1 says lalochezia will favorite himself to influence the direction of the thread

Forget it jake, it's METAfilter

posted by lalochezia at 9:39 AM on November 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's not just cricket. In the early 90's when televised football (and betting on it) exploded in Britain I remember a rash of incidents at the beginning of games where, say, a player "accidentally" over-hit a pass and hoofed the ball out of play directly from the kick-off, resulting in a throw-in to the opposition. Result? A bunch of people who had bet that the first throw-in would be awarded in the first minute of the game cashed in.

The point was well made above about how, while these little things may not really influence the outcome of the match, the demonstration of the fixer's ability to fix is where the corruption hurts most.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 9:51 AM on November 3, 2011

Also, to illuminate hawthorne's comment above, see this report about the Shane Warne and Mark Waugh corruption allegations.

But of course, Australians don't cheat.
posted by rodgerd at 11:00 AM on November 3, 2011

Sentences - Butt: 2.5 years; Asif: 1 year: Amir: 6 months

Cricket is a beautiful game, and fixing of any sort tarnishes it. As said upthread, this was just a demo by the fixer. More was to follow.

On a side note, I recently got to watch Fire in Babylon. Strongly recommended for all, even those who don't know their fine leg from short leg.
posted by vidur at 12:14 PM on November 3, 2011

But of course, Australians don't cheat.

Wanna bet?
posted by Jimbob at 2:00 PM on November 3, 2011

What's the nickname of our ex-captain?
posted by wilful at 3:41 PM on November 3, 2011

What's the nickname of our ex-captain?

The Indian team called him names I can't bring myself to type here.
posted by vidur at 3:47 PM on November 3, 2011

A couple of points stood out for me from skimming through CricInfo and Outlook today.

First, there's this curious twist that I somehow missed when the news first broke out: apparently, it was actually Butt who approached Majeed:
"They were the ones who actually approached me," Majeed was recorded as saying at the time. "This is the beauty of it. I was friends with them for four to five years, and then they said this happens. I said, 'Really?'"

Furthermore, he claimed that Asif - whose defence had centred on the fact that no marked notes had been found in his hotel-room - had actually received more than a third of the NOTW bung to prevent him from joining a rival fixing nexus.
Some issue-management from Majeed's brother here; didn't think there was much of a self-grovelling sort of an excuse-making, which was refreshing, although it's clearly an attempt at image rehabilitation for the family (that in itself isn't a bad thing; you can sympathize with someone while disapproving of their conduct)

Amir Mir's take from last year on why the spot-fixing scandal matters deeply for Pakistani fans. There's a curious bit about Rasheed Latif's suggestion for setting up "dummy" matches and to somehow entrap the bettors in the act of bribing cricketers; ICC had, in fact, shot down that idea.

Found it interesting to read the judicial enquiries on match-fixing from 80's and 90's. Now, you must remember; match-fixing was hot even before the Cronje tapes; in fact, the release of the tapes in fact capped the entire saga in the 90's. The scandal then (and wholly ignoring the Aussies for now) was through revelations by Rashid Latif in Pakistan, and through allegations made by Manoj Prabhakar in India. There were three main quasi-judicial enquiries (in that, the enquiries were made by retired judges or investigative agencies, but none carried any punitive legal weight) by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), India's BCCI and later, after the Cronje tapes, by the ICC and by India's CBI.

Here's the actual Qayyum Report that the PCB commissioned; here's its summary, analysis, and reflections on it 10 years later, where Qayyum admitted to being soft on Wasim Akram because he was a fan.

India had two broad investigations into match-fixing. The first was led by Justice Chandrachud, like Justice Qayyum, an eminent jurist, a past Chief Justice and a top legal mind who had weighed upon such landmark judgements as the Shah Bano case, but ultimately a die-hard cricket fan. By all accounts, his enquiry into allegations made by Manoj Prabhakar was a white-wash, replete with literary flourish, and pop psychoanalysis, a disregard for actual events that had happened and half-hearted attempts at finding out the truth.

Then there's the ICC's Condon Report.

Finally, there was the CBI's investigation into match-fixing; because this was not initiated by the BCCI, it seems to be significantly more credible than the Chandrachud report, in that it established a clear chain of communication and intent. By its own admission, however, the CBI report was limited in two respects: this was only 40% of the evidence in its possession, and more crucially, did not have any legal teeth; it wasn't, and still isn't, a criminal offence under Indian law to either take money from bookies or to underplay. While gambling is indeed banned in India, the criminal penalties under the Act are quite minor:
A primary reason for the growth of this racket is the relatively liberal provisions of the Public Gambling Act. [...] Even as it is debatable whether betting on cricket attracts provisions of this Act, since cricket theoretically is a game of skill, the maximum punishment under this Act [..] in Delhi, [for instance], for a first offence is imprisonment for six months and a fine of Rs 1000 and for subsequent offences, a maxmimum punishment of imprisonment of one year and a fine of Rs 2000. Hence, for a bookie or punter dealing in crores of rupees, the provisions of this Act are no major cause of worry. (From the CBI report)
So adding judicial teeth and regarding spot/match-fixing as a criminal act is a new development now. I don't think Indian law has caught up with British law in this regard, so it'll be interesting how the betting syndicates will adjust their, shall we say, offerings (for I'm still convinced it exists)

As ironic as it may seem, it is Zaltsmann's comedic piece that paints the entire kerfuffle in its most poignant texture:
I hope Amir has a future in cricket. I like the idea of redemption. I do not know how I would have reacted in the same situations, under those pressures, and in that dressing room. I like to think I would have had the strength to refuse. And I would probably have been more worried that my slow-medium long-hops and technical weakness with the ball against all forms and qualities of bowling might be shown up at international level. But if I had a captain, an agent, and a large wodge of banknotes all trying to persuade me to do something I thought I could probably do without compromising my ability to take 6 for 30 in 13 overs of mesmeric swing bowling, maybe I would have done it.

I hope not. I hope I would rather have taken 6 for 28, without the two no-balls. But I don’t know. (emphasis mine)
Yup, Amir had his career's best figures, 6 for 84 in the first innings. (The 30 runs that Zaltsman eludes to is presumably a specific 13 over spell). This, at an international test match at 18 years of age, having already played 27 Test innings. All marred by two extra no-balls.

What a tragic, tragic waste of talent.
posted by the cydonian at 2:26 AM on November 4, 2011 [5 favorites]

Two excellent comments, the cydonian. I also read Zaltzman's article earlier and he (jokingly) makes the same point that you did in your first comment, that this is nothing new. I'm not totally sure how big the market was on the USA vs Canada match in particular, though.

And the thing is, I know this. I think everyone who's followed cricket for any length of time does. (The last link in my post highlights that Pakistan are currently playing in Sharjah - which was a match-fixing hub when they played there before.) There's just so much that feeds into the story. You have the terrorist attack on the Sri Lanka team during their tour of Pakistan, that forced Pakistan to abandon home games; you have the history of in-fighting and reversed retirements in the Pakistan team; a toothless ACSU; the Mervyn Westfield case scheduled for trial next year and Kaneria's ostracism; that all of the bets in question are illegal anyway, so authorities on the sub-continent have no control or oversight; Pakistan's exclusion from the IPL - particular for Amir and Asif, this is a huge blow, as they are great bowlers; and I haven't even mentioned any other teams, as if it was only Pakistan! (Which it isn't, obviously.)

Really, it would take a book to just cover all the facts known to the public, let alone what goes on behind the scenes. But thanks again for shedding some more light on the background and the angles to this story - and totally agreed on Amir, I'd like to highlight Michael Holding's reaction again, it perfectly sums up what many cricket fans felt.
posted by smcg at 12:54 PM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

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