Watch the Al Jazeera match fixing documentary

If you want to watch that Al Jazeera documentary about match-fixing (spot fixing, actually) to see for yourself whether the allegations have any merit, here it is (or click here).

The film went out in May, but it’s in the news again this week because Glenn Maxwell’s been talking about it. He’s understandably less than delighted to have been all but accused of involvement.

Maxwell wasn’t named, but the film makers say at what point in an India v Australia Test match the alleged fix took place and then when they’re talking about ‘suspicious’ activity by the batsman, they show some blurry footage of a guy who moves like Glenn Maxwell wearing Glenn Maxwell’s clothes using Glenn Maxwell’s bat.

The fixing fella says that a given over will result in a ‘low score’ and then it turns out to be a maiden. The narrator says that the batsman “appeared to be trying not to score runs.” (In a Test match! Whatever next?)

Examining the footage, Ed Hawkins (who wrote Bookie Gambler Fixer Spy: A Journey to the Heart of Cricket’s Underworld) describes the batsman as being “like a cat on hot coals” – which sounds precisely like a fully normal Glenn Maxwell innings to us. (You kind of wonder whether Ed would watch old footage of Phil Tufnell backing away and also find that suspicious.)

Ed adds that the batsman is, “just desperately trying to get on top of the ball and cover any edge that might squirt off and concede a run.”

Or, you know, squirt off into someone’s hands and lose him his wicket.

Cricket Australia have said that there’s “no credible evidence,” and without discounting the possibility that something might eventually come of this, the documentary does at the very least seem to us to be an excellent exploration of the way in which humans actively root for meaningful signs once they’ve been primed to expect something specific.

“You wonder whether he’s taking his helmet off deliberately, don’t you?” says Ed at one point. Well, yes, he probably was taking his helmet off deliberately. You don’t tend to take a helmet off accidentally. Helmet removal can of course be a covert sign that a fix is going to take place – or it could just be a bit hot out there.

Nevertheless, spot fixing has happened before now and it probably will again. The suggestion that someone at the ICC might be keeping it quiet seems to imply that the scale of the problem is greater than people think – but then it’s hard to imagine one person operating alone achieving anything at the ICC, whether good or bad.

Maybe they’re all in on it? That level of agreement at the ICC would literally be unprecedented.

Childish Things

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11 Appeals

  1. Are there really sufficiently deep and liquid betting markets on e.g. runs scored from a particular over of a Test match that such a fix is profitable? This has generally been my skepticism over spot-fixing and something professional gamblers I’ve talked to about it have been derisory of the possibility (though to be fair they haven’t been plugged in to the illicit Indian market themselves).

    On the other hand, getting a player into the mire by persuading them into a little spot of ball-by-ball fixing – relatively innocuous stuff if we are honest – could be a good way to tempt or pressurise them (they would now be blackmailable if a strategic mic had been on during the fix) to indulge in match-fixing, which has rather more potential for profitability.

    • Should clarify that I don’t mean “innocuous” in the sense of “morally uncorrosive”, but “of no consequence to the match and indistinguishable for spectators from any of the game’s other random happenstance” but it seems the conjecturalists of W. G. Borges had already written this better than I could express it.

  2. Such markets around runs scored per over, events per delivery, etc. exist in plenty for limited overs cricket including for state level T20 cricket in India. Not for test cricket.

  3. “The Fixers, with divine modesty, elude all publicity. Their agents, as is only natural, are secret. The orders which are continually sent out do not differ from those lavishly attested by impostors. Besides, who can ever boast of being a mere impostor? The inebriate who improvises an absurd slog sweep, the dreamer who suddenly awakes only to eschew the proffered single, do they not both, perhaps, carry out a secret decision of the Fixers?

    “This silent functioning, comparable to that of God, gives rise to all manner of conjectures. One of them, for instance, abominably insinuates that the Fix is eternal and that it will last until the last session of the last Test, when the last executive annihilates the format. Still another conjecture declares that the Fixers are omnipotent, but that they exert their influence only in the most minute matters: in a bird’s cry, in a bowler’s stride, in the deliberate doffing of a batsman’s helmet. There is one conjecture, spoken from the mouths of masked heresiarchs, to the effect that the Fix has never existed and never will. A conjecture no less vile argues that it is indifferently inconsequential to affirm or deny the reality of the shadowy exchanges, because Cricket is nothing but an infinite game of chance.”

  4. Imagine you become a match and spot fixer, then being told to go out and arrange for England or Australia to under-perform in Asian conditions.

    One may as well become a senior member of their boards, at least that way the pay is better, the office plusher, and the chances of arrest remoter.

  5. In other news, Root took 4-5. More of this.

  6. I can’t spake. None of the gentlemen at the Home Of Cricket can spake.

  7. Squirting off into someone’s hands is never a good idea. Unless, you know, it’s previously agreed upon.

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