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.