Here’s the original Al Jazeera spot fixing film if you haven’t seen that.
Like the original Cricket’s Match Fixers documentary, this follow-up – The Munawar Files – is a film that pretty much everyone in cricket is irritated about. This is not because they reject the claims out of hand, but because they feel they have to pay attention to them without actually being able to draw any firm conclusions whatsoever.
Every sport has its Achilles heel and match/spot fixing is certainly cricket’s but Al Jazeera’s investigations are like an attempt to burn wet wood. There’s a hell of a lot of smoke but precious little actual fire.
They name the matches in which fixes are alleged to have taken place, but not the sessions or the players supposedly involved. It feels like half a story. It is half a story.
We’re told that almost all of Munawar’s predictions pan out, but who’s to say the leaked phone calls in which he makes those predictions weren’t deliberately handed over to Al Jazeera to serve as a big fuck-off advert for how bloody good his group is at match-fixing? If we were a millionaire who was well up for a bit of rigged gambling, we’d be straight onto D-Company on the strength of the evidence seen here.
What about all the other phone calls in which Munawar made predictions? The ones that weren’t leaked. Did those pan out too? Maybe the rest of the time he was predicting huge stands from England’s openers or five wicket hauls for Simon Kerrigan? (These are not the kind of outcomes they talk about in the film, but you get our point.) Maybe Munawar made different predictions to different people about the exact same matches. How can we know?
(Another possibility: The matches aren’t fixed at all. Munawar simply turned up in our timeline in a DeLorean bearing a copy of Gray’s Sports Almanac.)
There is a lot of focus on illegal bookmaking in these films. That is something we know exists. What’s missing is a firm connection to the cricketers supposedly carrying out fixes.
In that area, what we know is:
- Some things that were predicted happened – but we don’t know how many other predictions didn’t happen
- Munawar has been photographed near international cricketers (and even less impressively, so have some of his ‘associates’)
- At some point Munawar spoke to someone who may or may not have been an England cricketer
This is not to rubbish the claims made in these films, merely to highlight the wealth of questions raised and the dearth of answers provided.