Why is it that cricket is the only game where the ugly spectre of fixing, be it spot or match, is in the news repeatedly? It is a shame that when it comes to fixing, cricket has no match and certainly finds itself in a tight spot. In spite of nipping many a career in the bud, the fixing controversies have ensured the game’s administrators are always found wanting and answerable while at the same time ensuring the coffers of the fixers or the bookies, as they are favouritely called, are always overflowing. This gentleman’s game has proven not everybody is gentle here and has turned time-tested heroes into overnight zeroes and tarnished their reputation and career beyond repair.
To give a better idea of these two types of fixing or distinguish them, match-fixing is concerned with the result of a match whilst spot-fixing is all about fixing a moment or a particular spot in a match usually concerning either a bowler or a batsman, usually with the blessings of the concerned captain. While the sub-continent is most popular for these money-spinning acts in the absence of official betting agencies, in countries like England, where betting is legal, unsavory bookies get away with it under this supposedly clean front. While earning quick and easy money is the concern of fixers, the players, especially coming from countries which may have a smaller piece of the cake when it comes to earnings from the game, feel deprived and fall easy prey when they are lured into making big money in a jiffy. When it comes to payment, either official from the ICC or in the form of bait from the book makers, there is no parity in international cricket. This imbalance, unless curbed or eliminated, will always put the brakes on and ensure the game does not flourish.
No other game has played host to Scotland Yard or India's CBI, with players fearing arrest. But one thing is for sure, the game’s highest authority - and the police as well - have clearly failed to put an end to this menace the world over. Several probes and inquiries have gone into oblivion with no result in sight, leaving only uncertainty as to what the outcome will be if at all a result is reached. India, the hub of cricket and the home of the current head of the ICC, is now examining gambling regulations of countries where betting is legal with a view to legalizing betting in cricket. Is this possible, in a land so tainted by betting scandals? The judiciary is concerned, too, and have pulled up police for failing to check illegal betting. The flip side is the suggestions that legalizing it will allow the government to track funds transfer and increase their coffers.
Is there any solution? The fact is that as long as betting is illegal, fixing will thrive and nothing can be done about it. While the authorities are watching helplessly, it is good juice for the media - and a watching, scandal-hungry public - when some heads on the field roll once in a while. Perhaps it is worth keeping in mind the unimaginable amounts of money that are bet on one match. While governments in countries like England and Australia prosper under betting’s legal status, why should the ones in the sub-continent forgo much bigger revenue and give all power to the various illegal syndicates that operate the illegal gambling trade?
The recent spot-fixing controversies and the uncertainty over the police findings have put the game’s authorities as well as the government in a fix. It seems legalizing betting is one of the best options which can be seriously considered. Of course the government will earn, but will it help cricket's reputation? 'Money corrupts, and lots of money corrupts absolutely', to adapt an old saying. The ICC cannot do much about the syndicates but they can certainly control the players. Unless fixing is brought to a quick end, the fans and followers will turn their back to the game as nobody can guarantee the authenticity of each win or loss or a record. The last two decades have seen many players of repute indulging in this ugly act. It's like a well-spread virus, difficult to control, and cricketers from almost all cricket-playing countries have become victim or succumbed to this.
For the bookies, money is what matters, and the government needs to act fast. Otherwise, it may be too late and international cricket will become history. The game’s pride is at stake. Whether betting is legalized or not, the players involved in fixing should never be allowed to step onto a cricket field again. Through match-fixing and spot-fixing, bookies can be spot on, but will leave a black spot on the game. Fixing ‘fixing’ should be the top priority as no action is abetting betting!