Sunday, August 29, 2010

Woolmer again back in the spotlight:

Following up my latest post, see this remarkable blog from Jamie Pandaram of the Sydney Morning Herald where says:

"There still remains deep suspicion in Pakistan - despite no proof - that former coach Bob Woolmer was murdered by mafia types because he was set to expose match-fixing within his own team. The most sinister characters are linked to illegal bookmaking in the sub-continent, most notably Dawood Ibrahim, one of the world's most wanted terrorists, who has close links to Osama bin Laden. Some have suggested Ibrahim uses profits from his various gambling operations to fund butcher operations by al-Qaeda. Bookmakers are said to organise fixes with players, then place large bets with rival bookies to collect major winnings. One Indian bookmaker who believed he had been stung by a fix refused to pay up, and, fearing for his life, fled to South Africa. He was recently found chopped into seven pieces."

Those crooked Pakistanis: the world around us

I was interested rather than shocked to learn of the fixing scam being carried out by at least a number of Pakistani cricketers, and it reminded me of a few things; not least how unusual a game cricket is. In some ways it might be considered the most popular game in the world, enthralling as it does 1.4 million asians plus a hundred million or so of other ethnicities. It could certainly be bigger than soccer when all is said and done. In addition, it's a sport of the Empire association which we know as the Commonwealth. Yet I suppose it's played internationally by only about 200 or so players, estimating generously. So, across India and in a couple of rich Western countries you have many thousands of bets on a game controlled by 22 players, or rather, by 11 players should they decide to play a certain way. In Pakistan gambling is officially banned. Playing a certain way with a certain objective is so much a part of cricket that it's regarded as a skill to get the result you want- usually considered to be a win or a draw depending on circumstances. It lends itself perfectly to corruption and no more so than when played by the 11 prima donnas elected for elevation by a teeming asian nation. With many players never having had access to such money as the game offers, but that money swamped by its gambling action, the temptations are massive.

Yet Pakistan, rather than India, is the country with the bad reputation. Why is that I wonder? It may be because the Pakistani players are paid much less than their international counterparts. I suspect it might also be to do with the fact that gambling is a non-Islamic tradition, and therefore the players can enrich themselves at the expense of dhimmis in their "ill-conceived" "favourite" activities. Apparently key players and the captain were in on the scam- and as former cricketer myself I can say that it would be difficult for ordinary players not to know about such activities.

Was the whole match fixed, or just parts of it? According to Michael Slater here, cricket holds the most money in betting outside of horseracing. He says that "spread betting" was the approach that the Pakistanis were playing to. What you can bet on in a cricket match I can't exactly say, but I know the potential is endless. However it does seem that the Pakistanis were also at times playing to the biggest gambling topic of all- the result.

In all this there is another thing this reminded me of: the death of Bob Woolmer in suspicious circumstances during Pakistan's world cup campaign of 2007. There was talk then that Woolmer had confronted players over possible corruption. This would be at about the same period as the man arrested over fixing, Mazhar Majeed, claims to have been involved with the team's fixing activities. I wonder why the Pakistanis needed a new partner after Woolmer's death, since Majeed claims that he was approached by the players rather than vice versa, and this is information we know from the confidence he shared with the investigating journalists...

to whom we owe a debt of gratitude and an acknowledgement that surely someone with Pakistani origins or connections, possibly investigating journalist Mazher Mahmood, was needed to provide the insights and the contacts which led to the uncovery of the scam. If so, then Civilization 1 - the Barbarians at the gates 0 is the real result of this contest. But the darker question of the real fate of Bob Woolmer remains.

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