Samir Chopra August 29, 2010

The insidious allure of spot-fixing

Another cricketing scandal is upon us.Well, the incorrigibility of Pakistan cricket is not new, so let us stop flogging that particular dead horse (after all, we know the usual round of bans, cover-ups, appeals, and reinstatements awaits us down
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Another cricketing scandal is upon us.Well, the incorrigibility of Pakistan cricket is not new, so let us stop flogging that particular dead horse (after all, we know the usual round of bans, cover-ups, appeals, and reinstatements awaits us down the line) and move on to thinking about why spot-fixing is even more dangerous than match-fixing in many ways.

Most importantly, spot-fixing promises a wonderful two-fer for the morally wavering cricketer: a chance to get rich while preserving one's sense of integrity. For in spot-fixing, you don't throw the game. As Cricinfo's helpful guide to spot-fixing points out,

Spot fixing is about getting players/officials to act in a specified predefined manner at a particular time or during a particular session of a match, with or without adversely affecting the overall outcome of the game.

A player can easily reassure himself that he won't compromise his team's result; all he'll do to clean up a little pocket money for himself is take a small action that should have no bearing on the overall outcome. That done, he can get back to normal business.

But of course, it doesn't work that way. Once you are committed to spot-fixing, you are distracted. Rather than thinking about line, length, and dismissal strategies, you are thinking about the number of balls bowled, the no-ball that has to be delivered, the fat pad of bills waiting for you. When warming up before the start of play, a player's thoughts aren't exclusively concentrated on limbering up and hunkering down, they are thinking back to the precise nature of the deal that was struck, on thinking about the next phone call that might show up with a new deal for the morning session, for the post-tea bowling change. When the player is back at the hotel, he might have more business to attend to, more details to be sorted out.

Spot-fixing isn't about fixing the outcome; it is about micro-managing the little atoms that make up a match, the individual deliveries. As such, while it is ostensibly about staying away from global reach, it pervades the entire proceedings, especially if many players are involved in it. The smaller the fixed event, the more numerous their occurrence, until the rot is pervasive. And indeed, given the micro-managed state of affairs there is a greater logistical overhead.

In the end, the game's outcome becomes irrelevant, because it has been transformed into a placeholder for all the various "spots", all the little "fixes".

For the players, the temptation is tremendous: do what you do normally with just a few exceptions and clean up handsomely. But like all Faustian bargains, this one takes a great deal more from the players than it gives. They might imagine that their integrity has not been compromised; but in fact, it has been, even more fundamentally and invidiously than ever before.

Fixing hasn't gone away; fixers haven't; and neither have players who succumb to temptation. But most sadly, what also remains constant are managerial entities that are determined not to clean their Augean stables.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • fanedlive on November 10, 2012, 12:42 GMT

    Say thanks a lot for your time and ergeny to have had these things together on this web site. Josh and i also very much treasured your insight through the articles on certain things. I know that you have several demands on your schedule so the fact that you took equally as much time as you did to help people really like us through this article is definitely highly prized.

  • fanedlive on September 2, 2010, 15:33 GMT

    som: Punjab has ten players in the Playing Eleven without merit and you are saying " Dear Toescrusher, Please leave the topic of Punjab 11...."??

    Selection of ten players from one province without merit is racism period!

    By the way just FYI cricket setup in Pakistan starting from Senator, PCB Chief, Secretaries, other officials; if vast majority of them are not from Punjab then Punjab can barely manage four players on merit in the playing eleven.

  • fanedlive on September 1, 2010, 18:02 GMT

    When ali-a writes of Lillee/Marsh, is he really referring to the pound (a whole pound!!!) bet on an England victory at Headingley in 1981 at 500-1? Does he not remember the resolute way in which Lillee batted with Ray Bright to get Australia close after the previous (superior?) batsmen had made an England victory first possible, then likely. The bet was far from his mind then and I don't remember an embarassed Lillee or Marsh ever hiding the fact. I say to ram that what the Sehwag non-century shows is only how daft was the change of the law. Umar Gul hit a boundary to win the Headingley test for Pakistan and was credited only with the single necessary. Presumably if the batsmen had not run he would have been awarded the 4! As far as my records go, Umar got 4 n.o. and Johnson took 1-44.

  • fanedlive on September 1, 2010, 17:37 GMT

    Tariq Zaman obviously belongs to the "tell a lie often enough and people will believe it to be true" brigade. His comments were nothing to do with the current issue, so why were they published? As far as the current issue is concerned I find the whole idea of spot-fixing to be absolutely incredible. It seems that the fact that it has little impact on the outcome (3 no-balls within a massive England victory) is what makes it makes it so open to abuse and creates a cancer in the game. Perhaps no-balls should be punished more severely and the practice of some limited-over competitions of the free hit be introduced to the first-class game, just as you get free kicks/hits in soccer/hockey for infringement of the laws. This isn't going to change the result of an innings and 200+, but it might make it more expensive and less attractive to do.

  • fanedlive on September 1, 2010, 2:58 GMT

    @ VivaVizag, stop marginalising and generaling about 1 country and its people u tool and start appreciating some real bowling. Also ICC should look to make the contest between bat and ball more enjoyable, i.e. more bowler friendly pitches inorder to stop such nonsense and batting records which to me mean less as I like bowlers more. And as for Imran, Wasim, Waqar, Inzi and Aqib they can walk into any 11 anyday on just sheer talent let alone their records.

  • fanedlive on September 1, 2010, 1:26 GMT

    I completely agree with Rajesh NJ... though i have to mention that some nations dont have any players left who can play good cricket. The only one or two new players they produce, somehow turn into match or 'spot' fixers. Its a pity that cricket is getting all the blame for such actions.

  • fanedlive on August 31, 2010, 8:07 GMT

    acc. to many websites after assosiation football ,cricket is the 2nd most popular sport.I want it to be most loved sport around globe in 50 years but o boy,this is not the way to go.wake up ICC ! Maybe moral lectures and psychologists is a better idea than filthy bookies!!! ALL I WANNA SAY IS THAT THEY DONT REALLY CARE ABOUT US!

  • fanedlive on August 31, 2010, 7:54 GMT

    We all know that players of almost all nations were involved in ball tampering and match fixing or something like that.

    With the likes of Warne, Mark Waugh, Azharuddin, Jadeeja, Cronje, Gibbs and others. Ian Botham was also involved in ball tampering.

    we can't say that players of only one nation involves in all these matters.

    So dont say that thay are bad and all others are clean.

  • fanedlive on August 31, 2010, 7:37 GMT

    The 3rd test victory was dedicated to the flood victims of Pakistan. I wonder who this is dedicated to.

  • fanedlive on August 31, 2010, 6:38 GMT

    @VivaVizag

    Jadega, Azharuddin and Modi are angels, arn't they?

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