Betting on cricket August 20, 2009

Punters stake $70 million on Oval Test

Prakash Gosavi

The Ashes decider at The Oval may well be the most eagerly anticipated contest in recent memory, for fans, media and the players themselves. But the fifth Test will have a lot more riding on it than just the destination of the famous urn or bragging rights for the next couple of years. Informed estimates suggest that punters around the world may have staked well over US$70 million on the result of the Test - and thus the series - beginning today.

The sheer volume of money at stake would also explain why an Australian player was approached by a bookie after the Lord's Test, as revealed by Cricinfo.

Betfair, the leading P2P (person to person) betting exchange based in the UK, had already matched bets worth US$4.8 million by Wednesday afternoon. Given that Betfair generally accounts for nearly half of the total volume logged in the UK, the total betting on the winner of the Ashes series will far exceed the figure of US$10 million by the time the first ball is bowled at the Oval. And though cricket may not yet have taken off on the continent, betting on it is surprisingly energetic, with approximately US$3 million placed on the result.

However, these figures are dwarfed by those coming out of the illegal betting market in India, as befits the financial centre of the game. It is estimated that each of the preceding four Ashes Tests has seen between US$30 million and US$41 million (Rs 150-200 crore) wagered on the result. For the series win (called 'cup betting' in India), those figures increase to between US$50-61 million (Rs 250-300 crore). Indian bookies, like their English counterparts, have sensed the series shift in momentum towards Australia; on Wednesday afternoon, the odds on Australia winning at The Oval on the Indian market were 2.40, England winning it 4 to 1 and a draw at 1.25. Betfair (on Thursday, hours before the start), offered odds of an Australian win at 2.42, England 5.2 and a draw 2.5.

These amounts are restricted only to match and series winner, however, and once the Test begins much more will be wagered. For most in India, the popular bets are on the result, and about 95% of the estimated 1.5 million regular punters place their money on this. However, some bookies and very big punters bet huge amounts between themselves on what is called "fancy sauda". This can be on anything, from estimating innings scores, top scorers or wicket-takers and staking from Rs 100-10,000 per run against the difference in team totals. It can take in small details, such as who will bowl the next over from which end and how many runs will be scored in an over, or off the next delivery. Putting a realistic figure on these transactions is difficult and though there are very few punters involved in this, the stakes can often be very high.

Bookmakers, such as Ladbrokes and William Hill, used to stop taking bets after the toss in any match. But once they discovered how bookies from the subcontinent actually made more money after matches had begun, on fancy sauda, they too embraced the system. Thus 'In Play' betting - placing bets when the Test begins, where odds are re-worked with every ball bowled, every run scored - now accounts for the largest chunk of betting on any contest.

Though the figures for the last Test seem impressive, the decider is actually thought to be a low-volume contest in India. There are two reasons for this. One, this is a decider, so the winner (if it does not end in a draw) of this Test and the series is going to be the same, and since there are bets already riding on the series winner category, it does not make much sense for them to increase the ante. Two, New Zealand's series with Sri Lanka has diverted the hearts and wallets of punters not only in the subcontinent, but also to an extent in Europe, where bets over US$5 million had already been placed by the second day of the Test. In India, sources estimate that nearly US$80 million (Rs400 crore) are already placed on the first Test, and nearly US$60 million (Rs300 crore) on the series winner.

Prakash Gosavi is a Mumbai-based journalist, specialising in sports betting

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Estie on August 22, 2009, 12:09 GMT

    The problems with all the good ideas are, that they are only good IDEAS. They will never be put into practise - for various reasons. The other problems is that we have to do with MONEY, and, invariably, whenever there is money, there is someone, somewhere, getting very rich - very seldom legally and without stepping on people. And, yes, it is a laudible idea that it would create jobs and put money into the tax coffers, but we all know that the money - invariably - does not end up where it is most needed (and where it was originally - and with great fanfare - intended to go...). Rules and laws are only created for the people who cannot control themselves and behave in a manner that hurts their fellow-man. And these people will therefore not be bound by rules either - because the core-thrill of it all lies in it 'being illegal'. Keep money out of sport - all sport. The excitement should lie in who wins, or who performs, not in how much money I get.

  • Chinmay on August 22, 2009, 6:12 GMT

    I disagree about people saying betting should be legalized in India. Sorry, but that will simply not work.

    The betting market in India is controlled by the Mumbai underworld. Legalise it, and you will just provide them with a great avenue for money laundering.

  • Muhammad on August 22, 2009, 3:46 GMT

    once was the time when cricket was said as a game of gentlemen.......Is it still a gentlemen's game....cant believe. Ashes is a legendry series for history of cricket and when we hear the wrong doings done in it.....then what to see for.....? will there be any other series like Ashes in history again?

  • Mandar on August 21, 2009, 2:48 GMT

    DId anyone think that these people were out of business ? They probably doing it without fixing matches. But now they are trying to involve players. However I do agree, it should be made legal, but in an economy like India even making it legal would be illegal. Eventually I dont care if they bet gamle legal or illegal as long as players dont get involved. In the end its just glorified, for example me and dad bet $20, one on england and one on Aus.

  • Shantan Kumar on August 20, 2009, 20:05 GMT

    Not sure why it is a disgrace? If people can bet on horses, then betting on human beings playing a cricket match is not that bad, eh! We in India think that "betting" is akin to "fixing" a match. It is not and if people understand the difference, then it might be accepted more easily.

    I agree with CricketLover73, think about the amount of tax revenue the government can get from legalizing betting. There will be additional employment generated and our police force can be released to look at more dangerous things going on in society. I understand we Indians are pretty conservative, but don't we allow betting on horses or gambling in clubs? Why should an additional avenue to generate tax revenue not be tapped?

  • Hashaam on August 20, 2009, 18:58 GMT

    It is not a disgrace, betting is a legal and enjoyable activity when exercised in moderation. The vast sums of money bodes well for crickets popularity. India would be wise to legalize it and tax betting, otherwise keep your moral judgments out of our business.

  • Akshat on August 20, 2009, 18:42 GMT

    Yes, I agrre that legalising betting can generate a hell lot of popularity and other stuff. But, the reason that it is thought of as a disgrace is because, the money involved is so high, it would be difficult to keep the punters under check, who might approach players, in order to save their own money.!!

    Or otherwise, betting should be legalised and a portion of the total amount of betting should be equally divided among all the players of the match, so they don't get attracted to "fixing".

    I don't know what can be done, but the least should be to keep sports away from anything that is illegal. :(

  • Sri on August 20, 2009, 17:55 GMT

    I am not sure how many people are aware that cricket as a sport gained popularity in England in the late 18th early 19th century simply because it was a gambler's dream. The betters and the bookies popularized the sport. Matches were organized simply to make money from gambling. It can be argued that if it were not for betting, the game would probably have never gained popularity and become the sport it is today. Imagine the amount of good that can come out of legalizing betting on cricket in India. The tax that can be collected, the legal jobs that can be created. We should stop thinking of betting as a disgrace to the game and embrace it as part of the game. Setup rules and laws for both the bookies and the betters.

  • satyanand on August 20, 2009, 17:05 GMT

    salmaan i also agree with you its really disgrace for the game

  • Muhammad on August 20, 2009, 16:31 GMT

    its a disgrace for the game ..

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