Ajman League ICC investigation highlights corruption vulnerability of T20 cricket

The disgraceful scenes from the United Arab Emirates in the Ajman All Stars League are currently being investigated by the International Cricket Council (ICC). (Screen grab)
Updated 31 January 2018

Ajman League ICC investigation highlights corruption vulnerability of T20 cricket

BANGALORE: The disgraceful scenes from the United Arab Emirates in the Ajman All Stars League, currently being investigated by the International Cricket Council (ICC), should surprise no one. Twenty20 cricket has been a great vehicle for cricket to expand its horizons, but the mushrooming of private leagues around the world — most of them conducted without any official approval, as the Ajman tournament was — has made them the prime focus for the twin scourges of spot-fixing and its big brother, match-fixing. 
Despite the hype, the reality is that the vast majority of such tournaments haemorrhage money. Cricket South Africa’s embarrassing failure to get its Global Cricket League off the runway earlier this season was a stark reminder of that. Even most Indian Premier League (IPL) franchises, with the gargantuan weight of cricket’s biggest ecosystem behind them, took several years to break even.
When the anti-corruption units, both the ICC’s and those run by individual boards, are not in the fray, unsavoury elements are noticeable at matches.

In December 2007, while India and Pakistan were playing a Test series — the last between the two sides before political relations took a turn for the worse — the Indian Cricket League (ICL) began with much fanfare. It was bankrolled by Zee TV, whose relations with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had soured over what it deemed the arbitrary termination of its rights to telecast India’s overseas matches.
The ICL was doomed from the start. Lalit Modi was putting together the IPL, and there was no way the Indian board was going to countenance a rival competition in its backyard. Indian players on the fringes did sign up, but the foreign contingent mainly comprised those on Retirement Avenue, looking out for one last lucrative payday. 
Soon after it began, a friend tipped me off about a pub in the heart of Delhi. There, you could make every kind of bet possible, from the number of no-balls bowled in an innings, to how many runs would be scored off the third ball of the eighth over. When people think fixing, they often picture players tanking games. The reality is far more nuanced.
In the IPL spot-fixing case of 2013, the wagers were apparently over the minimum number of runs that would be scored in a certain over. 
“Most of these leagues are all about fixing,” said Michael Holding, the West Indies cricket legend who refuses to even commentate on the games.
“Look through the numbers and see how much money they lose each year. You think the team owners are running charitable trusts?”

Holding’s views were supported by Australia’s Dirk Nannes in an interview with ABC Grandstand.
“The owners weren’t allowed on the ground, but there would be a team manager going to the owner and saying, ‘What are we doing next’, then going to the coach,” he said about his time in the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL). “The security guys were saying enough was enough. But it just kept going on. The owners were sitting there on the phone. The owners were demanding that they be in constant touch with the coach because that’s why they bought the team.”
The Ajman case was fixing at its worst, almost a spoof version, so ham-handed were the performances. But those expressing outrage over it would do well to examine the bigger tournaments. From the IPL downwards, no tournament is safe.


Lewandowski scores 30th goal of season as Bayern close on title

Updated 07 June 2020

Lewandowski scores 30th goal of season as Bayern close on title

  • Bayern struck twice in quick succession just before half-time to turn the game in their favor

BERLIN: Robert Lewandowski scored his 30th league goal of the season on Saturday as Bayern Munich came from behind to claim a 4-2 victory at Bayer Leverkusen and move a step closer to the Bundesliga title.

After Lucas Alario secured an early lead for the home side, Bayern struck twice in quick succession just before half-time to turn the game in their favor after Kingsley Coman’s equalizer.

Lewandowski netted in the second half as Bayern established a 10-point lead over title rivals Borussia Dortmund, who host Hertha Berlin later on Saturday.

The game also saw Bayern lend their support to protests over the death of black American man George Floyd, with all their players wearing armbands bearing the slogan “Black Lives Matter.”

With their talisman and Bayern transfer target Kai Havertz ruled out with a muscle injury, Leverkusen turned to Alario to lead the line against the champions.

The Argentine delivered after just 9 minutes, beating the offside trap after a throw-in to slot the ball past Manuel Neuer.

A mistake from Moussa Diaby allowed Coman to curl in the equalizer, before a fizzing shot from Leon Goretzka and an elegant lob from Serge Gnabry saw Bayern take a 2-goal lead before half-time.

Lewandowski finished the job with a well-placed header after the break, reaching the 30-goal mark for only the second time in his Bundesliga career, but there was still time for 17-year-old Florian Wirtz to curl in a consolation goal for Leverkusen before the final whistle.

Elsewhere, a late equalizer from Christian Strohdiek gave bottom-of-the-table Paderborn a faint glimmer of hope in the race for survival, as they snatched a 1-1 draw away to RB Leipzig.

Chelsea-bound Leipzig striker Timo Werner set up Patrik Schick on 27 minutes to give Leipzig the lead, but they were forced to defend it with 10 men after Dayot Upamecano was booked twice in the first half.

Strohdiek’s last-minute strike gave Paderborn their fourth draw in five games, though Steffen Baumgart’s side remain 8 points off Fortuna Duesseldorf who occupy the relegation playoff place.

Duesseldorf themselves missed the chance to move toward safety, as they battled to a dramatic 2-2 draw against 10-man Hoffenheim.

A headed opener from Rouwen Hennings and a red card for Hoffenheim’s Benjamin Huebner put the home side in pole position, but the visitors struck back with goals from Munas Dabbur and Steven Zuber before Hennings saved a point with a late penalty.

Uwe Roesler’s side remain 3 points adrift of survival, after goals from Moussa Niakhate and Pierre Kunde Malong gave fellow strugglers Mainz a rare 2-0 win over local rivals Eintracht Frankfurt.