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.


‘Significant’ virus spread could thwart NBA restart, says Silver

Updated 30 min 18 sec ago

‘Significant’ virus spread could thwart NBA restart, says Silver

  • The NBA halted play on March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus

LOS ANGELES: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver reiterated Tuesday that a “significant spread” of coronavirus could burst the league’s safety “bubble” and cause a second shutdown of the season.

Silver said he fully expects some players who gather in Florida to resume the suspended season will test positive for coronavirus, especially as teams first arrive in Orlando from their home markets.

But he said fresh outbreaks after players go through quarantine procedures could prove more damaging.

“Certainly, if we had any sort of a significant spread at all within our campus, we would be shut down again,” Silver said at Fortune’s virtual Brainstorm Health conference.

“It would be concerning if once (the players) sit through our quarantine period, and then were to test positive, we would know that, in essence, there’s a hole in our bubble.”

The NBA halted play on March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus.

The season is set to resume on July 30 with 22 teams jockeying for a spot in the 16-team playoffs that start Aug. 17.

All games will be held at the ESPN Sports Complex at Walt Disney World in Orlando, where players will stay in a quarantine environment.

Coronavirus testing and contact tracing measures will be in place, which Silver hopes will make the campus safe for players and NBA personnel despite the rise in COVID-19 cases in Florida.

“We can analyze the virus itself and try to track whether, if there’s more than one case, if it’s in essence the same virus, the same genetic variation of the virus that has passed from one player to another,” Silver said.

“This should work,” he said.

“But again, this virus has humbled many, so I am not going to express any higher level of confidence than we are following the protocols and we hope it works as we designed it.”