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Thursday, Oct 24, 2019

Review: The Fix by Omar Shahid Hamid

The Fix, which features Pakistan’s women’s cricket team, gives the reader a good idea of how the betting mafia works

books Updated: Oct 11, 2019 19:37 IST
Biswadeep Ghosh
Biswadeep Ghosh
Hindustan Times
Pakistani wicketkeeper Sidra Nawaz (L) celebrates after West Indies cricketer Shermaine Campbelle is clean bowled during the third and last T20 match between the Pakistan and West Indies' women’s cricket teams at the Southend Club Cricket Stadium in Karachi on February 3, 2019.
Pakistani wicketkeeper Sidra Nawaz (L) celebrates after West Indies cricketer Shermaine Campbelle is clean bowled during the third and last T20 match between the Pakistan and West Indies' women’s cricket teams at the Southend Club Cricket Stadium in Karachi on February 3, 2019.(AFP)
         
264pp, Rs 399; PanMacmillan
264pp, Rs 399; PanMacmillan

Writing a novel on women’s cricket is a superb idea. Writing a novel on the entry of match-fixing in women’s cricket is an even better one. That’s because we have come across many real-life stories of former male cricketers and bookies, who tainted the game’s reputation by indulging in match-fixing. That is not the case with women’s cricket, which is rarely hyped, has far less money for the players and seems to be unattractive to the betting mafia.

Omar Shahid Hamid’s fourth novel, The Fix, takes the reader deep inside the world of cricket in Pakistan. The novel’s protagonist is Sanam Khan, captain of Pakistan’s women’s cricket team. Sanam, an all-rounder who bowls really fast and is a hard-hitting batsman, comes from a privileged background. She has dreamt just one dream all her life: winning the World Cup for her country.

Fatima Shah and Sanam are different. The vice-captain and an immensely talented batsman, Fatima is foul mouthed. Her father is a cricket coach but he isn’t proud of his daughter’s talent. That is the opposite of how Sanam’s cricket-loving father responds to her passion for the game.

The team has several gifted players, and its success in the Asia Cup turns the spotlight on them. The masses discover new stars, and the cricket board is forced to give them five-star comfort when they go on to participate in the World Cup. As one of the favourites, the team attracts the attention of the powerful and wealthy mafia.

The Fix has all the ingredients of a typical best seller whose appeal won’t be limited to followers of cricket. The author’s style is simple and racy. Though this is a work of fiction, Hamid gives the reader a good idea of how the betting mafia works, how bets are placed, and what bookies usually want.

For instance, they approach players, offer expensive gifts and money to engage in spot-fixing. That could mean bowling a loose delivery at a fixed time in the match or batting slowly for a certain number of overs. How the players respond after they are tempted depends on their priorities and sense of morality.

Omar Shahid Hamid
Omar Shahid Hamid ( Courtesy the publisher )

A crucial subplot talks about how some members in the men’s team had conspired to throw a huge match in Pakistan’s cricketing history. Will the women led by Sanam succumb to greed like their male counterparts? As questionable characters emerge from the shadows and certain players interact with them, the novel answers this question.

The Fix has sport, ambition, tragedy and despair. Love is in the air after Sanam falls for Faisal Qureshi, aka FQ, a former cricketer with a dubious history and wrong associations with whom she has a passionate affair. Ovais Tawheed, another former star becomes addicted to alcohol and drugs and walks towards self-destruction. Dark truths emerge as the story hurtles towards an unexpected climax.

Read more: Review: The Story of a Long Distance Marriage by Siddhesh Inamdar

The novel tells the story of betting in cricket and of how bookies lure scapegoats with wealth. The book does not take actual names but reminds the reader that some Pakistani male players have been allegedly guilty of accepting money to script pre-planned moments while playing for their country.

A gripping read with surprising twists and turns, The Fix keeps readers interested.

Omar Shahid Hamid has delivered an important story of our times.

Biswadeep Ghosh is an independent journalist. He lives in Patna.

First Published: Oct 11, 2019 19:37 IST

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