Hindustantimes wants to start sending you push notifications. Click allow to subscribe

'Corruptors don't target result, no-balls, toss, but 2 overs of a T20 game'

International Cricket Council's anti-corruption chief Alex Marshall says his organisation has helped prevent corruptors influencing players in international cricket 
ICC's anti-corruption chief Alex Marshall(Getty)
Published on Nov 16, 2021 03:49 PM IST
By, Dubai

There was no case of corruption that came to light in the T20 World Cup in UAE. Does that mean the game is squeaky clean? Far from it. Corruptors look to target lesser, obscure leagues with unfancied players. There are many grey areas in elite cricket too. International Cricket Council Anti-corruption Unit (ACU) GM, Alex Marshall, addressed some of these issues in a chat with select media. Edited excerpts… 

Every ICC World Cup is an opportunity to take stock. Where would you say you are now?

We have a reasonable picture on who is corrupting cricket. A small number of people also corrupt other sport, but mostly cricket corruptors stick to cricket. We have charged 22 people over the last 2-3 years who have breached the code. That’s only part of it. We are really trying to disrupt the corruptors who are outside the code. We go anywhere in the world. We tell them we know exactly what you did, we know you approached, keep away from our game. We charge quite a few people. There are a lot of investigations going on.   

We have had some success. I say that because they are going to lower and lower levels. A good example would be that the same corruptors (of international matches) are now going after the European league. Basically, the players they are approaching there are asylum seekers. They offer them 3,000 Euros to underperform. We caught a lot of people. We are seeing corruptors trying to buy people they think are more vulnerable.   

RELATED STORIES

With the proliferation of T20 cricket, has it become more difficult?   

We take care of international cricket. For example, you will see England, Australia, India, Pakistan who have got a sizeable ACU. We just share intelligence with them. The vulnerability comes in franchise tournaments where there is a lack of care about who the franchise owners are. Our experience from the past two years is that the most persistent corrupters will try and get a grip within the franchise. Name is of the owner but the backing comes from corruptors sitting behind them. When the Lanka Premier League and T10 asked us to do work for them, we took out some corruptors. Other leagues do that themselves.

With the UAE players, we intercepted a plot and caught them before they do it. Most of the players we charged were in attempt to do it.   

Are you comfortable with individual boards taking care of their leagues? Won't they have their own prestige to safeguard?   

Since the start of anti-corruption, it is the practice that domestic boards are involved in their anti-corruption. (BCCI used ICC’s ACU services until 2018). There are 2,500 domestic matches in India and I can't even conceive how you could do that from one place globally. I haven't got an issue with it if it is done professionally and there are good examples around the world. You would always think some boards would find it more difficult financially. For them it is always a risk that they can’t put their resources into it.   

We are talking about the high-profile league where international players are involved. 

That is how cricket has changed. When ICC was set up there was domestic cricket and international cricket. Now there is franchise cricket as well where half the international players are involved. So yeah, that's a perfectly fair point, the nature of cricket has changed. We do get asked to cover some of those franchise tournaments. 

For those lesser leagues, do you think you should have the freedom to go in without being asked? 

Not while the ICC is constructed the way it is, which is a member responsible for their own country. What's important for me is we exchange intelligence and information.   

Do you think more can be done to safeguard those lesser leagues better?   

What the ICC has done regularly is sanctioning the leagues of a non-full member where more than four international players are involved. The other thing we are doing across the world is issuing guidance on what the due diligence questions you should be asking of interested franchise owners.   

We have worked out there are some key things you would want to know. He might genuinely be a lover of cricket who wants to lose money every year in a franchise tournament but there might be other reasons why someone wants to lose money five years in a row supporting a franchise. For example, where does all the money come from? Are they the sole financer or are there a series of people behind them who are providing the money?  Franchise owners are involved in the code. The one anomaly who is not in is the person who runs the event—the event company isn't covered. That's something we will look at in the future. 

Do corruptors continue to target the captains?   

Corruptors target the captain. They like the opening batters and the opening bowlers for obvious cricketing reasons, they get control. The way they change their approach is because nearly all those people report to us, they will try and put before them an ex-player or a team manager. Last Lanka Premier League we saw an ex-player used and the police got involved. You see a shift where they corrupt someone who knows the captain in the hope they will be able to persuade.   

They are usually trying to manipulate, in a T20, two overs or at the most four overs. It’s not the result, not the toss, not the no ball; it’s an element, a phase of the game.   

Do betting data and patterns help? 

We have very good relationships with the regulated betting industry and they talk to us a lot. How they make their money is run algorithms that are based on reliable data. So if something upsets the data because it’s an unusual thing, that ruins their algorithm and they start losing money. So strangely, professional gamblers have got a real interest in cricket being honest because that’s how they make their money—by predicting what is, on average, likely to happen. So, they're very good at alerting us to what they think might be an anomaly or we've seen a shift in the market before this bowler has come on, whatever. 

But that's the regulated market. The real money is in the unregulated market (there); they can sometimes bring some money across into the regulated market and use proxy accounts. So, occasionally in those accounts you'll see something strange. But in most cases, it is happening but no one can see it because it’s unregulated. The Indian government has decided to make betting illegal, and until that was to change, it will be an unregulated market. 

Has the battle shifted to the grey segment from international cricket? 

The simple answer is yes. The slightly longer answer is that all the corrupters will do is look for vulnerability. If they believe an individual player has problems in their life that makes them more vulnerable than someone else, maybe they’re massively in debt or something. So for them money might be attractive, they will always look for that vulnerability.   

So I never dismiss the idea that it can happen in top level international cricket—it’s just, generally speaking, if you take the teams out on the pitch today, in a group, they’ve got good management around them, they’ve had loads of anti-corruption education, they know to send us a message immediately they get someone saying, I want to sponsor your bat or anything that seems out of the ordinary, they’ll tell us. So, if you’re a corruptor, it is really hard to try and gain access to that group. Whereas if you’re in a league where everything’s jumbled up and not in a tight group, and they don’t know each other, and they don’t know the team manager, they’ve never met the coach, they haven’t got any friends around them, and they’re in a country they’re not normally in, if you’re a corrupter, you’re thinking that’s a better opportunity. If you managed to get into the ownership of the team, now you’re on the inside...   

Is making sports betting legal in India the need of the hour?

In terms of the unregulated betting markets, if they are regulated, you can view them, you can run algorithms and you can identify anomalies that are happening in betting. A recent example is just before a bowler came on in a franchise league, there is a massive swing in the betting market saying the bowler is about to concede a whole lot of runs. In a regulated market, it is great for us. You get a warning about what’s happening. When it’s unregulated you can’t do it, and the Indian betting market is enormous. It’s for the Indian government to decide what they want to do about it. 

What about corruptors possibly influencing fantasy leagues that have come up all over the sub-continent? 

To the extent of this fantasy, it is points and people might win money and prizes for having points. But actually, it is points based on performance of the players, so we’ve got no interest in fantasy leagues. But if we’ve found that it was being used as another way of making illegal money for manipulating play, we’ll be very interested.   

But so far, fantasy league doesn’t appear… of course, if you’ve affected the performance of a player, they’d get fewer points in fantasy leagues, so you can sort of see how it connects. But frankly, if you were a very rich bookie and you wanted to do some corruption, your best way of making money is to know that the first two overs of this match are going to concede more than 15 or 20 runs. You can take as many bets as you like for under because you know what’s going to happen, huge sums of money.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Start 15 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
This site uses cookies

This site and its partners use technology such as cookies to personalize content and ads and analyse traffic. By using this site you agree to its privacy policy. You can change your mind and revisit your choices at anytime in future.

OPEN APP