Pakistan fixing scandal throws focus on India

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Young Indian cricketers were warned of the perils of corruption following the illicit gambling allegations levelled against the Pakistani team in England.

Updated: August 31, 2010 09:11 IST
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New Delhi:

Young Indian cricketers were on Tuesday warned of the perils of corruption following the illicit gambling allegations levelled against the Pakistani team in England.

Former India captain Anil Kumble, asked if he feared players from his own country could in future be hauled up, said: "Of course I am worried.

"These days youngsters who have not even played for India have agents," Kumble, one of the game's elder statesmen in India, told a TV channel.

A British tabloid claimed over the weekend that a middleman gave undercover reporters exact details of no-balls to be bowled by Pakistani seamers Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif during the Lord's Test against England.

The News of the World said it had paid the middleman, Mazhar Majeed, 150,000 pounds (230,000 dollars) for information on the practice of spot-fixing, which is widespread in illegal South Asian betting circles.

Majeed, who claimed to be an agent for several Pakistani cricketers, told the newspaper he worked for an "Indian party".

"They pay me for information," Majeed was recorded as saying.

The identity of the "Indian party" is being probed by Scotland Yard investigators.

Many observers point to India's huge influence over the International Cricket Council (ICC), which has been attacked by critics for failing to clean up the game.

India, cricket's financial powerhouse, accounts for nearly 70 percent of the game's global revenues and is regarded as the hotbed for betting syndicates and match-fixers.

Matthew Engel, a former Wisden editor, on Tuesday described the ICC as "a notoriously dysfunctional organisation, controlled by Indian interests and obsessed with political and financial manoeuvring".

The shady world of Indian bookmakers came to light in a match-fixing scandal in 2000 that led to life bans for Test captains Hansie Cronje (South Africa), Mohammad Azharuddin (India) and Salim Malik (Pakistan).

The scandal broke when New Delhi police, working on an unrelated extortion case, tapped a conversation between Cronje and an alleged bookie.

India's federal Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which probed the 2000 scandal, alluded to the underworld's links with cricket in its report.

"During the inquiry," the CBI report said, "it was learnt that the lure of easy money has gradually attracted the underworld into this racket".

Cronje, who accepted having links with bookmakers but denied he was involved in match-fixing, was killed in a mysterious plane crash near Cape Town in 2002.

Betting on sports is illegal in India except at horse races, but major betting syndicates have been in operation for many years taking advantage of the country's lax gambling laws.

The Hindustan Times on Tuesday quoted police as saying that bookies, when caught, get away with a paltry fine of 200 rupees (less than five dollars).

"First it is a bailable offence, second, electronic evidence is not admissible in court," the newspaper quoted a police officer involved in anti-gambling investigations as saying.

"We have to keep a check on the activities of these bookies but they take advantage of the law. Since international markets are also involved, we cannot do much."

The lucrative Indian Premier League, where players from around the world earn millions of dollars in the game's crowd-friendly Twenty20 format, was a key target for the sport's anti-corruption watchdog.

But the ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit gave a clean slate to the event's third edition this year after being kept away by organisers for the first two years.

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