“Now, whenever people look back on a surprising event in a game or a surprising result or whenever in the future there are surprising events or results, followers of the game who have paid good money to watch it live or to watch it on TV, in the shape of licence money or TV subscriptions, will be led to wonder whether there has been a fix and whether what they have been watching is a genuine contest between bat and ball.”
So, in his sentencing remarks at Southwark Crown Court today, Mr Justice Cooke, showed his thorough understanding both of the insidious effects of the criminal actions and the way those who commission fixing profit from their deeds.
“It is the insidious effect of your actions on professional cricket and the followers of it which make the offences so serious. The image and integrity of what was once a game, but is now a business is damaged in the eyes of all, including the many youngsters who regarded three of you as heroes and would have given their eye teeth to play at the levels and with the skill that you had.”
The trial has at last given publicity to the purpose of the three no balls at Lord’s. They were a means to show gamblers that many aspects of play – not just no-balls – could be fixed.
Third Man argued at the time that the real money is being made not especially in so called spot betting (on events like no-balls) but in spread betting where, for example, the cheats in the gambling world ‘buy’ runs when the chances of a low score have been developed by the cheats on the field and profit in a highly leveraged way when the cheats on the field then allow runs to be scored well in excess of the purchased ‘spread’.
This requires the complicity of a number of players and surely cannot be kept secret from others. The code of the dressing room; what goes on there remains there; may explain why teams in which corruption is taking place appear to be fraught with dissension, excused as disharmony over egos or tactics, when it is most likely to be bitter disagreements between the conspiritors and the rest, with only the most experienced and invulnerable able to stand up to the bullying and criminal cheats.
The paymasters of those cheats prosper when the unexpected is for them not unexpected. From now on, surprising events and surprising results, instead of being a part of cricket’s great attraction, its unpredictability, will be a cause for suspicion and doubt – a cancer attacking the game’s most vital organ.
Cricketing romantics will want to believe that Broad’s 169, batting at number 9 in the Lord’s Test in 2010 was achieved in a fair contest but sadly no one will ever now be sure, not least Board himself.
Neither will Australian’s bowling performance in the final innings of the SCG Test earlier in the same year be safe from suspicion nor many more individual feats with bat and ball in recent matches against Pakistan.
Remembering the bizarre dropped catches in the early Tests in England that summer, to paraphrase Mr Justice Cooke, ‘followers of the game will be left to wonder whether there was a fix and whether what they watched was a genuine contest between bat and ball.’
Third Man knows what he thinks, as he expressed in part yesterday.
The full text of the judge’s remarks can be found here.