Avoid Dubai T20 carnival

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A sting operation by TV channel Al Jazeera has, prima facie, unearthed evidence of serious wrongdoing in cricket, highlighting the vulnerability of the T20 format to fixing, and suggesting that match-fixers had influenced four Test matches played in the Indian subcontinent. Al Jazeera claims that in two Tests — played in Galle, Sri Lanka — the pitch was ‘doctored’ at the behest of the fixers. In the two other Tests — India vs Australia at Ranchi in 2017 and India vs England at Chennai in 2016 — three English players and two from Australia were “involved” with the fixers. An alleged fixer provided information to an undercover reporter about patterns of play by English and Australian batsmen. These, the channel claims, proved accurate. Some of the claims seem far-fetched — the Galle pitch-fixing is improbable, for instance, because the home team actually wanted such wickets. Also, the “predictions” by the fixer could actually be part of a regular day’s cricket, like playing cautiously after the fall of early wickets, or not trying to score runs in the last over before lunch or tea. This is what most coaches recommend. However, it would be prudent to treat the allegations with seriousness, especially the plans to set up a T20 league in Dubai. Several cricketers — including former internationals from Sri Lanka and Pakistan — have been caught on camera agreeing to be part of a corrupt T20 league. They also provided explicit details of how matches could be fixed, and how a player while batting could send signals to the fixers/bettors. These details are eerily similar to the details that emerged from the 2013 IPL spot-fixing and betting scandal. The International Cricket Council has started an investigation and the cricket boards of India and Australia have reacted with caution, but that of England has emphatically rejected the allegations. Three English and two Australian cricketers in the grip of fixers with links to the underworld defy belief. But remember, when the allegations against South African captain Hansie Cronje first emerged in 2000, not one person was willing to believe them, but we all know how that story went.

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