Although delayed, this year’s edition of the IPL has already created much excitement and buzz around itself right from the word go. Initial reports have shown that this year’s edition is the most-watched IPL tournament in history, with a record number of viewers tuning in to their television sets and streaming devices to catch the live-action. As the tournament has just crossed the halfway mark, there have already been many huge scores, close run chases, and 4 tied matches! Bettors have had a roller coaster ride with the IPL betting odds swinging wildly during the course of the tournament. You can visit this site to see the betting odds on all upcoming cricket matches.
And just like every year’s edition, with so many close finishes, rumors about match-fixing have already started. These rumors were further fanned by a now-deleted, controversial tweet by the Mumbai Indians. In the 27th match of the tournament, MI took on the DC. After winning the toss, the DC decided to bat first. At the end of the first over, the official handle of team MI mistakenly tweeted the copy-pasted score of RR from their previous encounter, which was 164/5 in 19.5 overs, attributing it to the DC. Although the tweet was deleted subsequently, the DC finished off with an eerily similar score of 162/4.
This error has again fueled the speculation that IPL matches and probably the entire tournament is fixed. The integrity of the tournament has already been marred once by the spot-fixing scandal of 2013, which led to the banning of pacer S Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan, and Ajit Chandila. The owners of the team also faced suspension.
This should be considered as a one-off event and it is not proper to call the entire tournament rigged due to a few stray incidents. And there are a lot of reasons to believe that widespread match-fixing cannot be possible.
Reputation and money
The IPL, which was the brainchild of BCCI, first began in 2008. Since its inception, it has been considered as one of the biggest sporting leagues in the world and was ranked 6th biggest in terms of the average attendance numbers in 2014. According to a Duff & Phelps report of 2019, the total brand value of the IPL is estimated to be 6.7 billion dollars.
The franchise owners are some of the most reputed business houses and film stars of the country. It is hard to believe that given the huge amount of money and reputation at stake on the credibility of the tournament, the owners and the BCCI would turn a blind eye towards fixing.
Career of players
The IPL has provided a stage and an opportunity for hundreds of young cricketers to showcase their talent. These youngsters have toiled hard and sweated it out in domestic tournaments, just to get a chance to be selected to play alongside the best players in the world.
Each year, young uncapped players from India and abroad, are picked up from the auctions by the teams, sometimes for astronomical sums of money. Other than the money, each young player will have an ultimate dream, to be selected to play for their national team.
Knowing that the consequences of being involved in any sort of fixing can be debilitating for their careers and that they could face a lifetime ban from the sport that they have so passionately played, would be a restraining factor in itself for the players.
Fixing a match is tough!
Cricket is a team game. In order to affect the outcome of a game, the fixer needs to have an influence over a majority of the 22 players playing the game. Although there might be a few `black sheep´ playing the sport, it is highly improbable that an entire team, or possibly both the teams would play under the directions of a match-fixer.
There have been a few stray incidents of spot-fixing in the past. But it is important to differentiate between match-fixing and spot-fixing. Spot-fixing involves only one or a couple of players, and can only influence the outcome of one delivery, one over, or one wicket. While it can be extremely hard to prevent, the impact that it has on the overall outcome of the match is very limited.
A more robust setup
The ICC’s Anti Corruption Unit has released stricter guidelines, making it much more difficult for any player or match official to indulge in any sort of fixing. If any violation of the code is found, it can attract harsh punishments. In addition, the ICC has tied up with Interpol to ensure worldwide police cooperation in any case of corruption found within the sport.
For this year’s IPL, the BCCI has tied up with a UK based firm Sportradar, which will be offering Fraud Detection Services in order to curb match-fixing. The company has worked with UEFA and FIFA among other major leagues and had recently red-flagged a number of matches in the recent Goa football league for alleged match-fixing.
The Fraud Detection Service works by keeping an eye on approximately 600 bookmakers and detects any anomaly in the betting pattern. It also maintains a database of the odds offered by these bookmakers, and using sophisticated algorithms, it can detect any manipulation or leverage of these odds. Apart from the bookmakers, the service also keeps an eye on the fantasy cricket companies to look out for any unwarranted movements.
Social media campaigns
Each year as the IPL begins, numerous hashtags start emerging all over the social media, including #scripted and #matchfixing. Almost all of these trends are started by individuals who have zero understanding of the sport and are conspiracy theorists looking to stoke up unnecessary controversies surrounding the tournament.
As the popularity of betting on cricket has increased, the bookmakers, both online and offline, have become more and more sophisticated. Such companies use complex algorithms to monitor the pattern of betting on their platform. If there are sudden changes in the pattern, say in the scenario of a match being fixed, the algorithm can swiftly detect the aberration and flag the bet. This makes it easy to detect potential fraud.
Therefore, rather than believing and spreading such conspiracies because of a few past incidents, we should all respect the passion, dedication and hard work put in by the players, and enjoy this great `gentleman’s game´.