Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 29, 2010

Cricket and Gambling

I like gambling. I don’t do much of it, but I have a modest shareholding and what is that if not a gamble? And what are the pensions that will support us in old age, if not a wager that what we “spend” today will set us up for the future? I even like the kind of gambling that goes on in Las Vegas, as the spectacle, the food, the sheer pleasure of the place sweetly separates you from your money.

And I like gambling because without it, we would not have cricket. In the 18th and 19th centuries, gambling was the catalyst that sparked the game into life. It brought together the Lords (and helped construct Lord’s) and paupers and all points in between, to watch and play a game that takes much time (and then as much as now, time was money) to play and to practise. Without gambling, cricket could have gone the way of croquet or polo – esoteric pursuits of the eccentric English.

Cricket owes gambling plenty – but gambling cannot own cricket. Gambling has always been there, gambling has always wanted to own some cricketers and gambling has always needed to be put in its place by cricket. So when the phone rings and there’s a voice that whispers (or screams) that if you can do this little thing for me, I can do this big thing for you, the relationship has metastasized, gambling owns cricket and it’s time for action.

At the time of writing, the allegations in the News of the World are just that – allegations – but, in a sense, these specific allegations don’t matter. Cricket has gambling, good and bad, in its DNA and it’s not going to go away anytime soon. So let’s deal with it in that light and not talk of a game shamed or lifetime bans. There are some frightened cricketers in London right now – cricket should first assure their safety, then assist the law in taking its course and then think about how to treat these young men (and some are very young). Casting these men out will do them immeasurable harm well beyond their professional lives and the game little good – cricket can only push back on gambling, never defeat it. And those caught up in cricket’s and gambling’s love – hate relationship are victims, perhaps not innocent, but victims all the same, of that Faustian bargain. We should treat them as such.


  1. I have a modest shareholding and what is that if not a gamble?
    It’s fundamentally different, because on average you win with shares, but lose with gambling with bookies/casinos/etc.

    • David – There are plenty of shareholders who felt that way pre-Lehman and don’t feel that way now. I feel that I lose out to the financial services industries’ collective greed with their outrageous bonuses more than I lose out to the casinos, which treat me with infinitely better care. They are more honest too.

      • There are valid arguments to be made against assumptions of rational agents and efficient markets, but it is going far too far to suggest that people are putting vast amounts of money into shares with the expectation that they’ll lose.

        • I agree Dave. But I would say that they have the expectation that they won’t “win” as much as they should if there was any kind of equity in the risk reward of investors compared to the Masters of the Universe. In this matter, I find casinos more honest.

          In casinos, some do win – I have – but I know as a strategy (unless you’re a card counter) it’s doomed.

          • I don’t think its the place to go into it – but can’t resist. There’s too many of the “financial services”ilk that have gotten painted by the same brush particularly re honesty. Firstly, that isnt true and not realizing that shows an inherent lack of understanding of the massive wheels and cogs that go into that greed machine. Secondly, gambling and trading the markets or trading the odds are vastly different as well. And one where a number of people win – not so much by counting cards – as managing their money. Big amounts on better bets and vice versa being the simplest (and most simplistic) explanation of them.


            • SFX – I see a difference but only in degree. It’s all placing money in jeopardy in expectation of an uncertain return. Equities, insurance, casinos etc. Same meat, different gravy.

              • Thats true of every trade or investment or even purchase you make …

  2. “And what are the pensions that will support us in old age, if not a wager that what we “spend” today will set us up for the future?”
    With respect, I utterly disagree. A pension is something that we believe will be secure and have predictable performance, but we acknowledge that a gamble has higher risk. (Unfortunately pensions have become more risky too now).
    There’s no Faustian bargain in this matter, it’s just a matter of honesty and honour.
    Tooting, you often take a pragmatic approach to cricketers and money/professionalism, but this is not the same thing. This is not just gambling or professionalism.
    Not sure what it is, but the omens are not good.

    • I respectfully disagree Fred, but I think you do too – as you acknowledge that pensions are more risky! Our pensions are not safe and secure and are a gamble. Companies know this and are sitting on huge piles of cash right now because they see deflation in the future and (as ever in a crisis) retreat to cash.

      Anyway, it’s not a major point because even the pension plan we choose is a gamble amongst the offers available. Insurance is too.

      And where does the money come from for the Croesus-like wealth amongst the past and future Masters of the Universe if not from their “knowledge of the market”? It’s our money in their hands that they then gamble – 2008 proved that irrefutably.

      • I was, clumsily, trying to make a distinction between a pension and a Las Vegas roulette wheel, but the more I think about it, the harder it is to sustain that argument! It’s perhaps only a question of expectations, I know the gambling house always wins, but by contrast I do expect my pension to give me a predictable return in my favour. The letter expectation is becoming dubious.
        In any event, my main point was that this is not traditional and above boa

        • In any event, my main point was that this is not traditional and above board gambling on a game, nor paid professionalism. This is, if it’s true, fundamentally dishonest. Cricket may owe gambling something as you say, but it doesn’t owe cheating anything.
          Still struggling to believe this is really . Amir and Butt, the two who have emerged with the most respect over the English summer; it’s almost beyond comprehension. Pakistan seem incapable of completing a series these days without something going seriously wrong.

          • It’s terribly sad, Fred. I’m shocked, but not surprised if that makes sense. Amir and Asif are amongst the finest cricketers I have seen in the last decade.

  3. […] a comment » A very, very sensible post from tootingtrumpet at 99.94. A bit too light on the punishment side for my tastes, but a much-needed theme of reason: At the […]

  4. I understand what you’re saying here, and agree entirely with the need for sensible reactions rather than instantly demonising people. It’s not difficult to see how these things can develop and how especially young players can be befriended by people who earn their trust, subtly draw information out of them, and then have them in their web. What may have seemed like an innocent question from a friend about team selection can turn out to be supplying information to a bookmaker, and once you’ve broken the rules once they can threaten to expose you unless you continue.

    For me however, whilst cricket’s roots may owe a debt to bookmakers, any suggestion that the current game does is incorrect. With all sports the boundary between the two is the one around the outside of the pitch. As soon as the game itself is affected in any way whatsoever then the sport is compromised.

    Horse Racing is the prime example of this. The rules about a rider having to ride out the race as well as possible are nothing to do with the inherent integrity of the sport, it’s because the gamblers demand it, so they will know they get a proper chance for their money.

    Gambling has always happened on sport, and always will, but it should always remain outwith the sport itself. Any time it is shown to be affecting the players and the match in any way, be it the time of first throw-in in football, or a no-ball that “doesn’t affect the result” (another debate for another time) then significant action must be taken against those involved.

    • When I was 18, I was capable, like most my age, of spotting trouble coming, and exercising at least some degree of judgement. It’s not to much to ask for an 18 yo to do that, especially when representing his country.

      I don’t want to demonise anyone, but I do absolutely want to ban forever anyone cheating at sport at international level.

      What was the recent Aus victory in Sydney then? Well as Siddle played to hang in with Hussey, it was presumably meaningless as a contest. And I stayed up all night to watch that too.

      Pakistan will only be worth watching, no matter how good their performance at times, when we can have confidence they are really competing.

      • I watch the last day of The Sydney Test in a haze of painkillers and toothache at sill o’clock in the morning but distinctly remember the commentators pointing out how passive the Pakistani team was being in looking for wickets, how they were waiting for things to happen and should just attack to take the final wickets. It all makes a bit more sense now.

        Similarly, whilst commentating on one of the no-balls in this recent teat, Aggers also mentioned there’d been a couple of extremely wide deliveries. It’s not a massive leap of logic to think that if there was one aspect of spot-fixing going on in the game then there were others too.

        • I think it’s safe to say that as far as Pakistan is concerned manipulation of events has been occurring for some time.

          • No other conclusion is tenable. Everything is suspect until shown otherwise now these allegations are setting the agenda.

        • Perc – I would love to say re passivity in the field, “These things happen – remember Punter (vs India I think) when he bowled part-timers? We thought it was to raise the over-rate, but he said it wasn’t?” But I’m not going down that route, because the only reaction that adds up is the one that takes suspicion as the starting point.

  5. Perc – I agree with much of that, but cricket (as a major sport) could not exist without its media and what pays for that? Mostly I see gambling websites. Many sports threw out tobacco as a sponsor, but there’s no sign of gambling and sport being even as pseudo-separate as tobacco and sport.

    I maintain that gambling will lead to corruption as surely as those infinite number of monkeys will write Shakespeare – time and opportunity make all things, good and bad, that might happen, happen.

    • I maintain that gambling will lead to corruption
      The situation in cricket could probably be helped a lot if gambling were actually legalised in all countries. Take it away from shady bookies and give it to more respectable betting agencies.

      Corruption will still happen, but irregularities are much more readily shown up. There was a case last week in the NRL of a big plunge on the opening points in a game being a penalty goal. The various betting agencies all close their markets and make it known that something is up, and an investigation can start immediately.

      Contrast that to cricket, where almost every time Pakistan collapses there’s talk of match-fixing, albeit often joking.

      • I agree with legalising and regulating almost all activity between consenting adults. Prohibition and the absurd “war on drugs” shows that as well as your examples Dave.

  6. I’m unlikely to be back here for a while, so thanks for such thought-provoking comment and, as ever, for taking the time to read my thoughts. I wrote this at 2.00am in Sweden off the top of my head and I’ve little time to research further, but para two here is interesting –

  7. Portraying the Pakistani miscreants as victims seems a tad far-fetched from my perspective. They know what they did is illegal and, in sporting terms, immoral. Only the naive could believe this is an isolated occurrence.

    The evidence is there for all to see and yet they continue to claim innocence. For the future integrity of the game all involved deserve severe punishment, namely, exile from professional cricket.

    • I see your point Nesta, and they are (if the allegations stand up) deserving of punishment and hefty punishment too, though I would want them to have a route back and a way to make a living after a suitable period of exile.

      As is the case with many victims, they are deeply complicit in their own victimhood, but I still believe that such a set of circumstances (especially with cricket’s longstanding relationship with gambling) this sort of thing is inevitable from time to time. It’s equally inevitable that people will do wrong and bad things – but not all wrong and bad things are deserving of the maximum sentence.

    • l’m wth Nesta here. The game itself must be protected and redeemed long before the individuals. l think the seriousness of this, and obviously other occurrences, is being under-played. And indeed only the naive would think this was an isolated occurrence. Or indeed that any manipulation of effort for the sake of the whims of the bet-master is not effecting the course of a match. Let alone Sydney…?

      The relationship with gambling is over-drawn or something of a misdirection for mine. Gambling is fine etc blah blah etc and its hardly cricket alone that has a strong relationship with it in sport. But as per all international sports the relationship must be successfully managed to its critical edge : the players must have nothing to do with it.

      • “The game itself must be protected and redeemed long before the individuals.”

        It’s a lovely thought, but I just don’t think it’s possible to do anything other than take a snapshot of the game and be happy that, at that specific moment, everything is fine. There is no guarantee that it will be fine five years, five weeks, five minutes into the future. Because gambling is always going to be there, legal probably and illegal definitely and gambling will always have a corrupt element.

        So I agree with successfully managing sport’ relationship with gambling and I believe that it doesn’t help to explode into self-righteous anger and shock and call for the maximum penalties at the first sign that somethiong is awry. Penalties have to fit the crime. (I’m not saying commenters here are exploding with anger and shock, but plenty are elsewhere).

        • The statement, The game itself must be protected and redeemed long before the individuals seems reasonable and sensible. No one individual owns the game, it is only borrowed, and those in charge have a responsibility of care to future generations of cricketers.

          Surrender is not the answer nor is pretending that the events at Lord’s are the exception. Strong, decisive action is needed and because the nefarious characters outside the game cannot be controlled an example must be made of the players involved. If nothing is done or the players only receive a slap on the wrist then cricket will lose whatever credibility that remains.

          Context is always important and while a few no-balls seems rather innocuous the video clearly shows that they were just examples to seal the deal. Far worse is occurring and that they happened in a Test match at Lord’s is damning. As far as these players are concerned there are no boundaries.

          And for the record I’m still rather dispassionate about international cricket and wasn’t surprised one bit when the sting was revealed. In several conversations over the weekend I’ve discovered that many people with a deep connection to cricket feel much the same way. The general consensus was that The Ashes is still a genuine contest but the rest of international cricket is beyond redemption.

          I don’t necessarily agree but there are many people from cricketing families that are quickly losing interest because deep down they feel that cricket no longer represents their ideals and identity.

          You imply that society is to blame and while I firmly believe that individuals should be held responsible for their decisions and actions I think the finger should be firmly pointed at the ICC. Their Anti-Corruption mob have been shown to be ineffectual and incompetent. A complete waste of time and money. I reckon they should be the first to be shown the door.

          • If I’ve implied that society is to blame, I’ve got that wrong, because my point is that gambling is in human nature, regardless of how societies are organised. So it, like the desire to imbibe drugs and the need to love and be loved and lots of other things, cannot be wished away, nor “exampled” away, just managed better or worse.

            I don’t think all cricket is crooked, just some of it some of the time. We would see its telltale signs were it not the case.

            It’s hard to tell with the Anti-Corruption Unit. Their success is in preventing things happening. That they have not prevented this (whatever is proved) is a failure, but do they have 1000 successes or 100 or 1 or none. We just don’t know.

  8. CaDoes this mean the Headingly

  9. If the result of the Sydney Test is now suspect, can we also assume the Headingly Test was dubious and Australia didn’t really get beaten by Pakistan? Would seem fair. That devilish bowling and sharp catching was just too good to be true.

  10. It’s a tricky issue, and I agree that vilifying players is not the best response. Instead, I’m for vilifying the ICC and their anti-corruption unit; the Pak admin, and even the ECB (though that’s only because I enjoy vilifying the ECB).

    How can team management not be aware of who is hanging around the players? And what is the ICC spending its money on if they don’t know as much as a pommy newspaper? How corrupt is the ICC?

  11. It’s hard not to want to vilify the players as they appear to have no respect for the game at all. Didn’t their moral compass tell them this was wrong? Clearly they think they can get away with this and they probably will.

    • With “not vilify”, above, I was thinking in terms of the tabloids targeting indivdual players, at the expense of seeing the way the entire system has shown itself reluctant to deal with issue. I think any player who is even accused of it deserves to be constantly reminded of it by the crowds for the rest of his career.

  12. SFX – it is not true of every trade or every investment. When I buy a “pig” it is usually in the open and not in a poke. Financial instruments are in that poke especially when they were selling my money packaged into CDOs or buying them. (And all the other “exotic’ – ie rip off (you earn big and I earn colossal) instruments.

  13. Much the biggest of the dodgy things I’ve seen in cricket recently wasn’t the first ball of The Ashes to second slip, but not bowling Hilfenhaus fir the last 18 overs at Jimmy and Monty at Cardiff. Marcus North bowled FFS!!!

    I don’t suggest that Punter was dodgy (us Brits don’t like all that Punter does, but we don’t think he’s anything other than 100% straight), but explain that one? Had Salman Butt done the same thing, all the eyebrows would be going up,

    And just to show that I’m even-handed, Nasser – toss – Brisbane!!!!

  14. I’m sure players in other countries aren’t entirely innocent but Pakistan seem to excel at this. There must be a problem with the whole team culture, especially as it seems the senior players are setting no example.

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