“In Chennai, definitely.” Aneel Munawar, the match-fixer from Mumbai said to be part of the D-Company, says in the Al Jazeera sting operation. The stinger wants to know which team’s players the fixers have control over. “England,” Munawar says. Later in the sting, he says he has three England players (names are bleeped out). “I will inform you after the toss when the (betting) market will start. That time I will tell you if the session will come at 20 overs or 40 overs or 10 overs.”
On Friday, Alastair Cook wins the toss and chooses to bat. Munawar calls the stingers. “Now the (**th) over session aayega. ** overs ka session will come. I will call you after ** overs and in the very next one, the ** th over. I will give you how many runs will come.” Remember, he has already said he has three England players, and the “session” bet would be about how the batsmen score fewer than what the bookies place the odds for. The call from him comes through after England chose to bat.
A session could be 10 overs or 20 or from start to lunch or any such period. It’s betting parlance, where the main bet would be about how many runs are scored in that “session”. The voiceover in the sting says that Munawar “names the 10-over session that he says is fixed” when he calls after toss.
Munawar is then heard saying two things. First, he shares what the betting market will fix the odds for: “The market will open for ** to ** runs.” The batsmen will score less than that — and here is where the insider information helps the big punters.
Munawar then offers another tip. “And the last over manda jayega. Bet as much as you can.” Manda, the sting explains, is Indian betting slang to indicate an over where no more than two runs will be scored.
Cook gets out for 10 from 38 balls in the 13th over; his opening partner Keaton Jennings has already fallen in the sixth over of the innings. Moeen Ali joins Joe Root, and the two build a partnership, and bat out till lunch with England reaching 68/2 in 29 overs. Root walks away with 44 off 75 balls while Ali has seven from 44 balls.
For the rest of the day, England bat relatively aggressively, ending the day on 284/4 in 90 overs. They score 114 runs from 31 overs in the post-lunch session, and then 102 runs in 30 overs in the post-tea phase. Moeen Ali ends the day unbeaten on 120 from 222 balls.
Ed Hawkins, a cricket corruption investigator who has advised ICC’s anti-corruption unit in the past, is also featured in the Al Jazeera show, and looks gobsmacked after being shown the evidence. He is moved enough to say, “I think its mind-blowing. I would defy anyone who loves the game or is interested in cricket not to watch that and have a knot in their stomach and feel pretty sick about it. There absolutely must be an investigation.”
The show also features Chris Eaton, former Interpol agent who specialised in sports corruption, who once was the head of security for world football governing body FIFA. After watching the evidence that the network had shared with him, Eaton says: “It’s very compelling evidence. So compelling that it is almost inevitably true. Clearly, what he predicted took place exactly as he predicted.”
After the game’s play, Root comes for the post-day chat with broadcasters where he is asked about the slow first session. “I think it (pitch) was a little bit more tackier than what we have come up here so far. It was one of the wickets where you never felt quite in. It took a bit of time to get used to. There was obviously spin from the start.”
Slow pace can be given as cricketing logic. Two early wickets, a tacky pitch, and as the first session winds down, batsmen generally tend to bat a touch more cautiously.
Later, in the Al Jazeera sting, Munawar tells the stingers: “Each script I give you na, it will happen, happen, and happen.”
The broadcaster has refused our continual requests to cooperate and share information: ICC
The Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) will ask the government authorities to initiate criminal proceedings against the individuals who have been accused of pitch-fixing in the Al Jazeera documentary. The accused have also been suspended with immediate effect.
The Doha-based TV channel’ sting operation showed Tharanga Indika, the Galle Stadium assistant manager and curator, allegedly joining hands with the fixers to doctor pitches for Test matches at the venue. Three Sri Lanka cricketers — Dilhara Lokuhettige, Jeevantha Kulatunga and Tharindu Mendis — too allegedly have involvement in spot-fixing/pitch-fixing.
Meanwhile, the International Cricket Council (ICC) general manager, Anti-Corruption Unit, Alex Marshall, issued a statement saying: “We have been in ongoing dialogue with the broadcaster which has refused our continual requests to cooperate and share information which has hampered our investigation to date. The content of the programme, is of course useful to the investigation, but I would now urge the production team to provide us with all un-edited and unseen evidence they are in possession of, to enable us to expedite a thorough investigation.”