How big a crime is pitch fixing? | Daily News


How big a crime is pitch fixing?

Match fixing or spot fixing you can accept that it can happen. But pitch fixing is something that one finds hard to fathom. A curator may be able to doctor a pitch to suit the whims and fancies of a fixer, but however much doctoring is done on the pitch it is finally left to the 22 players on the field to decide the fate of the match. The behaviour of cricket pitches varies based on several factors that are beyond the control of pitch curators. In such circumstances one has to ask the question whether pitch fixing is as great a crime as fixing a match or spot fixing and how big an effect it can have on the two teams and the final result.

It doesn’t need a fixer to guide the curator on what type of pitch is required by the home team because the home team of each country prepares pitches to suit their own strengths. It has been happening so often that the home team holds the advantage in such circumstances. There is nothing wrong with the idea of home advantage in sport, but when home advantage starts to become the primary deciding factor in the outcome of a contest, something has to be done to change it. It has come to a point where the odds are stacked heavily in favour of the home team. There may be subtle differences in the nature of playing surfaces in other sports as well, but nothing comes close to cricket where the pitch is almost a living, breathing creature that has its own unique characteristics and along with the two teams, is almost a participant in the game.

Thus in an effort to level the Test cricket playing field the ICC has come out with a proposal to forego the toss of the coin at the start of a Test match commencing with the Test Championship which will commence in 2019 with Australia’s Ashes tour to England. The reason for doing away with the toss is to reduce the advantage of the home team, where there is a growing belief among cricket fans and experts that home boards overly manipulate conditions to the point where there is far too much importance placed on the toss. It doesn’t need a fixer to decide on the type of pitches that need to be prepared.

Every single Test match since the very first, between Australia and England at Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in March 1877, has begun with a toss of the coin to decide who should bat or bowl first. The home captain flips the coin and the visiting captain calls heads or tails. To suddenly do away with tradition that has long been part of the game is certainly bound to have opposition. Like every other proposal to change something that is fundamental to the nature of the game, the idea to toss away the toss has brought in divided opinions among experts and fans alike.

The future of the toss lay in the hands of the ICC cricket committee that began deliberating whether to scrap the toss at its two-day meeting that commenced in Mumbai on Monday. The cricket committee headed by former Indian leg-spinner Anil Kumble also comprises two former Sri Lanka captains – Mahela Jayawardene (past player) and Ranjan Madugalle (Referees’ representative) amongst others.

Reverting back to the pitch fixing sting what is surprising about the Sri Lanka-Australia Test at Galle played in 2016 is that although there is a hue and a cry being made of the pitch being ‘doctored’ by the curator to the wishes of the fixer there was no suspicion raised by any of the ICC officials, captain or players during or after the Test.

SLC vice president Mohan de Silva said, “There is no need to investigate the Test. The players did not complain. Captains’ report, umpires report and the match referee's report did not say anything about the pitch. There is nothing adverse about the pitch. It is difficult to believe there was any wrongdoing."

Al Jazeera may have in their documentary showed a groundsman and a player allegedly discussing altering the pitch at Galle during Australia's 229-run loss in the second Test against Sri Lanka in 2016, but if there has been no suspicion raised over the condition of the pitch why all this ballyhoo after two years? The alarm bells have been sounded that information has come light that the same groundsman as Al Jazeera claims is planning to prepare a pitch according to the wishes of the fixer for the forthcoming Sri Lanka-England Test at Galle in November. Now that the authorities (Sri Lanka Cricket) have been made aware of such a move it is there duty to ensure such a situation does not arise.

England and Australian Cricket Boards have reacted angrily to the documentary that suggests that at least two Australian cricketers in the Ranchi Test in 2017 during the India-Australia Test had roles to play and three Englishmen fixed sessions in Chennai in the India-England Test in 2016.

Making allegations is one thing but unless they are substantiated by sufficient evidence and the perpetrators brought to book this malady of ‘fixing’ in whatever form you may call it will continue to thrive because it involves big money and the people who are behind it are ones you don’t want to associate yourself with.

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