Sporting stains

Match fixing and its poor cousin 'spot fixing' are not the sole preserve of cricket.

Updated - May 25, 2013 09:30 pm IST

Published - May 25, 2013 04:48 pm IST

illustration:Satwik Gade

illustration:Satwik Gade

IPL bashers have had a field day in the last few weeks. The jumping japang tournament has been blamed for all ills in the cricketing universe - from Danny Morrison’s decibel levels to Sir Jadeja’s brief loss of immortality to Sreesanth’s towel movements that caused an international kerfuffle.

While critics have every reason to carp about the fall in moral standards, to crucify IPL for injecting the culture of spot fixing is rather sheep-headed. Because cheating in sport has been in vogue since the day Manchester United and Liverpool collaborated to fix their match in April 1915. There have been many other colourful indiscretions. Allow us to unveil the ugliness in all its glory.

When pitchers threw away matches

Underworld dons have always played a murky role in sports. Back in 1919, when the Baseball World Series was on, New York gangster Arnold Rothstein generously greased the palms of eight members of Chicago White Sox to throw their match against Cincinatti Reds, who later went on to win the championship. Considering a team can only field nine players, the mobster had bought out 89 per cent of the unit to achieve the rigged result! Informed sources say that the Eight Soxers sparkled in their new role of under-performers as they were deeply dissatisfied with the pay doled out by their club. Looks like monkey business is the only constant if you pay peanuts.

When an ace opted for disgrace

The professional tennis circuit has been subjected to the occasional shocks of cheating by highest ranked players. The strategy has always been to let an unsung player win by withdrawing midway under the pretext of injury. Nikolai Davydenko, twice semi-finalist at the French Open and the US Open, and World No. 4 in 2007, was suspected to have deployed this tactic in a match against an upstart Argentinean. After winning the first set 6-2, Davydenko lost the second set 3-6 and, in the third, he conveniently proclaimed a leg injury and forfeited the match. Curiously, $7 million were wagered on a Davydenko defeat. ATP smelt a rat, and made sure the bets were called off. Last heard, Nikolai was trying to launch a detergent by the name ‘Denko Stain Champion’!

When footballers kicked off a scam

Cricket is clearly not the most corrupt game. If one goes by the revelations of Europol, nearly 380 football matches were fixed in Europe in the last decade. Turkey and Germany hold the distinction for the most suspect games. The incident that takes the cake was conjured up by a Tamilian named Anthony Santia Raj. Santia created a fake national team claiming to represent Togo and he set up a friendly match versus Bahrain. Togo went down 3-0 to Bahrain. Those who bet on Bahrain’s victory raked in the moolah. Meanwhile the real Togo team, on reading a report about the match, raised an alarm. As a result, the fakesters were shown the red card and thus ended the saga of free kicks for the fixers.

When a racer was ordered to slow down

Three-time F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel is not used to finishing second. Cut to the Malaysian Grand Prix, this year. His Red Bull team mate Max Webber was leading the pack despite clipping rather ‘slowly’. When Vettel tried to change the script by overtaking him, his team management instructed him to stay behind Webber. Vettel defied the orders and snatched a hard-fought victory. But he was publicly rebuked and had to apologise for coming first! Moral of the story: The only formula in Formula One is to never drive the management up the wall.

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