Thatscricket - ODI Series - India~~s tour of Pakistan- Betting frenzy over Indo-Pak cricket series

Published: Monday, March 29, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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Islamabad:The historic cricket series between Pakistan and India has not only raised peace hopes between the two South Asian rivals but is also turning out to be a betting blitz for notorious bookmakers of the game.

Bookies said they were anticipating a bumper gambling spree across the country as the two teams prepare to cross swords in the first One-day International in the southern port city of Karachi on Saturday.

"Huge sums, millions of dollars, will be wagered on the two teams in the first match in Karachi," said a Rawalpindi-based bookie who identified himself by his alias 'Master'.

He recalled last year's World Cup match between Pakistan and India in South Africa when he said he handled bets worth more than 10 million rupees (more than 170,000 dollars).

"But the bubbling excitement now portends a far greater turnover," he said. The bookie said the rush would peak when the rates open in the Indian city of Mumbai on the night before the match.

Punters will put money on everything, from the weather and pitch behaviour to the toss and which bowler will open the attack and how many runs will be made by each top batsmen.

"In fact the betting pattern will change as the match progresses and fortunes fluctuate," said a bookie in the eastern city of Lahore nicknamed Gullu. There are no exact estimates on how many bookies operate in the country but police sources said the number ran into thousands.

They are active in almost every neighbourhood even though gambling is banned and the violation is punishable with imprisonment of up to seven years and a fine of 7,000 rupees, said a Karachi-based police officer.

"I have come to know that bookies have started betting on who will win," said former Pakistani cricket hero Imran Khan. "This business is unfortunate, but you cannot stop it," Khan he said.

Cricket gambling has tarnished the image of the game which was once regarded as a gentleman's game.

In the past several years corruption scandals linked to charges that bookies influenced players and bribed them to fix matches have played rocked the sport. The match-fixing scandal prompted the International Cricket Council (ICC) to form an anti-corruption unit to curb the menace.

In May 2000 the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) banned prolific batsman Salim Malik from playing the game at any level and holding any cricket-related office following recommendations of a match-fixing inquiry conducted by Justice Malik Mohammad Qayyum.

The Qayyum inquiry, conducted between September 1998 and October 1999, found evidence of Malik's involvement and also recommended a life ban for former pacer Ata-ur- Rehman and fined six others, including former captains Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram.

Wasim, who retired last year as one the greatest left-arm seamers ever, was also barred from leading Pakistan.

Former South African captain Hansie Cronje, who later died in a plane crash, and former Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin were banned for life from playing cricket for their involvement in match-fixing.

A four-member team of ICC's Anti Corruption Unit is already in Pakistan to watch over the conduct of the players and submit a report to their headquarters.

PCB chief executive Ramiz Raja said the watchdog unit will observe if the players abide by the rules forbidding use of mobile phones in dressing rooms during matches and also do not come into contact with outsiders during the game.

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