Ajman League ICC investigation highlights corruption vulnerability of T20 cricket

The disgraceful scenes from the United Arab Emirates in the Ajman All Stars League are currently being investigated by the International Cricket Council (ICC). (Screen grab)
Updated 31 January 2018
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Ajman League ICC investigation highlights corruption vulnerability of T20 cricket

BANGALORE: The disgraceful scenes from the United Arab Emirates in the Ajman All Stars League, currently being investigated by the International Cricket Council (ICC), should surprise no one. Twenty20 cricket has been a great vehicle for cricket to expand its horizons, but the mushrooming of private leagues around the world — most of them conducted without any official approval, as the Ajman tournament was — has made them the prime focus for the twin scourges of spot-fixing and its big brother, match-fixing. 
Despite the hype, the reality is that the vast majority of such tournaments haemorrhage money. Cricket South Africa’s embarrassing failure to get its Global Cricket League off the runway earlier this season was a stark reminder of that. Even most Indian Premier League (IPL) franchises, with the gargantuan weight of cricket’s biggest ecosystem behind them, took several years to break even.
When the anti-corruption units, both the ICC’s and those run by individual boards, are not in the fray, unsavoury elements are noticeable at matches.

In December 2007, while India and Pakistan were playing a Test series — the last between the two sides before political relations took a turn for the worse — the Indian Cricket League (ICL) began with much fanfare. It was bankrolled by Zee TV, whose relations with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had soured over what it deemed the arbitrary termination of its rights to telecast India’s overseas matches.
The ICL was doomed from the start. Lalit Modi was putting together the IPL, and there was no way the Indian board was going to countenance a rival competition in its backyard. Indian players on the fringes did sign up, but the foreign contingent mainly comprised those on Retirement Avenue, looking out for one last lucrative payday. 
Soon after it began, a friend tipped me off about a pub in the heart of Delhi. There, you could make every kind of bet possible, from the number of no-balls bowled in an innings, to how many runs would be scored off the third ball of the eighth over. When people think fixing, they often picture players tanking games. The reality is far more nuanced.
In the IPL spot-fixing case of 2013, the wagers were apparently over the minimum number of runs that would be scored in a certain over. 
“Most of these leagues are all about fixing,” said Michael Holding, the West Indies cricket legend who refuses to even commentate on the games.
“Look through the numbers and see how much money they lose each year. You think the team owners are running charitable trusts?”

Holding’s views were supported by Australia’s Dirk Nannes in an interview with ABC Grandstand.
“The owners weren’t allowed on the ground, but there would be a team manager going to the owner and saying, ‘What are we doing next’, then going to the coach,” he said about his time in the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL). “The security guys were saying enough was enough. But it just kept going on. The owners were sitting there on the phone. The owners were demanding that they be in constant touch with the coach because that’s why they bought the team.”
The Ajman case was fixing at its worst, almost a spoof version, so ham-handed were the performances. But those expressing outrage over it would do well to examine the bigger tournaments. From the IPL downwards, no tournament is safe.


Women’s Bowling Championship 2018 wraps up in Jeddah

Dr. Razan Baker, 3rd left standing, with participants at the Third Women’s Bowling Championship 2018, in Jeddah on Saturday. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 18 min 56 sec ago
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Women’s Bowling Championship 2018 wraps up in Jeddah

  • Sixty-three competitors, many of them amateurs, participated in the competition which consisted of four rounds

JEDDAH: The first Women Bowling Championship in Saudi Arabia took place in October in three cities, Riyadh, Alkhobar, and Jeddah, where it finished at Ice Land Bowling Center on Saturday. Gada Nemer, 42, from Riyadh, who came first in the competition, told Arab News: “I participated in all three tournaments, in Riyadh, Alkhobar, and today in Jeddah. I won first place in Alkhobar too. “I am not a professional bowler, but I used to bowl with my kids. Two of them bowl on the national team. I am very glad to have the chance to participate in these tournaments, and look forward to future ones.”
It was the first tournament of its kind in the Kingdom, as the country is rapidly developing sporting facilities for women and increasing women’s involvement in sports by making reforms that have included allowing physical education for schoolgirls and opening female-only gyms. Sixty-three competitors, many of them amateurs, participated in the competition which consisted of four rounds. All competitors took part in the first round, 33 made it into the second round and 16 qualified for the third.
Participants were between 11 and 56 years of age. Nemer received a cash prize of SR5,000 ($1,335) and those in second and third place received SR3,000 and SR2,000 respectively.
The last round had the best three competitors competing for first place with Nemer winning first prize, followed by Meshael Alabdulwahed (second) and Wissam Al-Harbi (third).

Growing interest
Bowling is still a growing sport for women in Saudi Arabia. The first female bowling team officially registered in the Saudi Bowling Federation, and the Eastern Province bowling team is only seven months old, according to Dr. Razan Baker, member of the board of directors and head of media and women’s participation at the federation.
Baker told Arab News: “We were surprised by the excitement of the participants. The numbers were beyond our expectations.
“Many participants would like to become professional bowlers. With this high turnout I expect bowling centers to start supporting new female bowling teams.”
Abeer Abdulmalik, from Al-Qassim, participated in the tournament. Although she is new to bowling, she made it to the third round.
“I never bowled before in my life, and I did not prepare myself for the game. I am surprised and happy with what I scored, although I was hoping to be in the final round,” she told Arab News. “I would like to take part in future championships.”
Aminah Khan, who participated in the tournament with her two sisters, told Arab News: “I came here for fun, and to try my luck before I go to my midterm exam.”
Khan did not make it to the second round, but said she would start working to improve her skills and take bowling more seriously as a sport.
The championship was organized by the Saudi Bowling Federation, the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, and General Sports Authority, and in partnership with Arab News as the exclusive English media partner for the event.