Corruption and greed in cricket

The latest episode of Hasan Minhaj’s excellent show Patriot Act examined the deplorable state of international governance in cricket. He points out that the official bodies of the big three cricket nations (India, England, and Australia) act like a cartel and ram through measures that benefit themselves at the expense of other nations and the game itself. They have also resisted efforts to enable more nations to play at the highest level, because they seem to feel that widening the game’s appeal would dilute their power. They even derailed moves to have it included as an Olympic sport.

Here is the show.

Minhaj accurately places the blame for this state of affairs on the huge amounts of money generated by the Indian Premier League (IPL) that turned this once-staid sport into a massive cash cow by making it a spectacle along American lines, by promoting just one narrow aspect of the game (big hitting) accompanied by scantily-clad cheerleaders, blaring music, and fireworks. As a result, India has become the wealthiest cricket nation and has not hesitated to use its financial muscle to demand its way in all things even if it harms the game in general, with England and Australia being its willing accomplices. Thanks to those three nations, cricket has rapidly gone from being a sport that extolled the highest standards of sportsmanship to one of the most corrupt, giving FIFA stiff competition for that dubious honor.

His show covered many of the things that were exposed in the 2015 documentary Death of a Gentleman that I reviewed here. He omitted two things though. One is that one reason for not trying to get into the Olympics was because such a move would spur China to target cricket as a sport, something they have indicated an interest in doing, and there were fears that China’s large population and ability to focus resources strategically might mean that soon they would be able to dominate the sport and displace the three members of the cartel, not an unlikely possibility. The other thing he did not discuss is that the arrival of big money into the sport has attracted gambling corruption at the micro-level with players being bribed by gambling interests.

One thing on which he and I disagree about is which of the three formats of cricket we find the most appealing. The first format is the five-day, six hours per day, Test matches. This is still the gold standard for determining excellence but no longer draws big crowds. Then there comes the one-day, roughly seven-hour games where each side bats just once and faces a maximum of 300 deliveries and the side that scores the most runs wins. The shortest format in the so-called T20, which is of the same type as the one-day game where each side bats just once but now faces only 120 deliveries and hence a game lasts about three hours, which seems to be roughly the desired target for mass sporting event times. This last format is what the IPL has promoted and that Minhaj seems to prefer.

The appeal of cricket for me has been the strategic aspects of the game, the careful weighing of risk and reward by both the batter and the bowler, each one taking the measure of the other. Batters try to find ways to anticipate what the bowlers will do and react accordingly while bowlers try to lure batters into taking risks that might get them out. This feature is best seen in the five-day long Test match format. At the other extreme, the T20 games favor batters swinging at pretty much every ball, going for the big hit. In this format, not scoring a run on a delivery (a so-called ‘dot ball’) is a cardinal sin for batters while bowlers seek to get as many dot balls as possible. I find this boring as it has greatly narrowed the range of skills required for success.

The cricket World Cup tournament starts today and continues for about six weeks. Just ten teams will take part and the format is the intermediate 300-delivery length for each game. I will be cheering against India, Australia, and England in every match they play. I will be cheering for Afghanistan in every match because they are a true Cinderella story, producing an international-quality team in the midst of constant war and turmoil. They also have produced in Rashid Khan the best spin bowler playing currently. It would give me the greatest pleasure if Afghanistan beats any one of the three members of the cartel, India especially.


  1. blf says

    In a sense, I’m glad the cartel manipulated the selection for the World Cup to exclude Ireland… so I didn’t have to choose between Ireland and Afghanistan !

  2. larpar says

    Mano, how do people follow a test match? I can’t imagine how someone would have enough free time to actually watch the whole thing. Do they rely on highlights and box scores?

  3. Mano Singham says


    This is a game that could only have been invented by a class of wealthy people who did not have to work and needed to fill their time with other activities! It is quite astonishing that it has become mass sport.

    Most people of course do not have the luxury of watching all five days at the actual grounds. Those five span the weekend, so one could go on those two days. Other people may take a day or two or three off from work to watch on the other days. Many people watch on TV if they have access to one at their workplace. I have friends who live in cricket playing countries where the games are broadcast on live TV, and depending on the time zone difference between the game site and their home, they will watch what they can before they go to work or after they come home. You would be amazed at how quickly time seems to pass for the true aficionado watching this ‘slow’ game.

    But the most common method, at least in my youth, was to listen to commentary on the radio because that could be taken with you everywhere and listened to unobtrusively. Because the game is slow, the radio commentators were often superb, able to vividly paint pictures of what is going on using the arcane vocabulary of the game and provide insights and analyses to keep you glued to the set. As a boy, such was the addiction that I would get up in the middle of the night if necessary to listen on crackly short-wave radio frequencies to Test match commentary on continents far away. Then we would go to school and discuss the events with other sleepy students.

    Of course, we would also avidly read the newspaper accounts and the box scores the next day.

  4. blf says

    What I do is listen to TMS (already mentioned), or keep an eye on the Grauniad’s live OBO (over-by-over) commentary. When possible, I try to find a live feed, especially for the shorter forms of the game, but that can be very hit-and-miss.

  5. larpar says

    Thanks Mano! I almost withdrew my question because right after posting it I thought of following a 4 day golf tournament. My youth was spent listening to Cincinnati Reds baseball on am radio.

  6. Roj Blake says

    Some years ago I worked with an American born, Australian passport holding New Zealand businessman. Talk turned, as it does, to sport, comparing Australian Football to US. He was an avid Super Bowl fan and would always take the day off to watch, but couldn’t care less about the regular season.

    When talk turned to cricket, I laughed and said he probably loved the one-dayers (T20 wasn’t a thing back then). No, for him it was Test Cricket, could not watch enough of it. It is a combination of athleticism, skill, cunning, planning, and endurance. And for all that a game can go for 5 days, sometimes it is just one or two instances that turn the game to one team’s favour.

  7. Mano Singham says

    Crip Dyke,

    It is nice to have a niche and it looks like cricket is mine on FtB!

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