A new book delves into underbelly of cricket, analysing spot-fixing and nexus of bookies and punters with those in the corridors of power, mysterious deaths and issues threatening the gentleman's game.
"Fixed: Cash and Corruption in Cricket" (HarperCollins) by journalist Shantanu Guha Ray examines the allegations of corruption against players, cricket administrators and bookies alike.
The author interviews people who linger in the shadows of players' dressing rooms - the middle men, agents, 'friends’ of IPL franchise owners - placing bets on games and enticing cricketers to reveal inside information for money, sex or, worse, fear for their lives.
"Will the truth behind 58-eight-year-old Woolmer's death be ever revealed? Was he really throttled, perhaps with a bathroom towel to avoid leaving finger marks on his neck, as Deputy Police Commissioner of the Jamaica Constabulary Force Mark Shields had strongly hinted at initially?
Also under the spotlight are the roles of the police and the government, who have, at best, made patchy efforts to stem
The author says despite cricket being almost next to religion in India, the issue of corruption in cricket very surprisingly was hardly ever debated in Parliament.
"Why wouldn't the members of the Upper House and Lower House debate an issue as serious as spot-fixing and illegal betting? I remembered how cops in Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Jaipur and Delhi had told me that their biggest concern was that in recent years, illegal betting syndicates had developed powerful connections in the right corridors," he says.
According to him, this betting industry is an extremely secretive and complex network that works at various levels.
"For example, Indian bookies are known for picking up exotic locations to hoodwink the cops. Some take satellite phones and work out of villages, others bribe cops and work right next to the stadium, some set up shop in the top floors of fancy five-star hotels where there's minimal movement of guests.
"In two recent cases in Mumbai, bookies camouflaged themselves as members of an investor forum discussing the ills of real estate business in the city," he writes.
He says the network of bookies runs very, very deep across the world.
"It works like a well-oiled machine, almost like the simulation system of a jet engine. There are plenty of backups in place, and hardly much scope for failure. The word of mouth is sacrosanct, and cash is delivered within seconds."
Above them are the people who manage a group of bookies that operate in various parts of a city or a state, Ray says.
"In India, for example, the nation is divided into five zones: east, south, north, west and central. These five zones are further divided into 10 mini-zones, and those mini-zones are divided into 30 sub-mini zones. Those who head these zones get information and odds from a completely different set of individuals who are above them in the chain," he argues.
The industry, which he says is non-existent on paper, is "structured in such a way that it makes it extremely difficult, even impossible, for people on the ground, the bookies, to know the ones operating in the layers above them in the chain of command".
The first chapter talks about a mysterious Delhi businessman and how his shop was the conduit for all bookies
and dubious cricketers to assemble and settle deals.
The chapter on Bob Woolmer is interesting. The author cites the sequence of events that took place before and after
the death of the Pakistani coach in 2007.
"Or, did he die of one of his regular coughing fits, triggered by something he had eaten for dinner? Interestingly, no one could find out what Woolmer had eaten on that final evening," Ray writes.