If you think that Ed Hawkins Bookie Gambler Fixer Spy is a sensational revelation on the seamy world of fixing matches, full of thrills spills and chills (and other ills), we must warn you – it is not exactly what. For, Hawkins is not your run of the mill muckraking journalist. If anything, the man is perhaps one of the best qualified mediapersons in the world to talk of betting – he was the SJA Betting Writer of the Year in 2010, 2011 and 2012 and Bookie Gambler Fixer Spy has been praised by Wisden, the Bible of cricket, that tends to frown at seamier work.
And that, thankfully, is exactly what the book is not. Hawkins does not attempt to shock the reader or make sensational claims. Instead, what he lays bare – systematically – is the entire business of cricket betting and how it goes on, especially in the Indian sub continent. Mind you, there are many who will be stunned by the match with which Hawkins starts the book – the 2011 World Cup semi-final between India and Pakistan. Hawkins is told of several events that will occur in the match, and even given a rough idea of the margin of victory (20 runs on more). They all happen unerringly, leaving Hawkins shocked. One of his friends with whom he had watched the match and with whom he had shared the “predictions” he had received, tells him: “You have stolen Christmas…I am never watching a game with you again.”
Hawkins digs into the betting system in India and while veteran cricket followers will not be very surprised at what he reveals, more naive ones are likely to be shocked. He talks to bookies, finds out signals that players use to communicate with them, sees how odds are manipulated, talks to cricket administrators (yes, even Lalit Modi) to gauge what they are doing about this…and does all this and a lot more without trying to be holier than thou. There are no extended lectures about the Gentleman’s Game and the spirit of sport – this is a journalist stating facts as he sees them. And with a good deal of common sense – he points out that the Mohammad Asif scandal revealed by a British newspaper had one fundamental flaw: no one bets on the chances of a no-ball being bowled! All of which can make Bookie Gambler Fixer Spy seem a bit dry at times, but it is by far one of the most objective and informed books on betting and fixing in cricket.
If the cricket authorities had read it more carefully, perhaps some of the embarrassments the game and its followers have had to endure of late could have been avoided. Very much a must-read for anyone who loves the game.Bookie Gambler Fixer Spy Ed Hawkins Bloomsbury 240 pages Rs 345