Indian crickets new anti-corruption chief opposed to legalized sports betting

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The new head of the Anti-Corruption Unit of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) says he stands opposed to any suggestion betting on the sport should be legalized, claiming it would encourage match-fixing.

Shabir Hussein Shekhadam Khandwawala, a former director general of police in the state of Gujarat, took over from Ajit Singh as the BCCIs ACU chief on 1 April but was this week quick to express contrasting views from his predecessor, who had stated that legalizing betting would be the most effective means of preventing corruption within the game.

Whether the government legalizes betting or not is a different matter but deep inside, I feel as a police officer that betting can lead to match-fixing, Khandwawala said. The government, so far, has rightly not legalized betting.

Betting encourages match-fixing so there should not be any change on this. We can make the rules more strict. We will work on that. It is a matter of great prestige that cricket is largely free of corruption. Credit should go to the BCCI for that.

As the governing body of Indias national sport, the BCCI is also the most powerful body in world cricket with income of US$535 million in 2019.

However, that figure is dwarfed by the size of Indias underground cricket betting market, said to be worth at least US$45 billion and as high as US$150 billion annually. Dohas International Centre for Sports Security has estimated that around US$200 million is bet on every one-day international fixture the Indian team plays.

While the hugely popular Indian Premier League (IPL), which starts this week, will no doubt see billions pass through Indias underground betting channels, Khandwawala said this week that his primary focus is stamping out corruption in Indias lower leagues.

Our top players are so well paid that they are miles from the menace of match-fixing. We should feel proud about that, he said.

Rooting out corruption from smaller events and leagues is a big challenge and we need to put an end to it. We need to ensure there is nothing shady happening at all levels of cricket being played in the country.