How to repair the damage of match fixing
The case against the three Pakistan players accused of bowling deliberate no-balls in the fourth Test against England is still under investigation. But what is beyond doubt is that the affair has its roots in the illegal, shady world of Indian betting.
Over the last few days I have been looking into the problem, trying to get an idea of just how widespread it is and why money being wagered in Delhi could possibly influence the outcome of matches played many thousands of miles from here.
After a few calls via two local journalists, my crew and I arrange to talk to a bookmaker. Having recently been released from jail after serving time for firearms offences, he is suspicious and refuses, at first, to meet in a public place.
He then changes his mind and agrees to meet in a restaurant in a shopping mall on the eastern part of the city, not far from the Commonwealth Games athletes' village.
But as we are waiting for him, he changes his mind again and asks instead to meet in the apartment of one of the local journalists.
We drive to an area known as Vishwas Nagar, one of the rougher parts of town, where we are taken up to meet the bookmaker. He refuses to give his name and won't speak on camera without a black scarf covering his face.
As we sip hot, sweet Masala chai served with biscuits, the atmosphere becomes more relaxed and once he is reassured that we will not reveal his identity he starts to open up. Before saying a word, he takes a bag from the table and sets out in front of him 13 mobile phones and a larger, white, landline phone. These are the tools of his trade.
He tells me the bigger phone is used to receive - note, not to make - calls from a more senior bookmaker higher up the chain in Delhi. They in turn receive the "rates" from bookmakers in Jaipur and India's financial capital Mumbai.
Those odds, he says, have been received from the most senior bookmaker in the chain, based in Dubai. He sets those odds after consulting the websites of legitimate betting companies in London.
While no online betting exists in India, the growth of the internet here has allowed punters and bookmakers in the system to cross reference their odds with those being offered by web companies.
His remarks confirm what other sources have also told us about the international nature of the operation.
Then he uses the mobile phones to take bets from his customers, or "punters".
The more money you have and the better your connections, the greater the range of bets available. For example, it is possible to bet on scores made by individual batsmen, how many runs will be scored off a particular over, no-balls and so on.
But the two most common bets are on the results of matches and what is known as session betting.
Depending on the form of cricket being played sessions can last between 10 and 20 overs. The trick is to predict to the nearest run how many runs will be scored in each session.
If the punter is under he owes the bookmaker a certain amount for every run under the session total he sets. If the punter gets it right, then the bookmaker pays him.
This is an area thought to be vulnerable to fixing because although single sessions may not influence the overall outcome of a match, both batsmen and bowlers could manipulate run rates or other events on the pitch - such as no-balls - to ensure certain 'fixed' totals are reached.
Our bookmaker says the minimum bet on the result of a match is £350 while to bet on a session costs a minimum of £70. This does not seem a lot until one considers a third of India's population lives below the poverty line, according to government figures.
He goes on to reveal how he takes bets on all matches that are televised - not just Indian matches or big internationals but domestic county matches in England and elsewhere around the world.
He makes the outlandish claim that many matches, if not all, are fixed. He says that even if they are not in on it the bookmakers can tell when games are being fixed by reading the odds - which fluctuate minute by minute.
This bookmaker made no grand claims on match fixing. In many ways, he is a small cog in a far greater wheel. But in just a few days here I spoke to enough people to realise the roots of gambling run extremely deep.
Mohammad Amir is one of three players at the centre of the match fixing storm. Photo: AFP
So how do the authorities deal with this problem? And is it correct to assume that just because it is illegal to bet in India, it is undermining the worldwide integrity of a sport?
After all, if the players are not corrupt, then people betting on the telephone in Delhi or Jaipur cannot possibly influence matters on the pitch in north London.
But there does seem to be a reluctance here to accept that illegal betting could be part of the problem.
On Monday, Sports and Olympics minister Hugh Robertson, out here for the Commonweath Games, attempted to raise the issue at a meeting of fellow Commonwealth sports ministers.
In the end, the subject was considered too sensitive for it to be raised directly. Officials warned that the move would backfire and could even lead to Pakistan's sports minister walking out of the meeting.
A compromise was then agreed, with the World Anti-Doping Agency announcing it would branch out into the fight against corruption by producing a report on gambling in time for the next meeting in London in 2012.
That is an awfully long way off but such are the sensitivities around this issue on the subcontinent that Robertson and his allies in Australia may have to play the long game.
Robertson told the BBC in an interview that persuading the Indian government to legalise gambling could be a step in the right direction but he accepted there was opposition in India to such a move. Even a crackdown on the bookmakers might drive it further underground.
But even if it was legalised, would that solve the problem? It might make it easier to follow suspicious betting patterns and to investigate anyone trying to manipulate matches but there have been cases of fixing in many sports involving unsuspecting legal betting operators.
Robertson revealed he also met the president of the International Cricket Council Sharad Pawar, a former head of the Indian cricket board (BCCI) and an influential minister in the country's government. Pawar told Robertson that a more effective approach in India and the rest of the subcontinent could be to hit the players who get involved with fixers with life bans.
That would be desperately harsh on young players such as Mohammad Amir, who at 18 could have his career ended before it has even started, although he maintains his innocence and is contesting the charges against him.
However, the ICC believes sending a strong message is the only way.
The exact connection between gambling in India and corruption in cricket remains uncertain.
But from speaking to people here over the past few days what is clear is a growing cynicism about the sport. And the minute people lose faith in what they are seeing, I'm afraid the game is up.