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Expansion of Twenty-20 cricket fuels concerns about match fixing

NEW DELHI -- As cricket's T20 domestic champions battle it out for supremacy in South Africa, alarm bells are ringing that the proliferation of such tournaments has “considerably increased the risk” of match fixing.

Less than a decade after the 20-over game made its debut in England, every major cricketing country now has its own T20 tournament: attracting new fans and lucrative sponsorship deals — and the attention of illegal betting syndicates.

An Indian TV sting last week, in which six South Asian umpires were shown to be allegedly open to bribery, was just the latest in a line of scandals to have hit the sport, especially T20 cricket.

A recent review commissioned by the International Cricket Council (ICC) into its anti-corruption activities was unequivocal in pinpointing where the greatest threat to cricket's integrity lies.

“The view of those consulted is that the arrival of T20 cricket and the Indian Premier League has considerably increased the risk of match fixing and spot fixing,” said the review led by former Hong Kong solicitor-general Bertrand de Speville.

The best known tournament is the Indian Premier League (IPL), a six-week jamboree infused with the glamour of Bollywood stars as well as the biggest names in world cricket.

But as the leagues spread across the cricketing world — from Bangladesh to Zimbabwe — experts say the dangers should be clear to all.

“The mushrooming of domestic T20 leagues brings in not merely sponsors, spectators and TV revenue, but also a surging interest from the betting mafia,” writer Sharda Ugra argued in a recent commentary for the Cricinfo website.

“They will not stop trying to find new footholds in the game. Protecting cricket's integrity does not only involve reacting to TV stings every few months. It is now a 24/7 undertaking.”

The cash-rich IPL initially snubbed an offer by the ICC's anti-corruption unit to monitor matches for the first two editions in 2008 and 2009.

But in a bid to quash speculation that it was a haven for match-fixers, it decided to enlist the unit from the third year onwards.

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Highveld Lions Chris Morris, left, reacts as his team wins a game against the Chennai Super Kings during a Champions League Twenty20 in Cape Town, South Africa, Tuesday, Oct. 16. As cricket's T20 domestic champions battle it out for supremacy, alarm bells are ringing that the proliferation of such tournaments has “considerably increased the risk” of match fixing. (AP)

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