Of all the changes began by the rise of club-based leagues in the age of Twenty20, perhaps the most unfortunate has been to expose cricket to new and heightened threats of match-fixing.

T20 has meant that there is more cricket than ever on TV and live streams. If you can watch it, you can bet on it. And if you can bet on it, you can try and fix it.

Cricket and gambling have always been inextricably linked. Gambling on cricket has taken place since at least 1694. By the early 19th Century the sport was ridden with fixing; famously, in one game between England and Nottingham, both sides were paid to lose. The MCC was forced to ban bookmakers from Lord's.

The modern golden age of fixing was in the 1990s, culminating in the Hansie Cronje affair in 2000. And, while the top echelons of international cricket are far cleaner than 20 years ago, there are unmistakable parallels between the two eras.


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Both then and now, transient pop-up tournaments – for interminable one-day international triangular series in Sharjah then, read T20 leagues now – were most susceptible to corruption.

At its core, the vulnerability of cricket today is a numbers game. Twenty years ago, there were about 150 games a year worth fixing – the total amount of top-tier international fixtures played each year. Now, there are over 700 T20 fixtures played worldwide every year.

From under 200 players who played in major international games each year 20 years ago, now over 2,000 players play in T20 games each year. The pool of players worth corrupting has snowballed.

Comparatively, low-tier leagues attract huge sums of betting money. On the UK betting exchange Betfair, an average of £34.8 million was matched on each Afghanistan Premier League game in 2018.

The figures matched on Betfair are only a small percentage – reckoned to be under five per cent – of the total amounts staked on games, suggesting that each Afghanistan Premier League match would have over £500m matched on it worldwide, the large majority through illegal bookmakers based in India and east Asia.

Even unofficial state-run leagues have attracted sizeable amounts gambled – some matches in the Tamil Nadu Premier League, a regional T20 league in India, have over £30m matched on Betfair alone.

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Cricket was ill-prepared for how this new age would challenge the sport's integrity. Anti-corruption education in international cricket is much-improved, but education in domestic leagues remains haphazard – often, insiders have reported, a solitary brief PowerPoint presentation at the start of a season, with players arriving late for leagues sometimes not even receiving that.


The sport's anti-corruption framework remains a legacy of times when international cricket was the only cricket worth fixing. The sport still lacks one unified anti-corruption code across all levels of the game.

Instead, the ICC's Anti-Corruption Unit has jurisdiction for international games alone, and only covers domestic leagues when it is invited. Though a smattering of countries use domestic anti-corruption units regarded as robust enough, a myriad of other leagues – including the Bangladesh Premier League – rely on their domestic anti-corruption units alone. Doing so has one clear advantage: it is cheaper for those running the leagues.

Fixers adjusted to the new realities of the franchise age far quicker than anti-corruption bodies.

Players bored and lonely away from home – often barely knowing their team-mates, unlike when players play domestic cricket in their home countries – are targeted through the promise of friendship, free gifts, or even honeytraps.

"They tend to hunt the bars for you," Chris Gayle wrote in his autobiography Six Machine. "You've got to be careful out there."

Hanse Cronje. Photo / Photosport
Hanse Cronje. Photo / Photosport

Franchise cricket is a notoriously insecure world, with teams discarding players like Tinder dates.

Players regularly appear for five or more teams a year; the whole relationship between a player and their side can easily be reduced to the transactional.

Such insecurities are exacerbated by the unstable economics of leagues; a spate of T20 leagues have collapsed, increasing players' temptation to cash in while they still can.

There is also simple human jealousy. Whereas in international cricket players generally get paid an identical match fee to their team-mates – though the size of their national contracts and sponsorship deals varies hugely – in franchise cricket it is common for some players to be paid dozens of times more than their team-mates for exactly the same amount of work.

Academic research has identified a cocktail of poorly remunerated players and matches with large amounts bet on them as being particularly susceptible to fixing; this doubles as a description of much franchise cricket.

Owners are emerging as another – and, perhaps, the most serious – problem. Franchise cricket lacks any equivalent of the Premier League's fit and proper persons test, however inadequate that has proved.

Some team owners around the world are losing money. For owners of teams who are shedding cash, fixing offers a way into the black.

Team owners, and their associates, in the Afghanistan Premier League are under investigation for allegedly driving fixing by their own sides, as Telegraph Sport has revealed.

This is the greatest challenge to cricket's integrity of all: how to stop fixing when it originates from the very top of teams?

Finding a satisfactory answer could define how successfully cricket is able to resist the nefarious forces of corruption in the 2020s.