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Straight Bat: “Cricket betting is a business safer than yaba”

  • Published at 01:41 pm June 28th, 2019
General view of the Cricket World Cup trophy before the match Reuters

Cricket betting in Dhaka is becoming increasingly popular

West Indies’ pathetic defeat to India by 125 runs, where they were bowled out under 35 overs, shows how far they have fallen since their glory days. They suffer from the “go show them, go hit them, and you will win” syndrome. Perhaps it works in T20 cricket but in the other two formats, it doesn’t.

India’s total was achievable but not by this WI team who showed in their last over to Dhoni that they were not thinking. Modern cricket is brains first, supported by muscle -- not the other way around. Please learn that WI before you embarrass everyone more.   

Abu the bookie     

I had phoned Abu to find out what the bets were in Dhaka about winners and losers. He had agreed to talk when he found out I had no interest in gambling and was sometimes seen on TV. To him I was a celebrity. He told me that many in Dhaka were betting heavily that WI would win. 

“Why is that? Indians are way ahead.” 

“Nobody knows why they bet, boss. Most bet to make money and some to bring luck. It’s a game of chance. But many bets are heavy and high.”  

 “I know that paan shops take bets.” 

“Those are for kids, para boys. Nowadays, many big people play big. But bookies like us have to be careful. If you have many betters, you are safe. And bookies should never bet. If they lose, the dhanda goes away and you are in trouble. People have lost their shops, motorbikes. One has to be careful.”

“How do people know where to bet?”

He laughed. “If you were betting, you would have known. But because you are a journalist you have found me. See, it’s who needs whom ... no problem ... we stick to areas ... because we are field players ... we have agents who collect the money and then after the match bring the money and after calculation it is distributed ... its all on phone, boss. No problem!” 

“But it’s illegal, isn’t it? 

“Boss, its very safe ... it’s not like yaba which kills people and wrecks many lives. This is dhanda not crime. No smuggling, no hiding, no police, no politicians, no mastans ... very safe … only phone and TV and Cricinfo and YouTube ... this is very respectable.”

So there, the inevitable by-product of cricket culture is betting and it’s arrived in Dhaka in a big way -- Dhaka style. I was told many play from all classes and groups. 

There is no violence but a smartphone is needed and connections grow like big totals. There is no stigma and best, no violence till date. 

Nobody dies from an overdose of cricket but one day betting will become a problem if these people can influence outcomes. Until then, no one will bother I guess.

Best wishes, Abu! 

Afsan Chowdhury is a journalist and researcher.

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