ISLAMABAD: While the whole nation was settling down to watch the exciting cricket match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka, for some it was the start of business time as the clock struck 6pm.
Glued to TV screens, mobile phones and internet, these special class of cricket fans have crossed legal and social boundaries by being involved in ‘betting’.
Like others in this class, Asad is tense, serious and his eyes are roving restlessly at the time of the toss when the betting rate was equally at 80 paisa each. Soon as Sri Lanka decided to bat after winning the toss, he took a deep breath. “This is going to be exciting,” he said.
Incidentally, contrary to the general impression, these games and their punters have more technical knowledge of cricket than many analysts.
“The analysts mostly on the electronic media speak on the basis of experience and knowledge,” said Hammad, a punter in Rawalpindi. “But we believe on instincts and data.”
Though international betting rates were heavily in favour of Sri Lanka, the local punters had reasonable arguments to support Pakistan and the odds were not too wide at the local front. Both Hammad and Asad had similar logic that Pakistan had enough ability to get a foothold in the match and trade as favourites.
While Hammad said Sri Lanka had lost all four Twenty20 matches they played at the Premadasa Stadium, and Asad said out of the 11 matches at Premadasa during this tournament only one has been won by the team winning the toss and that was Australia versus South Africa.
“We cannot compare Pakistan with South Africa,” he added.
There is a large chain and almost everybody is involved before the match starts as the rates are finalised at the start of the match in London, Dubai and Mumbai which are gradually followed by the locals.
“As everything is becoming mathematical, betting is also like a mental sports now,” said Ayaz Mamu, who operates in Lyari area of Karachi, one of the largest gambling centres in the country.
He said after the game started the wager was 80 paisa for Sri Lanka against Re1 for Pakistan.
“This means that if you invest Rs1,000 you will get back Rs1,800 in case Sri Lanka wins,” Ayaz Mamu said. But after 10 overs, Sri Lanka further improved to 70 paisa.”
Whereas, the smaller brokerages in the twin cities furthered the Sri Lankan rating to 40 paisa after 10 overs.
Led by jewellers, traders and government employees, these ‘Cricket Gamers’ also include executives and even students due to availability of online and SMS service.
However, the executives, students or some social women mainly belonging to elite class bet in a form of socialising rather than habit as for the diehards who are even described as gamblers by colleagues and friends. The bets here are mainly guided by emotions compared to the professional styles at brokerages.
Though, the gambling and betting business is illegal in Pakistan and all the job is being done secretly, this is discreet and the doors are open to those who may be interested.
These people not only offer the wager services but also guide their clients with useful tips and even tell the rates internationally or in other cities.
“The most important advice offered is that they cannot escape ‘us’ if they lose; everybody has to pay,” said another punter who operates for a couple of bookies in the twin cities. “But whichever team wins the brokers always make money as they play on both sides.”