A quick musing about something that happened at the cricket today.
I arrived in good time for the first ball and settled in my seat in the Upper Compton Stand. Some time to admire the beautiful Lord’s vista before the one-day final got underway. This is meant to be a Hampshire stand but it is clear that many of my neighbours are here for Kent. No matter, this isn’t football.
Just as the teams emerge from the pavilion, I stand to let someone through and he takes the seat next to me. He is a heavily built Asian chap who is joined by a companion shortly after. They exchange greetings in a language I can’t identify and I wonder which side they are here to back. Maybe neither. Perhaps they just like cricket.
Things start to get a bit odd. The two gents make no further conversation, but seem to be staring at their phones an awful lot. One has his screen positioned under his seat – for shade I guess – the other in his hand. I observe their routine: watch a ball of cricket, stare at phone, head up for the next ball, back to phone and so on. At first I think they might be keeping tabs on another match – India? Pakistan? – but can’t think of anything going on.
I’m also intrigued by the small keyboards my neighbour has in each hand. So next time I reach for a drink in my bag, I take the chance to have a good glance under his seat and this is what I saw:
Three phones. One seems to be connected to a person; the contact name suggests they are in Dubai. The other two show betting information – odds on the partnership in this match as far as I can see. Is he placing bets? I don’t think so, it seems he is adjusting the odds – though I could be wrong. Whatever it is, he appears to be doing it between every ball.
At the close of innings my neighbour makes a phone call in which the only English words are ‘card validation’. That complete, he speaks to his companion and they leave, not returning for Kent’s reply.
I’m left wondering if this was anything untoward. If he was a Dubai based bookmaker, making sure that he could adjust the odds in real time and not let anyone get the jump on him due to delays in satellite TV, then is that wrong? Illegal? Was I just jumping to conclusions based on racial profiles and stories of subcontinental bookmakers of recent years?
Yet, if this was a legitimate bookie, was it not a bit odd to be doing it squashed among Hampshire and Kent supporters in the Upper Compton?
Can anyone shed any light on what might have been going on?