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What do we all have in common with the IPL players caught fixing ?


ipl 2012 spot fixing

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So, another fixing scandal hits Cricket and IPL comes in to news for the wrong reasons, once again. A lot of questions are being asked. We will be told about the declining ethical and moral values. That we are hypocrites or that its in our culture. That this is because of greed and that this is an isolated incident. May be all these explanations are true or they may be other factors at play.

One question on most people’s mind though is ‘What were these guys thinking? In today’s day and age, didn’t they know they would be caught ? Surely, this is not the first time! So many players have been caught and paid dearly. There is enough news in the open and not just in Cricket on how people are getting caught. They have no career beyond cricket and they have seen what happened to the likes of Cronje.

So, the question is, How come these players believed that they’ll get away. Are they stupid ? They may be an exception in terms of getting involved in fixing, but they are not an exception when it comes to this thinking that they’ll not get caught.

One of the fundamental bias most of us have is ‘Overconfidence’ or differently put ‘Private Optimism’ Most smokers think that other smokers will get cancer, but not them. We think we are better than other drivers on the road. And not just that, many claim that they drive better when they’re drunk. We think we have a higher chance of success than others. In so many cases, we underestimate the time and cost of projects, yet we make the same mistakes in the next project.

This is hardwired over thousands of years of evolution. Overconfidence is important for survival. It helps us get out of the cave, reach the moon, start many new businesses, take big bets and innovate. But, it has a flip side, it hurts us big at times. We get in to accidents, make rash investments, smoke, drink, not eat healthy, over spend…

It can be argued that this is the same Private Optimism that makes these players believe that they will not get caught. They, in this case probably the players knew that there is surveillance and that the price they pay for getting caught is pretty steep and that it would practically end their career. But, they also believed that they are an exception. That they are less likely to get caught. That they’ll get away. They valued a small but certain and immediate gain over a big loss, because that loss is in the future and the probability of that loss is vague. We are all susceptible to these biases, it appears that these players were a little bit more susceptible. One way to solve this problem is to ensure swift and certain punishment rather than dragging the case. The more the uncertainty, more the chances of some other player repeating it.

Fixing isn’t the norm, overconfidence is. So, what is that you’ve been overconfident about lately ?

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