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Sports Desk

by Aidan Elder |  Published: May 01, 2010

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Twenty20 World Cup
Twenty20 cricket has been a great leveller for cricket. Its brief existence at the highest level of the sport has meant the history and status of the traditional aristocrats counts for little. Teams that weren’t even a twinkle in the eye of the British Empire when Test cricket was in its formative stages can now count themselves amongst the vanguard of modernisation. The antiquated powers that control the sport may exhibit a snobbish disdain for the uncivilized chaos it can often become, but the public appetite for bitesize cricket is strong and they’ll have to stiffen those upper lips for the foreseeable future.

Pakistan playing against Australia at Lord'sThis is the third Twenty20 World Cup in four years and that speaks volumes about the popularity of the format. Its very unpredictability can only add to its appeal. It is a particularly unforgiving form of the game. There is little time to correct an early mistake, and trying to atone for an error might exacerbate the problem. To this day, national teams aren’t completely sure of the best selection policy for this version of the sport and it often leads to teams that are quite proficient in both the Test and One Day versions of cricket struggling with the requirements of the short game. Among the major cricket nations, match betting should seldom be anything other than about 50/50 — anything significantly different to that is at the very least, worth further exploration, and at best, an error in pricing.

As witnessed by its Premier League, India has embraced the game more than most. Likewise, its near neighbours Pakistan and Sri Lanka have also taken to it to the extent the trio of teams from the Indian subcontinent are the only ones to have contested the two finals thus far. It seems almost shocking that none of the three are considered among the top two in the betting for the latest renewal. The Indians are an extremely backable 5/1 to win their second title, Sri Lanka should have plenty of takers at a tempting 6/1 and there’s a lot of appeal in backing defending champions, Pakistan to retain their title at 7/1. Just because it’s a short format, doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of long odds.

UK General Election
It won’t feature much in the way of athleticism, but by the time it’s all over, we’ll have witnessed more gamesmanship and chicanery than most major sporting events have to offer. Political betting is an area of huge growth and the upcoming UK general election is guaranteed to have huge sums of money staked on it.

UK ballot boxAppropriately for something associated with the ballot box, it’s an extremely democratic betting proposition. Opinion polls are readily available, the behaviour of all the protagonists is constantly under the media’s microscope and whether it’s from Fleet Street or the laptop of a lonely middle-aged divorcee, commentators are readily available to give their opinions. All that’s left is for you to wade through the information, decipher the mood of the electorate, and get your bets on accordingly. Easy.

For the last couple of years, it has looked like this general election was going to be an open goal for the Conservatives. A Labour Party — led by a massively unpopular Prime Minister dealing with the public backlash from the invasion of Iraq, the global economic crisis, and clearly getting overly comfortable with the trappings of a long stint of uninterrupted power — were perceived to have little chance of obtaining a fourth term in government. That still looks to be the case, but the Tories are now uneasy favourites. At one stage they were as short as 1/25 in places to seize the reigns of power, and thoughts of another “New Labour” victory were beyond even the wildest of Peter Mandelson’s dreams.

As the big day rolls around however, the opinion polls and, accordingly, the betting markets have brought the two main contenders ever closer. Gordon Brown remains detested by large swathes of the population, but David Cameron hasn’t exactly been foot perfect in preparation for his ascent to power.

The Tories aren’t worth backing at such a short price while Labour still doesn’t look likely enough to turn it around. The expenses scandal has accentuated the general trend of disillusionment with politics and it’s likely there will be some sort of protest. That might benefit some of the smaller parties, but most likely it could manifest itself in mass apathy. For much of the post-war era, voter turnout for general elections was regularly over the 75 percent mark, but the two elections we’ve had this century have been marginally below and above the 60 percent mark. Taking the 5/1 for a turnout of 55 – 59.99 percent might just be the wisest vote of all. Spade Suit