London: The ghost of the match-fixing returns to Pakistan cricket as they endured the worst day in their turbulent cricket history on Sunday when a corruption scandal involving key players erupted overnight which was succeeded by their heaviest Test defeat.
Based on a sting operation conducted by British tabloid ‘The News of the World’, the Metropolitan Police arrested London-based property tycoon Mazhar Majeed, who allegedly lured Pakistani fast bowlers Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif to deliver three blatant no-balls at the “crucial times” of the game by the daily’s undercover reporter.
The practice is known as spot fixing. While ‘match-fixing’ involves fixing the result of a match, ‘spot-fixing’ is manipulating events within the match.
Reports also suggested that Pakistan captain Salman Butt and wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal were also involved. The shocking video released by the tabloid also show Majeed exchanging jacket containing money with Pakistan’s new pace bowler Wahab Riaz.
According to the reports, Majeed has confessed of knowing Pakistan skipper Salman Butt and has alleged Butt to approach him for striking deals and has even quoted him as “the ringleader of the pack.”
He also reportedly named wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal and boasted that he had a total of seven Pakistani cricketers in his pocket.
This is the first instance when the fixing in cricket is exposed on camera.
The video evidence that the tabloid has presented also shows Majeed talking about his links with Indian bookies.
“....in terms of results, depending on who we are playing, sometimes it can be 300,000 pounds. The max it can be is 450,000 pounds. You can speak to any bookie in India and they will tell you about this information and how much they’ll pay. If you had the information and they knew that it was coming from the source they’d pay you that money themselves,” he is quoted as saying.
“I deal with an Indian party. They pay me for the information.”
However, the International Cricket Council said it was aware of the developments and will not comment on Pakistan players being linked to fixing syndicate.
“No players nor the team officials have been arrested in relation to this incident and the fourth Test match will continue as scheduled on Sunday.”
“As this is now subject to a police investigation neither ICC, ECB, PCB nor the ground authority, the MCC, will make any further comment,” an ICC statement said.
In another development, Pakistan tour manager Yawar Saeed told that police had confiscated mobile phones belonging to Amir, Asif and Captain Salman Butt.
However, it would appear from Butt’s body language on Sunday that he cannot wait to go home. Asked repeatedly if he had been involved in spot fixing as alleged in The News of the World, Butt did not give a direct denial.
Asked whether he would consider quitting the job, which was given to him only last month, Butt merely said, “why?”
“These are just allegations, anyone can say anything about anyone, that doesn’t make them true,” he fumed in a brief post-match press conference with team manager Yawar Saeed by his side.
Earlier in the day, Pakistan team did not bother to warm up on Sunday and were duly defeated by an innings and 225 runs before lunch on the fourth day.
Only a sprinkling of spectators were present to watch the dying rites of a series won 3-1 by the home side and when Amir came out to bat he was booed.
The fans were even denied sight of a victory ceremony which was held in the Long Room in the Lord’s pavilion in a distinctly chilly atmosphere. Amir got neither applause nor handshakes when he was presented with the award for Pakistan player of the series.
Pakistan, who play all their international matches abroad because of the parlous security situation at home, have played six Tests in seven weeks in England including a drawn series with Australia.
The news caused consternation in Pakistan, where their cricket team’s wins over Australia and England this season have provided a small measure of consolation for those affected by the floods which have killed at least 1,600 people and forced more than six million from their homes.
“We are waiting for a detailed report from the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and if any players are found guilty of being involved in fixing they will be banned for life,” Sports Minister Ijaz Hussain Jakhrani said.
Former Pakistan Captain Salim Malik was one of three international leaders who were banned for life after a match-fixing scandal which emerged in 2000. South African Hansie Cronje and India’s Mohammad Azharuddin also received life bans.