Imran, ex-PCB chief rubbish Malik`s comments

Last Updated: Mar 28, 2011, 17:01 PM IST

Karachi/New Delhi: Interior Minister Rehman Malik triggered a controversy warning Pakistan players against indulging in match-fixing, comments that did not not go well with the country`s former players and administrators, who criticised him for his statement.

Malik`s critics attacked him for speaking about match-fixing without any reason and that if he had to say something he could have conveyed it quietly to the team. But they ruled out Malik`s statement affecting the morale of the players.

In a surprise statement, the minister said he was keeping a "close watch" on the activities of the team in Mohali against the backdrop of what had happened in London last year when some of the team players were allegedly caught involved in spot fixing. "I gave a warning that there should be no match-fixing. I am keeping a close watch. If any such thing happens, we are going to take action," Malik said two days ahead of the game in Mohali that will showcase one of the world`s most intense sporting rivalries.

He said though he was "sure the team has very clean members", intelligence is being gathered on the Pakistani cricketers, including "who are meeting them and the position of their telephones". "This is necessary because we can`t take a chance after what happened in London," he said, in a reference to a recent match-fixing controversy in Britain involving three Pakistani players.

Malik, who made the remarks during an interaction with the media in Karachi, also had some advice for the Pakistani players. "There is a lot of love for the cricketers and we hope they will win the game for us. We expect they will not disappoint the people," he said. Former Pakistani cricketing great Imran Khan was critical of Malik saying he does not doubt the integrity of the country`s team but was keeping a watch on Malik, who has been "absconding from justice".

"I would at least watch Rehman Malik more than the cricket team. I am serious, because I don`t know if you know he was absconding from justice until recently. So therefore my worry is not with the cricket team but with him," Imran said in Kolkata.

"He doesn`t have a very good command over the English language, perhaps he meant something else and something else came out," he added. Imran said the only way to get rid of corruption in cricket is to be more vigilant.

"We have to stamp out corruption from cricket, the simple rule all over the world is make crime not pay. So the more vigilant the boards are, ICC is ...(and) someone is caught, they should be given punishment and this is the only way and there is just one another dimension to it as spot-fixing is very difficult to pick," he said.

Former opener Aamir Sohail said though there are fears of match-fixing, Malik could have quietly sent the message to the team rather than going public. "To be honest there are fears of these things going on, there is no doubt about it but the timing and the way he has come out on the media, it could have been said quietly to the players as well," he said.

"There is no point in going on air and talking about it. They could have just sent a message to the players, that`s the only problem I have. On national channel, there are quite a few people talking about it, saying things like the match is fixed and India is going to win against Pakistan, so in a way our interior minister had to come on TV and say," he added.

However, Sohail said this incident would not affect the morale of the team and it would deliver against India in the high-voltage semifinal on Wednesday. "I don`t think any morale is going to go down because of this. They have a job to do and they will do it, there is no doubt about it," he said.

Former PCB chief Shahryar Khan said Malik`s fears are unjustified and none of the players could even think of match- fixing in such an important clash. "I have been with these players for a very long time and I do not believe in such a vital match any player from any side would even contemplate fixing or doing a spot-fix in this particular match," he said.

"We have found in the recent past, two to three of our players were part of a match-fixing scandal and I think Mr Malik has reacted to that and given them a warning that no such thing happens. But I think his fears are unjustified. I don`t think any patriotic Pakistani... people are very, very nationalistic about this and if they find a player has been found in such a thing he would be in lot of trouble," he said.

PTI