Match-fixing hits Pak again, 7 players questioned
London/Karachi: Yet another scandal rocked Pakistan cricket today engulfing its captain Salman Butt, brilliant pace duo of Muhammad Asif and Muhammad Aamir and four other players, leading to the arrest of a bookie in London and questioning of the players by the Scotland Yard after a tabloid sting.
Scotland Yard detectives visited the Pakistan dressing room immediately after the third day’s play to question the players after the sting operation exposed ‘spot-fixing’ and the alleged nexus between the players and bookies. While ‘match-fixing’ involves fixing the result of a match, ‘spot-fixing’ is manipulating events within the match.
“Scotland Yard detectives had visited the team hotel where they had taken statements of captain Salman Butt, fast bowlers Muhammad Asif and Muhammad Aamir, and wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal,” Pakistan team manager Yawar Saeed told reporters.
The ‘News of the World’ tabloid alleged that a Pakistani man Mazhar Majeed, who is now under arrest, had paid bribes to the players to bowl no-balls in the series and the Lord’s Test.
The video evidence that the tabloid has presented also shows Majeed talking about his links with Indian bookies.
“I deal with an Indian party. They pay me for the information,” Majeed is quoted as saying.
The International Cricket Council said it was aware of the developments but made it clear that the fourth day’s play of the Test will continue as scheduled.
“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.
Yawar admitted that the investigators had also spoken to him but denied that the rooms of the players were raided. He also denied seizure of money, laptops and phones of the players from their rooms.
“The police have also spoken to me and we are trying to cooperate with them in every way possible and we are giving them whatever information they want,” Yawar said.
But sources said the Scotland Yard detectives gathered some evidence from the hotel after raiding the players’ room.
The embattled Pakistan team has also gotten in touch with their High Commission in London for assistance. Confirming this Yawar said, “the High Commissioner is also in touch with the Scotland Yard in this issue. We are cooperating with them.”
Besides Majeed, an accomplice of his has also been picked up by the police for questioning. Majeed, 35, was arrested late last night after the tabloid handed over details of its sting operation to the Scotland Yard.
The bookie claims to have paid some players in excess of 150,000 pounds to fix the Test match.
“The police have carried out preliminary questioning of some players. Majeed is an old associate and friend of many Pakistani players and is settled in London. He has been seen regularly with the players on the tour,” one source said.
“The sad part for the Pakistan cricket is that several leading players are said to be involved in this new scandal which could cause untold damage to Pakistan cricket,” he said.
Pakistani TV channels reported that the players had been sounded off about the inquiry when the third day’s play ended.
“That is why the players left early for the hotel without anyone attending the mandatory post-play press conference,” a source said.
Pakistan had reduced England to 47 for five and then 102 for seven on second day at Lord’s but Jonathan Trott and Stuart Broad scored centuries to share a record eighth-wicket partnership of 332 runs.
The two Pakistanis who bowled no-balls allegedly on directions from Majeed were Asif and Aamir. Both bowlers delivered three no-balls on Thursday and Friday.
The two bowlers delivered the no-balls “at precisely the moments promised to our reporter,” the tabloid said.
“Our undercover team was posing as front men for a Far East gambling cartel. In return for their suitcase of money Majeed then calmly detailed what would happen - and when – on the field of play next day, as a taster of all the lucrative information he could supply in future,” it reported.
Pakistan was bowled out for 74 yesterday and made to follow-on and were reduced to 46 for four at stumps facing certain defeat and a big series loss.
While match-fixing is fixing the result of the whole match, spot-fixing is fixing events within a match, on ball-by-ball basis.
The names of Pakistani players cropped up in match fixing earlier this year as well.
After the tour of Australia, former Pakistan coach Intikhab Alam and assistant coach Aaqib Javed (who is still with the team) had expressed suspicions about Kamran’s involvement with bookies after assessing his performance in the Sydney Test.
Meanwhile, Iqbal Muhammad Ali who heads the National Assembly Standing Committee on Sports blamed the PCB and its Chairman Ijaz Butt for the humiliation Pakistan cricket was facing.
“We and the Senate sports committee had warned that if some players were suspected of having ties with bookies they should be dropped from the team and disciplined.
“But no one paid heed. If these players are now guilty we want to see them behind the bars because this conduct is unacceptable,” Ali said.