London/Melbourne: The match-fixing scandal that has rocked Pakistan cricket got murkier on Monday with reports of more games being rigged as a rattled ICC promised “appropriate” action against players found guilty after investigations.
The sting operation carried out by British tabloid ‘The News of the World’, which implicated seven Pakistani players including captain Salman Butt, has opened a Pandora’s box with fresh reports suggesting that the opening Test between England and Pakistan and the January Sydney Test between Pakistan and Australia could have been fixed.
The ICC top brass had a teleconference to discuss the issue after which it was made clear that Pakistan’s T20 and ODI series against England will continue as scheduled.
“It is the desire of the ICC, England and Pakistan that the game is continued,” ICC President Sharad Pawar said after talking over phone with top ICC officials, PCB Chairman Ejaz Butt and ECB chairman Giles Clarke.
Pakistan and England square off in two Twenty20 Internationals (September 5 and 7) before playing five ODIs from September 10-22.
But as the Pakistan team quietly boarded the bus for going to Taunton, angry fans shouted “chor, chor” and other abuses.
Pawar said besides the London police, Anti-Corruption Unit of the ICC is also preparing a report. The world body will take action after studying both the investigations and a report from the PCB.
“I had a detailed discussion with Giles Clarke, Ejaz Butt, ICC vice-president Alan Issac, CEO Haroon Lorgat, anti-corruption wing in-charge Ravi Sawani and a few officials of ICC. We discussed in depth the Pakistani players’ issue. One thing is that the British Police have not completed their investigation. Neither any player has been interrogated,” he said.
“Until and unless the British authorities complete investigation, which we hope will be done in two-three days, and establish there is prima facie case it is difficult for the PCB to take appropriate action,” he said.
“ICC is waiting for the British police to complete investigation. ACSU is also looking into the details. It is also preparing a report in 2-3 days. The report by British Police and ACSU will give us a proper picture. This information we hope will lead us to take appropriate action if required,” he added.
The furore follows allegations that a bookie, Mazhar Majeed, arrested and later released on bail, bribed Pakistani pacers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamir for ‘spot-fixing’ to bowl no balls during the Lord’s Test against England, which the visitors lost by an innings and 225 runs.
While match-fixing involves rigging the outcome of a game, ‘spot-fixing’ means manipulating events within a match.
Skeletons continued to tumble out in the saga with report saying the first Test between England and Pakistan in the just-ended series and Pakistan and Australia in Sydney in January were also fixed. There were reports that ICC had decided to investigate 82 matches involving the Pakistan team.
Another report claimed that the Pakistani players were found with cash exceeding their daily allowances during a Scotland Yard raid on Saturday night.
In video of the sting operation, Majeed is seen claiming that the result of the Sydney Test was rigged and is also boasting about the money he earned from it.
“Let me tell you the last Test we did. It was the second Test against Australia in Sydney. Australia had two more wickets left. They had a lead of 10 runs, yeah. And Pakistan had all their wickets remaining,” newspapers quoted Majeed as saying in the video.
“That one we made 1.3 million pounds. But that’s what I mean, you can get up to a million. Tests is where the biggest money is because those situations arise.”
Australia clinched an unlikely 36-run win in the match after Pakistan lost nine wickets for a mere 89 runs. Pakistani Wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal dropped four catches in the match which helped Australia recover from a potentially losing situation.
Compounding the Pakistan cricket team’s woes was a report in a British paper which claimed that the side’s players rigged the opening Test against England, which the hosts won by a massive 354 runs last month in Nottingham.
Scotland Yard’s Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick was reportedly told about Pakistani players being involved in match fixing a month ago.
“... police were told a month ago about match-fixing in the England v Pakistan Test series. Scotland Yard’s Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick was tipped off over alleged corruption in the first match (July 29 to August 1),” the tabloid claimed.
Quoting a source, the newspaper said that an informer had given “credible” information about match-fixing by Pakistani players to the police here.
The cricketers implicated in the scandal have had their mobile phones and reportedly their passports confiscated by the police.
But the storm has failed to force a resignation from Butt, who has reacted by saying that, “I haven’t heard any allegations, except just taking my name. There’s nothing I’ve seen or been shown on TV that involves me.”
Rattled by the bookie’s claim about the Sydney Test, Cricket Australia said the allegations are “most disturbing” and called for a thorough investigation into the scandal.
“The reports from the UK are most disturbing and we look forward to the outcome of rigorous investigation by the UK authorities as well as by the ICC,” CA chief James Sutherland said.
Equally disturbed by the turn of events was Australian captain Ricky Ponting, who said if the match-fixing slur is proved right, all individual milestones by his players in the Sydney game would be “tainted”.
“The thing that I’m most worried about if any of this is proven to be true is some of the individual performances that took place in that game,” he said.
“All of those individual milestones will be tainted as well,” he added.
The BCCI, arguably the most financially powerful member of the ICC, said the matter is for the ICC and the PCB to deal with.
“The PCB and ICC should look into this matter and they are capable of handling it,” BCCI spokesman Rajiv Shukla said.
Former captains reacted with shock and anger at the scandal.
Former players such as Ian Chappell, Ramiz Raja, Michael Vaughan, Imran Khan and Ian Botham condemned the scandal and said they were worried about the future of cricket.
The scandal drew sharp reactions from the British media which said it threatens the very existence of the sport and called for Pakistan’s suspension from international cricket and life bans on the players if found guilty.