Spot-fixing: Afridi, Waqar’s statements cast doubts on tainted trio

Lahore: Pakistan’s one-day skipper Shahid Afridi, team coach Waqar Younis and former security manager of Pakistan team Major (retd) Khawaja Najam Javed have admitted that ‘bookie’ Mazhar Majeed had kept constant contact with the ‘tainted trio’ during the England tour in August, and even stayed at the team’s hotel despite several warnings.

In their startling eye witness accounts to the ICC’s Code of Conduct Commission probing the spot-fixing case, the three officials confirmed Mazhar’s frequent visits to the team hotel to meet the suspect players-- Salman Butt, Mohammad Aamir and Mohammad Asif- and that he continued meeting them in and outside the hotel despite several warnings from the then security manager, a newspaper reports.

The statements also claim that Mazhar had definite contacts with wicketkeeper-batsman Kamran Akmal, apart from the three tainted players.

Major Najam, who was recently removed from his job after the series against South Africa in the UAE, claims in his statement: “During the Scotland Yard search of the players’ rooms at the team hotel, two police officers found cash in a bag and a small suitcase which they seized. Most of the cash was in the suitcase. I asked the police officers to put on record the amount of money they had confiscated and they did so immediately.”

“While we were there, the police officers asked Salman Butt why he had so much cash in his room and Mr Butt stated, ‘It’s for my two sisters, they are getting married, it’s for their dowry’,” said the former security manager.

He further said that during the search of Asif’s room, the bowler remained quite calm but the other pacer, Aamir, looked very upset.

“I offered them support and told them to cooperate with the police. From Mohammad Aamir’s room, a Tag Heuer mobile phone and possibly other mobile phones, 5,000 pounds in cash, a few hundred US dollars and a white envelope with 2,500 pounds was recovered,” he added.

Commenting on rookie pacer Wahab Riaz’s role, Major Najam said: “He had visited Majeed’s house in the UK once during the first part of the tour, when Pakistan was playing against Australia. He explained that he was driven down there by Mazhar in a Range Rover, with Salman Butt and Kamran Akmal for lunch.”

Waqar in his statement endorsed the security manager’s statement that both Mazhar and Azhar Majeed were the agents of some of the Pakistani players, and also expressed his “great surprise” over the controversial no-ball bowled by Aamir in the Lord’s Test.

“I remember that the no-ball bowled by Mohammad Aamir on the third ball of his third full over on the second day of the Lord’s Test surprised me greatly. This was because Aamir’s front foot stepped over the line by a great distance whereas usually, if anything, Aamir tends to bowl from well behind the front-footline. I was so surprised by the delivery that when we went back into the dressing room at the end of that morning session I said to Aamir in Punjabi, ‘What the hell was that?’,” he said.

“But before Aaamir had the chance to answer my question, Salman Butt interrupted from across the dressing room, saying: ‘I told him to do it because the batsman was coming on the front foot. I told him to come forward and bowl him a bouncer’,” Waqar added.

Afridi, in his statement, said: “When I arrived at the team hotel, I saw the three players (Butt, Aamir and Asif) in a room together and I thought that they looked guilty. When I spoke to them they told me that they had done nothing wrong, to which I replied: ‘If you have done nothing wrong, there is no need to feel guilty’.”

“I did not speak to them again after that about the allegations. I was subsequently told by team management that the Metropolitan Police had found 20,000 pounds in Salman Butt’s room in different currencies,” he added.

Endorsing the security manager’s account, Afridi said that he had seen Mazhar staying in the Pakistan team hotel during several series in the past.

While the statements hugely dent any hopes of the ‘tainted’ trio, particularly Salman Butt, of defending themselves at the ICC hearing on Jan 6, 2011, they also highlight the incompetence and laxity on part of the ICC’s Anti-Corruption Unit and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) in the spot-fixing scam.

The question that arises here is that why Waqar or Major Najam did not bring the suspect activities of Mazhar and his brother Azhar Majeed to the notice of either the ICC’s Anti-Corruption Unit or the PCB.

It is also surprising how the ICC ACU, whose agents are always deployed at the team hotel and other places during any international series, failed to observe any of the ‘shady’ moves from the Majeed brothers.