London: Pakistan cricket is in crisis as investigations continue into allegations that match fixing is endemic in the national team.
After Pakistan suffered a humiliating innings and 225-run loss to England on the final day of the fourth test Sunday, police continued to investigate claims of irregularities and match fixing by senior players during the tour.
Team manager Yawar Saeed said that Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Amir and captain Salman Butt had their mobile phones confiscated by police, who also searched hotel rooms and questioned players late Saturday as part of an investigation also involving the International Cricket Council’s Anti-Corruption and Security Unit. Any player found guilty of involvement in match fixing faces a life ban from the sport.
The allegations first came to light when British newspaper the News of the World published a story and video from an undercover report that alleged that Asif and Amir were paid to deliberately bowl no-balls during Thursday’s opening day of the fourth Test.
Saeed was expected to meet with Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ejaz Butt to discuss the team’s next step, but said he expects it to fulfil its remaining fixtures of two Twenty20 matches and five one-day internationals.
“Obviously, we are not delighted,” Saeed said. “We are sad and it was very sober feelings in the dressing room. Allegations are only one thing. They are all serious, whether they are small or big. Let us see what happens.”’
The News of the World says it secretly filmed its undercover reporters, posing as front men for a Far East gambling cartel, in discussion with a man it identifies as London-based businessman Mazhar Majeed, who appears to accept £150,000 ($232,000) in order to make sure no-balls are bowled at certain times during the match.
The newspaper said it passed all its evidence to the police. Majeed was subsequently arrested by police late Saturday, but was bailed without charge on Sunday. The bail obliges him to appear before police at a future date.
The PCB has requested to access to the investigation by Scotland Yard through its High Commission in London. The PCB said in a statement it will make no further official comment on the case while police investigations continue.
“As the match is now subject to a police investigation, neither the ICC, ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board), PCB nor the ground authority, the MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club), will make any further comment until the completion of investigation.”)
Pakistan president Asif Ali Zaradari has asked the PCB for a preliminary report into the allegations, while Pakistan prime minister Yousuf Raza Gillani the scandal “has hurt us.” “Our heads are bowed in shame and I have asked the sports minister to inquire about it,” Gillani said.
Former ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed said he thinks a ban from cricket for the Pakistan team may be in order. Speed, an Australian who headed the ICC from 2001-2008, says he is concerned by what “looks a fairly compelling case” of rigged betting.
“I think that’s (suspension) an option. It’s serious,” Speed Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio. Pakistan parliamentarian Iqbal Mohammad Ali, who also heads the lower house’s standing committee on sports, called for the players in question to be sacked from the team ahead of the upcoming limited-overs games against England.
“Whosoever is involved should be banned for life,” he said. “All those who are suspected should be sent back home.”
With the first Twenty20 match between England and Pakistan just a week away, thousands of tickets have already been sold and the rest remained on sale Sunday through English county club websites.
“I honestly think the best thing is to let the dust settle,” England captain Andrew Strauss said. “It is easy to get emotional about these things at the moment.
“There will be some very strong reasons for the series to go ahead. But they are also going to have to think about what the right thing to do is going forward and that’s their decision.”
Strauss said that players had again begun to hear rumours of corruption after almost a decade of apparently cleaner competition that followed the ICC’s creation of its Anti-Corruption and Security Unit in 2001.
The most prominent instance of corruption occurred in 2000, when South Africa captain Hanse Cronje was banned for life from coaching and playing after admitting to forecasting results and offering bribes to teammates in exchange for money from a London bookmaker.
Former India captain Mohammed Azharuddin was exposed and banned for life when Cronje said it was he who had introduced him to bookmakers. Australia’s Mark Waugh and Shane Warne were fined in 1995 for taking money from a bookmaker in exchange for information on pitch and weather conditions.
That sort of corruption appeared to have been consigned to the past, but West Indies batsman Marlon Samuels was banned for two years in 2008 over allegations he passed team information to a bookmaker.
Two players with English county side Essex -- Danish Kaneria and Mervyn Westfield -- were arrested this year in an investigation into betting irregularities.
“With these sorts of allegations, you start questioning things you shouldn’t be questioning,” Strauss said. “When you achieve something, you want it to be in the best possible circumstances. “More recently there have been more whispers.”
The News of the World story quoted Majeed as saying up to seven players in the Pakistan team could be “bought” for cash. “I’ve been doing it (match fixing) with them for about 2 1/2 years and we’ve made masses of money,” Majeed said.
Video of the meeting between an undercover reporter and Majeed appeared to shows the businessman accepting money and insisting that three no-balls “have been organized” with the Pakistan team.
The ICC said it was aware of the situation and, along with the England and Wales Cricket Board and the Pakistan Cricket Board, was working with police.