With England already in a commanding lead in the Third Test match, Pakistan seems set to lose the game as well as the series to hosts England. But at least some of the Pakistan team may already have lost their dignity and any respect their fans had for them given the explosive allegations from mass-selling British tabloid News of the World. Although still allegations, the facts and the circumstances are piling up to a nasty indictment of a number of Pakistan players, including Captain Salman Butt, and Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Amir and Kamran Akmal.
Orchestrated by London-based fixed Mazhar Majeed, these players (and possibly others) seem to be embroiled in a match-fixing scandal, which will not only bring further heartbreak and shame to Pakistan cricket fans but also wreck whatever little dignity is left in a team that is in tatters in terms of performance and, if these allegations are true, in morals too.
Here are some essential details, according to a report at CricInfo:
The fourth Test between England and Pakistan at Lord’s is at the centre of a police investigation into spot-fixing, after a 35-year-old man was arrested after allegedly being caught offering to bribe Pakistan’s bowlers to bowl no-balls on demand.
According to a report in The News of the World, Mazher Majeed accepted £150,000 to arrange a fix involving Pakistan’s new-ball bowlers, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif, whom he allegedly asked to bowl no-balls at specific moments of the match. The paper also alleges that the team captain, Salman Butt, and the wicketkeeper, Kamran Akmal, are involved, along with three other unnamed cricketers.
Cricinfo understands that the players named were questioned and were quizzed about sums of money found in the rooms, though it is thought that those were made up of the daily allowances players are given while on tour. The man arrested is believed to have contacts with the team though until now it was assumed he was acting as an agent for players, helping them secure sponsorship and kit contracts.
Officials from the ICC’s Anti-Corruption Unit are currently flying in from Dubai, and in a statement, the ICC confirmed that the allegations were being taken seriously. “The International Cricket Council, the England & Wales Cricket Board and the Pakistan Cricket Board have been informed by the Metropolitan Police that a 35-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud bookmakers,” read the statement.
“The Metropolitan Police have informed the ICC, ECB and PCB that their investigations continue and ICC, ECB and PCB, with the involvement of the ICC Anti-Corruption and Security Unit, are fully assisting those enquiries. No players nor team officials have been arrested in relation to this incident and the fourth npower 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.” A Scotland Yard spokeman added: “Following information received from the News of the World we have today [Saturday, August 28] arrested a 35-year old man on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud bookmakers.”
A report in Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper confirms the same and quotes the Pakistan team manager Yawar Saeed telling the Associated Press: ‘I can confirm that we are aware of the allegations and Scotland Yard police are with us now at the hotel and we are helping them with their enquiries. This is as much as I can say at the moment.”
In describing the video, The News of the World writes:
Having already trousered a £10,000 upfront deposit – which he insisted had gone to the stars – Majeed sat in our west London hotel room at the Copthorne Tara on Wednesday night and eagerly counted out the £140,000 balance in bundles of crisp £50 notes – our “entry ticket” into his already successful betting scam.
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.
He promised: “I’m going to give you three no-balls to prove to you firstly that this is what’s happening. They’ve all been organised, okay?
“This is EXACTLY what’s going to happen, you’re going to SEE these three things happen. I’m telling you, if you play this right you’re going to make a lot of money, believe me!”
Later in the same story, The News of the World goes on to quote the fixer, Majeed, as saying:
“I’ve been doing it with them, the Pakistani team, for about 2½ years. And we’ve made masses and masses of money.”
Later that night Majeed boasted how it was the players who got HIM into match-fixing. He told us: “The players would never tell anybody else. They were the ones who actually approached me about this. This is the beauty of it.
“I was friends with them for four, five years and then they said this happens. I said really?”
Majeed then described how the betting scam operates. He reached into a carrier bag, pulled out a white BlackBerry phone and flicked through a series of messages.
“I deal with an Indian party,” he said. “They pay me for the information.”
Then Majeed explained how many cricket bets are placed on what he called “brackets” – events happening in a group of 10 overs.
If players score well in the first three overs punters would be likely to bet on that continuing for the next seven. But if the fixed players then deliberately STOP scoring or slow down, anybody in on it can “make a killing”, said Majeed. The same happens with bowlers giving away runs or throwing no-balls.
In a follow-up story in The News of the World, gives even more detail:
… after play ended for the day Majeed smugly rang our reporter to brag. “You a bit more comfortable now?” he asked. “Told you. Once you showed your hand, I showed my hand, okay?”
Then he revealed how he had arranged another no-ball for the following day’s play. “Right, it’s going to be Amir’s third over and third ball,” he said. “It’ll be his third over, not the third over of the game.” He ended the call by reminding our man: “Boss, I’m telling you, you’re dealing with the right person, you’re not dealing with an idiot, all right?”
But on Friday morning Majeed contacted our man saying that he’d received a message from Amir. Majeed said: “He’s briefed up. He’s just texted me now to say ‘Shall I do it or not?’ ”
And Amir DID do it – despite getting off to a sensational start, taking three quick wickets in nine balls.
Commentators described him as being “on fire” as England wickets tumbled to his pace attack. Amir managed to skittle out England batsmen Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood and Eoin Morgan without any of them scoring a single run. It was only the fifth time in history the third, fourth and fifth batsmen in an order had been dismissed for ducks. During the blitz, former West Indian fast bowler Michael Holding, commentating for Sky, said: “It’s been Mohammad Amir’s morning. He’s made that ball talk.”
His colleague Michael Atherton said: “Remarkable stuff this morning from Pakistan and in particular Mohammad Amir. Just 18 years of age. He’s running in from the Pavilion End. He’s like an old hand.
“He looks like he’s going to get a wicket with every ball he bowls.”
With Amir tearing through the batsmen, Majeed quickly contacted our man, warning that the promised no-ball might have to be cancelled and that we shouldn’t place big bets on it. He said the captain might tell Amir to keep up the onslaught. “So much is happening out there at the moment,” he added. Majeed was right – captain Salman Butt, who Majeed boasts is one of his players in the fixing scam – did have a quick word with Amir just before the THIRD BALL of the THIRD OVER.
Usually mid-over conversations between bowlers and captains would be about the placement of fielders and whether to make any changes.
On this occasion, no changes were made, prompting commentator Michael Holding to chip in: “A quick conference between captain and the bowler. Hasn’t resulted in the field being changed. Not yet.”
But there WAS a sudden change in Amir’s form. As promised, he bowled and again placed his foot over the crease, into the banned area – a no-ball. The umpire had a word with Amir about the surprise delivery, pointing out how far over the line his foot had been.
On the TV replay, the side view showed he placed his foot at least eight inches past the line. It prompted bowling legend Michael Holding to exclaim: “How far over was that? Woh!”
Ian Botham added: “It’s like net bowling” – referring to when bowlers don’t try so hard when they are practising in the nets.
In its story The News of the World writes that “The scam, fuelled by greed, is a betrayal by the players not only of their sport but of their cricket-crazy homeland.” They are right, but only just. If true – I guess, one keeps hoping against hope that it is not – it would also be a betrayal of decency and dignity. If indeed these allegations are proven true, these cheats – and by that one means not only the fixer but any players or officials involved – should be treated as exactly that: cheats and liars and frauds and given the full punishment for being that. Certainly, this magnitude of lying and cheating should be cause for a permanent removal from ever representing the national side again.