Archive for September, 2010
The spot/match fixing scandal has taken the world by storm. The most grievous effect of this tragic episode, which has not concluded by any means, is the trust deficit that cricket fans now feel is between them and the PCB/players. Majeed the fixer has links with 7 players, it was reported. To consider how many possible matches may have been fixed over the years, is a frightening thought.There have countless occasions when Pakistan has been on the course of victory but has lost from a match winning position. Could that be due to spot/match fixing?
In Pakistan the Sports Ministry has always governed affairs related to the cricket board. It is common knowledge that ministers and the machinery of government in Pakistan is imbued with corruption. Pakistan is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Every government and most non government related departments, agencies, organisations etc work on the
basis of bribes, favouritism, nepotism, regionalism- any type of corruption.
The fans of Pakistan cricket have perhaps been living under a hoax for decades. Pakistan is the most unpredictable team in the world. On a good day, it can surprise the most able teams. This cover of unpredictability is the perfect platform for betting/fixing to thrive. Surely, if Pakistan’s performance graph was steady, or explicable by indicators that easily explain the performance of other teams, then any deviation would be noticed, and questioned by the passionate, astute Pakistani fans. But what if the performance graph is always haphazard, unsteady? This leaves a void in the mind of the fan.
This leads one to question how long this menace of corruption has existed in Pakistan cricket. Rumours surface of corruption existing as far back as the days of Asif Iqbal. Also, many people claim that fixing started around the same time has the rise of the Mumbai Underworld. It is not difficult to imagine how crooks can make millions by running an empire based on betting, bribing and fixing matches, more so since details of such activities have emerged from the NOTW video of Mazhar Majeed.
The question is often asked why cricketers, who can make millions by playing honestly, are tempted into indulging in these nefarious activities- especially when they are at the risk of being caught and exposed by the media? The
answer submitted here, will be an explanation, not a defence (indeed this blog has condemned all forms of corruption in the harshest manner possible). Nowadays, most Pakistani cricketers do not hail from Karachi and Lahore. Although the Punjabi cricketers reside in Lahore, most of them have actually seen very little of city life. The typical mindset of a villager is that he wants to obtain as many riches in as little time as possible. Whereas this blog is sympathetic to people hailing from impoverished, backward or underdeveloped regions, a person who has spent all his life in a village has a tremendous propensity to become a corrupt deviant when he is exposed to wealth, women and wine – the glamour that comes with sporting success.
However, the surprise here is that Salman Butt, reportedly the ringleader of fixing, is not from a small town or village, but from the cultural capital of Pakistan, Lahore. Butt hails from a well-to-do family and he claims to have attended Beaconhouse School. Reportedly Wasim Akram, Salim Malik, Ijaz Ahmed and a few others were also originally from Lahore.
Unfortunately, all of the above has a deep and inextricable link with politics. The President of Pakastan, Asaf Zardari is known as “Mr Ten Percent” due to his past involvement in obtaining 10% of funds that were circulated in government contracts. Further, reportedly Zardari has also been accused of fraud, embezzlement, extortion and related crimes. He is amongst the five richest people in Pakistan and according to one global survey he was in the top 100 richest people in the world. It is highly dubious this wealth could have been generated solely through legitimate workings of Zardari’s sugar mills and industries. One of the senior ministers in Zardari’s party, Choudhary Mukhtar, is the brother in law of Ijaz Butt.
Another senior minister of PPP is called Mian Raza Rabbani, and Yawar Saeed, the controversial team manager, is his father in law. Rumour has it that
Yawar Saeed is himself involved in match fixing. This is partly because, it is now believed that Saeed must have known about the players’ suspicious links with fixers. Yawar Saeed is a highly controversial figure and his name has been associated with scandals in Pakistan cricket.
Another controversial example of nepotism is that of Ijaz Ahmed, the fielding coach who is the brother in law of Salim Malik. Both men are rumoured to have links with match fixers. Not long ago Ijaz Ahmed was arrested on a fraud
Shafqat Rana, the Associate Manager, was reported to have accepted Rs 15 Lakh from Wahab Riaz for Riaz to be included in the Pakistan squad. Waqar Younis, Mushtaq Ahmed, Saqlain and Inzamam were also considered to be involved in match fixing.
Hence, the above indicates that even if corruption is not rampant in the PCB, it has a dangerous propensity to be so. One must question how the institution of PCB can function with honesty and accountability when it is run by controversial figures and employs coaches and managers whose integrity and intentions have been under a scanner for a long time?
The victim in all of this is the innocent fan, who loves and supports the team. It is important to win, but more important is to play honestly, patriotically and in good spirit. Unfortunately the current players neither win most of the times, nor (it is now considered) are their intentions patriotic and genuine. How many of these matches containing moments of joy, shock, heroism, intrepidness, woe etc that have been experienced by fans, have been unethically predetermined by these dark actors?
The Pakistan Cricket Board should be disbanded- its accounts must be verified by some international accountants. All employees in positions of responsibility must be sacked. All of the contracts the PCB has been involved in must be suspended and verified. Land, bank accounts, assets belonging to every PCB employee must be frozen and scrutinised. Until this has ceased, a new temporary Board must take function with an independent, educated Chairman.
Only a revolutionary course of action can save cricket from dying in Pakistan. Unless a drastic stem is not taken, fans will quickly stop watching cricket. PCB should be known as “Politics & Corruption Board” until a new, clean Board is formed.
Crooks all around the world are at times not convicted because of some loophole in the law or some technicality. This blog has not attempted to say with conviction that the three accused players are definitely guilty. However, the evidence against them is very cogent. People around the world are questioning about the law of England and Wales, and why under this law the trio of Asaf, Aamar and Butt cannot be convicted/charged/sentenced.
The problem is twofold. Firstly, News of the World (NOTW) is considered as a sensationalist tabloid and has been the subject of various defamation claims. The date, time and context the videos of Majeed boasting about match fixing and Wahab Riaz/Umar Amin accepting money from him, has shed doubt. One wonders whether this is because the NOTW cannot do any better, or is it because they considered their evidence to be so convincing that they did not focus on its presentation? NOTW has brought in these allegations but it does not have a clean reputation- this can be gauged by the successful defamation suits filed against it. This, however, is not to say that what they have projected is doctored, or untrue.
The second problem is one of technicality. The menace of spot fixing is a relatively new phenomenon. Whereas the law provides to some degree details and penalties of various cheating offences in sport, it does not categorically delineate the offence of spot fixing. Even if Scotland Yard considers the available evidence as convincing, what does it do with it? The Police has to charge someone according to the law of the land and if the law does not make a satisfactory provision for an offence, the police is ineffectual. I don’t think the main problem is the evidence, the problem is jurisdiction and technicalities.
Keeping these two hindrances into account, the matter must be directed to the ambit of the international governing body for cricket, the ICC, or the Pakistan Cricket Board. The “punishment” for these offences has to be disciplinary action. This materialises in either a ban, a fine or both. However, there are problems here, too.
The ICC cannot take as proactive a role in this pursuit of justice, as the PCB. In many ways, the ICC will be dependent on the PCB for information and direction. The ICC has an Anti Corruption Unit but it is not run by cricketers. Also, if the ACU’s job is to ensure that renowned bookies do not approach cricketers, what does it do in a situation where the team management or Board officials might be involved? The players come into contact with people from all walks of life- team officials, Board officials, the press, celebrities, the common folk. How far can the ACU go? How does the ACU prevent players from having links with bookies in India and Pakistan? In many ways this is a war the ACU may never be able to win.
Coming to the PCB, we have already seen the knee jerk statements of officials. Ijaz Butt very
confidently told the BBC that the tainted trio will play all matches. However we are now told that the trio are under mental pressure and have been dropped. Ijaz Butt has been handpicked by the President of Pakistan who is a convicted criminal with a plethora of criminal and civil cases against him. Butt’s close relative is Choudhary Mukhtar, a high ranking PPP minister. This nepotism clearly points negatively towards Butt’s integrity. At the moment the following people are involved with PCB to some extent:
Shafqat Rana, Ajaz Ahmed, Waqar Younas, Mushtaq Ahmed (England’s spin coach but regularly meets Pakistani players), Yawar Saeed. Accusations have been made against all of them. The names of Ijaz Ahmed, Waqar and Mushtaq were mentioned in the Qayyum Report which was the first judicial inquiry into sport in the world. It was considered at the time that the PCB was involved in corruption itself which is why an impartial Judge conducted the inquiry. The Report clearly mentioned that these accused players should not be given positions of responsibility as there are doubts over their integrity. Ijaz Ahmed is Salim Malik’s close relative. Shafqat Rana is reported to have accepted a bribe from Wahab Riaz. Whereas, Yawar Saeed has been amidst copious conspiracies that have befallen Pakistan cricket. So much so that his integrity is doubted by most fans.
Now, to the evidence. Majeed clearly names Butt, Asif and Aamer. He
indicates in which overs the no-balls would be delivered. Aamer’s no ball was a huge, uncommon overstep. Aamer is renowned for bowling few no-balls. Yet, this huge overstep provides support to the argument that it was a deliberate effort. A picture has been captured of this and Salman Butt appears to be looking at Aamer. Why is Butt not looking at the batsman? Aamer has actually released the ball but, Butt seems to be looking at him, and not towards the batsman.
In the video evidence, Majeed also mentions in some detail the Sydney Test match. The NOTW, if they had doctored the video or were trying to frame the Pakistani players, they could have done this during the Australia series. Why wait until the England series? And if there is some foul play on part of NOTW, why would Mazhar mention the Australia series now, so many months down the line? Surely they must have caught Majeed in the act?
Salman Butt has been described as the ring leader in all of this. Butt’s reaction in the press conference the day after these revelations was very dubious. Not once did he remark, “I am innocent, I don’t know what the hell is going on” or something to that effect. He just said, “This is an allegation”. Innocent people normally do not behave like that.
NOTW then revealed another video of Wahab Riaz and Umar Amin.
There is absolutely no doubt these two players were talking about money with Mazhar.
Next, money in significant amounts was found from players’ rooms. Later, reports emerged that some money may have been of doubtful denominations(fake). So, it is not suspicious for players to be carrying fake notes with them in such quantities? What happened to all this money?
Kamran Akmal’s name was initially mentioned. It must be noted that Zulqernain was sent back to Pakistan under suspicious circumstances. Akmal’s videos relating to his keeping in Australia have been revealed. In the light of Mazhar’s revelations about the Sydney Test, should Akmal not have been questioned?
Veena Malik has revealed that Asif fixes matches and has links with an Indian bookie. She has also hinted that Asif introduced Aamer to match and spot fixing. A lot of people ridicule Veena for her stupid statements, but the ICC’s ACU has taken notice of her and taken a statement. It will be interesting to see what implications this has for Asif’s career.
Even though these players are likely to be let off the hook due to NOTW’s sensationalist approach and technicalities of law, there is sufficient evidence for the ICC and PCB to take stringent action against them. Butt, Asif, Aamer and Akmal must be suspended from playing international cricket until an impartial inquiry is conducted and results are produced. PCB should be fined for not implementing the Qayyum Report in its letter and spirit. Further, all the suspicious characters mentioned in this Report must be sacked.
This blog does not want to promote the idea that these players are necessary guilty, but the idea that the evidence warrants strict, unsympathetic action. The approach ICC and PCB should take, therefore, is that there should be a presumption of guilt until it is found that all avenues have been explored and that there is insufficient evidence. Adopting any other approach will only let this negativity of corruption further plague Pakistan cricket. A new team must be made immediately with Shahid Afridi as captain for all formats, and Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf and Fawad Alam in senior positions.