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Questions about credibility, personal interests of whistleblowers, quality of admissible evidence remain unanswered
LAHORE: Now that the Pakistan Cricket Board seems extremely determined to take the match-fixers to task, as was hinted out by Chairman Shahryar Khan in Lahore Monday, numerous questions regarding the credibility and personal interests of whistleblowers, besides the quality of admissible evidence available, still remain unanswered to a large extent till today.
There were allegations and counter allegations by the players. Allegations of match fixing against several players were never proved. No substance in allegations against them was found. However, there were cases where allegations were proved and players were punished.
An extensive research on the subject shows, former Pakistani fast bowler Sarfraz Nawaz was perhaps the first whistleblower in the history of Cricket to allege that betting on this 140-year old “game of gentlemen” had started in 1979-80 when the Pakistani team was touring India under the captaincy of Asif Iqbal.
Although Sarfraz Nawaz was not selected for this tour, he testified before the Justice Qayyum Inquiry Commission that the malaise of gambling in Cricket had later spread from the 1979-80 Indian tour to Sharjah.
The Justice Qayyum Inquiry Commission, which had started its probe on September 9, 1998, had found the likes of Salim Malik, Ata-ur-Rehman, Mushtaq Ahmed, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Saeed Anwar and Inzamam-ul-Haq guilty on one count or the other.
While some were found guilty of accepting bribes to throw matches, others were simply fined for lack of compelling evidence. According to the of the May 25, 2000 report of the “BBC,” the Qayyum Commission had proposed life ban for Salim Malik and had fined him £12,000 along with possible criminal charges.
A life ban was also recommended for bowler Ataur Rehman, who was fined £1200. No specific evidence of match-fixing was found against leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed, but the Commission said there were “sufficient grounds to cast doubt” on his conduct. He was fined £3,700 and further investigation was proposed.
In Wasim Akram’s case, the Commission gave him the “benefit of the doubt” with regards to the Sharjah tournament in 1997, but ruled he was “not above board.” Wasim Akram was censured and fined £3,700. Further probe into his assets was recommended.
About Waqar Yunis, the Commission did not find any evidence that he had received a car as bribe. Waqar was also censured and fined £1,200. Further investigation was recommended. In Saeed Anwar’s case, the Commission could not find “compelling evidence,” though he was found guilty of withholding evidence and hence fined £1,200. Both Inzamam-ul-Haq and Akram Raza were not found guilty due to lack of evidence, but were sternly warned and fined £1,200. It was recommended that their finances be probed.
Sarfraz Nawaz was the first person to appear before the afore-mentioned Commission of Inquiry. This is what Sarfraz had opined before the Justice Qayyum Inquiry Commission: “It was from Sharjah that match-fixing had started on a larger scale. He was of the opinion that the 1987 World Cup semi final against Australia at Lahore was fixed and the main culprits were Javed Miandad and two other players.”
He had added: “In 1993-94, I was informed by Ch. Khalid alias Gitti in the presence of Manzoor alias Churra and Aslam Shami that Salim Malik was called to Lahore during the tour of Sri Lanka and the match was fixed. In this match Pakistan were 79/1 at one stage but were all out for 149, which clearly showed the malafide of the players. They were playing under some pre-arranged plan. The brothers of Salim Malik and Wasim Akram were bookies and the same could be judged by comparison of their assets. Ijaz Ahmad and Salim Malik were also involved in gambling at the domestic level too.”
Newspaper archives reveal that in September 2010, Sarfraz claimed he was confronted by a few armed men while having a stroll in an Islamabad park. He said the armed men had warned him that if he did not stop talking about gambling in cricket, he would not meet a good fate.
Sarfraz then got a First Information Report registered at the local police station. Former Test batsman and an ex-PCB official for years, Haroon Rasheed, was of the opinion before the Justice Qayyum Commission of Inquiry that the Test match played at Faisalabad against South Africa was also fixed when Pakistan were all out for 116 chasing a target of 144 runs in the second innings.
Before the Justice Qayyum Inquiry Commission, Haroon Rasheed had also accused Wasim Akram of changing the batting order during various competitions including Pakistan’s Independence Golden Jubilee.
Wasim Akram, according to Haroon Rasheed, would promote himself ahead of Moin Khan and Azhar Mahmood, break the momentum of the game which would result in loss. Haroon Rasheed felt that the main culprits were Wasim Akram, Ijaz Ahmad and Salim Malik.
Former Pakistani captain, Aamir Sohail had maintained that there were a large number of allegations of match-fixing and betting during the South African tour to Pakistan. Sohail had stated: “As the Pakistan Cricket Board was not doing anything, I decided to go to the Press.”
He confirmed that he was approached during the Singer Trophy in Sri Lanka and offered Rs. 10 lakh. He maintained that he was informed five minutes before the start of the Bangalore Quarter Final that he was supposed to lead the team. He maintained that this was not normal practice and that he was sure Wasim Akram would play.
Aamir Sohail was subsequently cross-examined by counsel for Wasim Akram and Salim Malik, though he had stuck to his earlier statement. Former Pakistani fast bowler, Ata-ur-Rehman, had denied that he had made a statement against Wasim Akram before the Probe Committee.
However, when the statement was produced before him, he changed his story the next day and confirmed in camera the affidavit that was given by him. According to the affidavit, he was asked to bowl badly by Wasim Akram during the final One Day match at Christ Church.
Much like Aamer Sohail, Ata-ur-Rehman also said that the then PCB Chairman Khalid Mehmood had asked him to retract from his statement. Research shows that in its March 22, 1999 edition, a prestigious Indian newspaper “The India Today” had written: “If the former Pakistan bowler Sarfraz Nawaz, live on “Star Sports,” stunned viewers by casually naming Sunil Gavaskar and Asif Iqbal as responsible for betting and match-fixing (so what if he offered no proof), former captains Aamer Sohail and Rashid Latif remain relentless in their effort to prove to the Pakistan Judicial Commission that what they are saying is true. That match-fixing is a reality in International Cricket. For Latif says he has audio tape recordings of conversation of some Pakistani players and bookies, and of board officials pleading with him (Latif) not to play up this issue as it would bring bad name to Pakistan, Sohail too has been in touch with the commission, demanding a hearing.”
The “India Today” had asserted: “Aamer Sohail claims Pakistan Board Chairman Khalid Mehmood asked him to withdraw charges against Wasim Akram if he wanted to play cricket again. Though Mehmood has strongly denied this and called Sohail a compulsive liar, Sohail is persisting with his claims, insisting he can substantiate them. Despite this background, it was bizarre to hear Sarfraz say on television that “Asif and Gavaskar were openly involved in match fixing.” The eccentric fast bowler claimed that during the 1979 test in Bombay, the “wicket was wet——the pitch was not fit to play—-Many of the Pakistani batsmen complained, they didn’t want to bat. But Asif and Gavaskar agreed.”
The Indian media house had opined: “Why Sarfraz was interviewed live is questionable considering his reputation—this is a man who said Imran Khan was a Jewish agent. That Gavaskar refused to conduct the interview and Ravi Shastri was reluctant should have been warning enough. More alarming was that minutes prior to the interview, Sarfraz asked if it would be recorded and shown. When told it was “live” he seemed surprised and asked about the “liability.” The producer replied that he (Sarfraz) would be responsible for what he said. It was clear he had something up his sleeve.”
The newspaper had viewed: “Immediately after this tour, Pakistan travelled to Sharjah and it was there that Sarfraz first accused Asif of having links with an Indian bookmaker (Raj Bhagri) and fixing matches. Sarfraz has never quite cared about finding himself with his foot in mouth. The more bizarre a statement, more the chances he is behind it. He called Javed Mianded a chor (thief); he insisted Majid Khan was a senile. It has meant the courts have become his favourite haunt. He was embroiled in legal battles with eng batsman Allan Lamb and Abdur Rehman Bukhatir of Sharjah. Significantly, he settled out of court on both occasions.”
The “India Today” had said: “Unrepentant, Sarfrazhas added a can of petrol to the fire he set; now he says he knows that the notorious Raj Bhagri approached Imran khan with an offer of Rs 200 lakh to fix the Lahore Test in the 1982 series in Pakistan and this was done with the knowledge of the opposing captain, Gavaskar. Imran was not available for comment. Gavaskar just laughed, “First it was Asif and me, now it’s Imran. Let’s see who is next.”
As published by the “India Today,” here follows what Sunil Gavaskar and Asif Iqbal had to say in response to Sarfraz’s accusations:
Sunil Gavaskar: —
“I dare say this man’s reflection in the mirror will never believe what he’s telling. It’s all very well to make allegations against different players without producing a shred of proof. Pity we have to talk to the scum of the earth on television. And I don’t care if I sound strong but some people need to be talked about in such language.”
Asif Iqbal: —
“I don’t wish to comment as it will only give those statements dignity.” Yet he was surprised, for as he explained, Sarfraz was not even on that 1979-80 tour.”
Ever since the two Pakistan opening batsmen, Sharjeel Khan and Khalid Latif, were suspended in February 2017 by the PCB during the Pakistan Super League and flown back home, Sarfraz Nawaz has again started voicing concerns about match-fixing in country’s cricketing arena.
It is imperative to note that when Bob Woolmer was found dead in Jamaica on March 18, 2007 during the World Cup in the West Indies, Sarfraz Nawaz was quick to suggest, even before the post-mortem, that Bob was murdered.
He had linked Bob’s death to corruption in cricket. He also claimed Bob Woolmer and Inzamam-ul-Haq were getting threats from bookies.
Without naming his sources, Sarfraz had alleged that the match Pakistan lost against West Indies during the 2007 World Cup was fixed.
However, the Scotland Yard investigating team had later declared that no foul play was involved in Woolmer’s death, rejecting Sarfraz’s allegations and vindicating the Pakistani team, which was quizzed by the local police for hours.
Sarfraz, in recent years, had also doubted that Kamral Akmal was involved in fixing matches on the Australian tour of 2010 and had burst out when the likes of Muhammad Asif, Salman Butt and Muhammad Amir were caught during the same year and consequently punished by court in England for the same crime.
Surprisingly, Sarfraz was not very unforgiving when Danish Kaneria was banned for life in April 2013 and barred from playing any cricket under the jurisdiction of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).
He was quoted by “AFP” news agency as saying: “A life ban is harsh; it should have been two to five years. This latest case has increased our responsibilities to avoid any such incident in the future.”
A statement issued by the ECB panel had described Kaneria as “grave danger to the game of cricket” and branded him a “liar.”
Former Pakistan captain Aamir Sohail said he was disappointed at another Pakistani punished for fixing.
Sohail had viewed: “I am disappointed, but not shocked. We are now accustomed (to) it. But it is high time now that we should think seriously about it and avoid such happenings in future.”
It goes without saying that Sarfraz Nawaz and Aamer Sohail are not the only Pakistani or international cricketers who have loudly talked about match-fixing in Cricket.
The April 29 - May 12, 2000 edition of “Frontline,” an Indian magazine taken out by the publishers of “The Hindu,” had stated: “The cricketing fraternity was rocked by countless allegations from Pakistan of betting and match-fixing. A number of players, past and present, and managers and coaches alleged that the team was under the influence of match-fixers. Over the years, many more players went public with allegations of match-fixing. Among them were Basit Ali, Rashid Latif, Imran Khan, Sarfraz Nawaz, Haroon Rashid, Aaqib Javed, Javed Burki, Greg Matthews, Danny Morrison, Stephen Fleming, and Adam Hollioake etc. The latest to join the list was Chris Lewis of England, who alleged he was approached by a betting syndicate to rope in Alec Stewart and Alan Mullally to throw a match. Lewis further alleged that a businessman who had approached him with the offer had further said that three “household names” had already taken money to throw games.”
It was the same Chris Lewis who was arrested on December 8, 2008 at a London airport on suspicion of smuggling 3.37 kilograms of liquid cocaine, with a street value of about £140,000, into the United Kingdom on a flight from Saint Lucia (West Indies). After a trial, in May 2009, Lewis and an accomplice were found guilty and sentenced to 13 years in prison. (References: the BBC News and the Guardian etc)
We all know that during the year 2000, a number of Pakistani and international cricketers like Salim Malik, Muhammad Azharuddin, Hansie Cronje, Ajay Sharma, Ajay Jadeja, Manoj Prabharkar, Attaur Rehman, Herschelle Gibbs and a South African fast bowler Henry Williams were the first to be found involved in match-fixing and punished for bringing the game into disrepute.