LAST NAIL IN PAKISTAN'S CRICKET COFFIN
Sep 6 - 12, 2010
Spot fixing by Pakistanis at the Lords in the fourth test against England was an act that compromised the reputation of sacred cricket venue that has been described as "a special place on earth to play cricket".
It was a sacrilegious act for Pakistan skipper Salman Butt and pacers Muhammad Asif and Muhammad Aamer who sold the spirit of the game for a fistful of pounds. They insulted the "home of cricket and the games spiritual headquarters where cricketers like WG Grace and Donald Bradman felt honored to play.
The three Pakistanis accused of selling no balls during the test that Pakistan lost by record margin of an innings and 225 runs had tarnished the image of Pakistan and disgraced the venue which has been held in high esteem by all those involved from watching to playing and administering cricket. They disgraced the sport, which gave the world the expression "it's not cricket" as an alternate for unfair play and dishonesty.
Irrespective of the final verdict or guilty and not guilty which will be passed by Scotland Yard police the damage has been done to Pakistan cricket which unfortunately has the poor reputation across the globe due to players questionable behaviour on and off the field since it got Test recognition.
Whichever way the scales tilt Pakistan has lost whatever little respect it had in the world of cricket after the Oval drama and Gaddafi stadium attack on the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team. The Islanders had come to Pakistan to show its solidarity with its Arabian Sea neighbor but unfortunately, the solidarity turned into a nightmare of death and destruction.
Pakistan needed a free of controversy tour of England but just when the tour was to take the home, controversy erupted like a volcano destroying in its wake this country's leftover reputation as an honest nation.
Before Pakistan totally slips into the quagmire of its own creation, the time is for action and punishing the culprits. While charting out its course of action, the cricket administrators must pay attention to what a leading Sindh nationalist leader had once said on the arrest of his important worker in the line of duty for party's cause, "Nations are not sacrificed for individuals. Individuals are sacrificed for nations". Time is to sacrifice players to save Pakistani nation.
There is little doubt on Pakistanis' involvement in the scandal otherwise Scotland Yard would have not come into the picture. Pakistan should take some small steps to assure the world they were ready to take action against the players if proven guilty. Let the British law take its own course and once the verdict comes the action should be swift.
Pakistan test leg spinner Danish Keneria is already on bail on charges of match fixing in county cricket. A number of voices are being raised to punish Pakistan for the wrong done by individual players. These voices demand excluding Pakistan from international cricket for a certain period of time or till then Pakistan is cleared of match and spot fixing charges. But, some voices also seek pardon for Pakistan or keep it on watch list.
However, voices seeking severe punishment of Pakistan as a whole are stronger. People have even suggested disenfranchising Pakistan from cricket as a temporary measure. A number of conspiracy theories have also cropped up including hand of RAW in it.
If Pakistanis continue to look for scapegoats and continue to support the wrong doers, time would come when the next disaster would be bigger and all destroying. There are chances Pakistan may earn a reprieve but countries hosting Pakistan would always be suspicious of their victory earned due to spot or match fixing.
It was an sting operation by a reputed investigative journalist of Pakistani origin Mazher Mahmood of the News of The World (NOTW) that brought to the surface involvement of Pakistani cricketers in match and spot fixing.
Mazher Mahmood who had already blown many covers through his investigative reporting, convinced his bosses for giving world shaking exclusive if they could spare 150,000 pound for the greedy Mazher Majeed who spilled all the beans when he brazenly predicted a day earlier that Muhammad Aamer and Muhammad Asif would bowl illegal balls the next day.
He gave the overs and the number of the ball that would be thrown as no balls. Every thing happened as scripted and for the first time in the history of this honourable game players were caught on camera for cheating the team and their nation.
In a FrontPage story with screaming headline NOTW revealed what the world had never known before. Following is the text of the news story authored by Mazher Mahmood that shook Pakistan and the world of sports.
"Mazhar Majeed boasted that cheating in the sport is rife with one controversial Test this year netting a shady betting syndicate more than £830,000. His revelation that fixes go on in all forms of the game - Tests, One Dayers and Twenty20 - will horrify millions around the world who follow the sport. And, they will force cricket authorities to confront, once and for all, the match-fixing rumours that have dogged the noble game for years. To the astonishment of our undercover team, he provided detail of how the test was rigged and how crooked gamblers pocketed 1.3 million dollars (£837,000) from it.
The part-time Muslim TV channel presenter opened up during a meeting in our car outside the Bombay Brasserie restaurant in Gloucester Road, west London, on August 18.
Explaining the scam he said: "Let me tell you the last test we did. It was the Second Test against Australia in Sydney. Australia had two more wickets left. They had a lead of ten runs, yeah. And, Pakistan had all their wickets remaining.
The odds for Pakistan to lose that match, for Australia to win that match, were I think 40-1. We let them get up to 150 then everyone lost their wickets. That one we made 1.3. But, that's what I mean, you can get up to a million. Tests is where the biggest money is because those situations arise."
Majeed then continued to detail how he runs his slick operation.
Reporter: "Do we get information like there will be three no-balls in the third over?"
Majeed: "Of course, everything. And you get the indication to show if it's on or not. They'll change gloves at a certain point."
Reporter: "You will be relaying it."
Majeed: "Yeah, it all comes through me. We don't do results that often. The last one we did was against Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup which was about two months ago. And you get a script as well."
Reporter: "What does that mean, a script?"
Majeed: "This bowler is going to concede this many runs, this batsman will do this."
The spoils of Majeed's sordid trade have brought him a life of luxury in which he mixes with superstars of film, TV, and sport. At the August 18 meeting, he boasted how he was involved in movies and name-dropped stars.
Majeed also bragged of knowing one of the world's top tennis players and claimed he had arranged for Salman Butt to be in pictures with pop stars and a world famous US rapper. It was during the Bombay Brasserie meeting that he revealed the Oval test being played at the time against England was fixed.
He said: "England, there's brackets. Like tomorrow (August 19) there is no bracket because the Indian market is not open. The third day (August 20) there's brackets.
"I give out the information the night before or morning. What's going to happen at the end of the fourth day. But we now are not going to do any results for the next two games because we want Salman Butt to be captain long term." Then he outlined the prices bookies pay him for his information.
"The results, like brackets, we charge anything between £50,000 and £80,000 pounds per bracket.
"And for results, Twenty20 is about £400,000. No-balls is easy.
No-balls, you know, there's not that much money anyway, we know that.
"You can make a bet if you wanted no-balls you could probably get up to £10,000 each, yeah. That's simple. "But in terms of results, depending on who we are playing, sometimes it can be £300,000. The max it can be is £450,000. You can speak to any bookie in India and they will tell you about this information and how much they'll pay. If you had the information and they knew that it was coming from the source they'd pay you that money themselves."
He said his prices were justified because he had to bribe senior players. Majeed explained: "If you've got six players, they're taking such a big risk, yeah."
In an earlier meeting, he had told of the players' desire to get in on match-fixing. "They will be up for it. I told you they will be up for making money. They need to make money." His name-dropping and endless bragging was interrupted by phone calls from Pakistan captain Butt and keeper Akmal. But two-faced Majeed wasted no time in having a go about his own players.
He said: "You'll find there are only a few players who are genuine and who are actually here for the love of the game and there's not many believe me. A lot of them are just looking for money, women, and food."
"They make money and they need to make money. The problem is if they don't then they're not going to have enough money for the rest of their lives. In cricket, there's not enough money. How much they're getting paid is a joke. I came from a football background and I can see the difference in football and cricket. It's huge."
Majeed, who runs a property company with a multi-million pound portfolio called Bluesky Developments, also admitted being party to ball tampering, another cheating ruse that has blighted cricket.
He shamelessly claimed: "I used to go out on the pitch to give the players their drinks. Whenever we couldn't get a wicket I'd have a lump of Vaseline on my hand. Shake their hand. They'd put it on one side of the ball and the ball would suddenly start in-swinging."
Today, after our astonishing revelations, Majeed's tampering with cricket has finally come to an end.
At the start of the fifth and final day Pakistan was in a supremely dominant position... but managed to lose dramatically. Australia led by a mere 49 runs with just two wickets of their second innings remaining and with only one recognised batsman left. In extraordinary scenes, Australia's last two batting partnerships managed 124 runs.
Pakistan was the relatively easy target of 176 runs to win. But, they were bowled out for just 139 and lost. There were widespread accusations of cheating at the time. Pakistani coaches raised doubts about wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal, who dropped four catches and missed an easy run-out. Three of the dropped catches were off the bat of Michael Hussey, who went on to score 134 not out.