SPOT FIXING

ONLY MIRACLE COULD SAVE PAKISTANI CRICKET TRIO

ANISUDDIN KHAN
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Dec 13 - 19, 2010

When Haroon Lorgat spoke about his disappointment in case three Pakistani players involved in spot fixing allegations were let off after an official enquiry set at Abu Dhabi January 6-11, the ICC chief executive was acting like any successful prosecutor who would like his case to succeed and not fail.

Moreover, this is the best chance for the ICC to prove its charges, slam a guilty verdict and push the three Pakistani players with sentences which will crush the rearing head of cricket destroying corruption which has certainly entered the sport in a big way.

If the ICC fail now the games governing body would lose its battle against fast creeping corruption in the sport which had already witnessed death related to corruption charges of South African former skipper Hanse Kronje, bookie Hanif Cadbury and the well known Indian cricket book maker Dhirubhai who fell to his death from the fourth floor under mysterious circumstances. The corruption allegations had also seen Indian former skipper Azheruddin, Pakistan former skipper Salim Malik, medium pacer Ata ur Rehman banned for life.

An enquiry set up by Pakistan Cricket Board through a senior retired judge of High Court also came to the conclusion that there is corruption in the game. It had named all those who were directly or indirectly connected with those allegations. Players like Wasim Akram and Waqar Younus were also alleged to be involved in some way with malpractices in the game, the enquiry concluded.

With this background and other evidence collected by the ICC's anti corruption unit, the ICC could only hope to get a guilty verdict to clean the game.

Any person attached with legal fraternity would not find any fault or bias in Lorgat's comments but would support those comments because the credibility of the ICC hinges on a guilty verdict and any other sentence would make ICC look like a stupid organization which had not prepared a strong case after pursuing it with zest for over six months.

The onus of proving guilty is as much on the ICC shoulders and the evidence that it had collected as on the three players Salman But, Muhammad Asif and Muhammad Aamer who were allegedly caught in a sting operation set by News of the World newspaper of England in which it was proved almost beyond doubt that these players and a few more touring England had accepted money to do what was told them to do in a test match against England.

Lorgat's confidence in a foolproof case prepared by his team stems from what has appeared in the newspaper and the video clipping that were shot while luring Mazher Majeed the front man for the players, into the trap boasting about his claim of buying the Pakistanis.

If the boastful allegations of Mazher Majeed which were given in advance to the ICC and the Scotland yard, even before the players had done what was claimed in the video tape, falls through the ICC and the News of the World would be in deep trouble.

ICC got a timely boost in favour of his case when recently a private Pakistani TV channel showed a few more video footage in which Mazher Majeed had again repeated his charges and added a few names to his list of Pakistani players who he had claimed could be maneuvered.

The TV channel showed previously unseen additional video footage of Mazhar Majeed in which he had taken names of more Pakistani players who he alleged also worked for him.

In the first and the original video footage Mazher Majeed had told a mole reporter of the NOTW pretending to be an agent of a betting syndicate, has given the names of Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer and had claimed that there were more players involved but at that time he had not given those additional names.

After allegations surfaced the ICC had temporarily suspended Salman Butt, Muhammad Asif and Muhammad Aamer pending a full enquiry and a final sentence. These three were alleged to have bowled as planned no balls during the fourth Test between Pakistan and England at Lord's.

That footage is expected to be one of the exhibit that the ICC intends to place as evidence to prove its case. In the latest and new video footage, Mazher Majeed had alleged that Umar Akmal, Kamran Akmal and Wahab Riaz were also part of the spot fixing allegations. Thus seven of the eleven playing Pakistanis were accused of criminal intent while playing the test.

The ICC's chief executive, is confident the case put together would stand the test of scrutiny. He said the ICC has worked hard at collecting all the evidence that we would require to make the charges stand.

Michael Beloff who chairs the ICC's code of conduct commission, will head the tribunal that will hear the case, along with fellow code of conduct commissioners Justice Albie Sachs of South Africa and Kenya's Sharad Rao.

The players, however, Lorgat said, will be free approach the Court for Arbitration for Sport if found guilty. The News of the World that broke the spot-fixing story last August, would also be part of the tribunal hearings. The English tabloid had alleged that the three Pakistani players were involved in bowling deliberate, planned no-balls in England's first innings. Much of the published story revolved around a video sting operation in which Mazhar Majeed was filmed talking about the no-balls and allegedly taking payment for them from undercover reporters posing as a betting syndicate.

The evidence gathered by the publication was passed on to Scotland Yard and the ICC's anti-corruption unit (ACSU), who subsequently launched their own investigations and gathered more evidence. The UK's Crown Prosecution Service is currently considering whether the evidence passed on to them by police is enough to warrant criminal prosecution against the players.

The ICC had provisionally suspended the three, soon after the story emerged, based on the ACSU's investigations. Since then, Salman Butt and Muhammad Aamer have had their appeals against suspensions dismissed by Beloff in a hearing in Dubai. Asif chose not to appeal.