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June 22, 2002
Appointed by the Pakistan government to delve into allegations of match-fixing against the Pakistani cricket team, Justice Karamat Nazir Bhandari found little credible evidence that incriminated the players.
The Bhandari Commission, which released its report today, was instituted to primarily investigate the Pakistan-Bangladesh match in the 1999 World Cup, one that Dr Ali Bacher of the United Cricket Board of South Africa (UCBSA) said may have been fixed. Pakistan lost that match by 62 runs, an upset that nevertheless did not prevent them from qualifying for the Super Sixes stage.
Of the few members of the public who registered themselves as witnesses, ex-cricketers Sarfraz Nawaz and Majid Khan were the most vociferous accusers of the Pakistan side. Both pointed to specific decisions by the team think-tank as telling.
Yousuf Youhana was dropped, and Ijaz Ahmed and Saleem Malik - both under suspicion - were inducted into the side. Pakistan - notoriously poor chasers - elected to field first, and in doing so conceded many runs through extras and poor fielding.
A few cricket journalists testified that although they had heard rumours of fixing, they possessed no tangible evidence. One reporter saw betting shops chalk up unusually high odds in favour of a Bangladeshi win, while another heard that the defeat helped to compensate bookmakers for Pakistan's upset loss against England in the final of a Sharjah one-day tournament earlier that year.
Members of that Pakistani side - Saeed Anwar, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, to name a few - insisted that the team had merely played complacently in the knowledge that Pakistan were already through to the next stage of the World Cup. Numerous instances of such upset wins in the past were cited, and former leg-spinner Abdul Qadir, in his position as technical adviser to the Commission, tended to agree with the reckless-play theory.
The Commission also investigated an anonymous letter that cited a conversation between then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and then-PCB chairman Khalid Mahmood. The latter, said the letter, was told that the Board would have to raise its own finances in the future. Immediately after the Bangladesh match under investigation, the author proceeded, a large deposit was made in the PCB's bank account.
Looking into the allegation, the Commission found that the deposit had been made by TransWorld International (TWI) for television rights covering the Pakistani team. Similarly, Justice Bhandari could find little incriminating or condemnatory evidence to prove that Pakistan's cricketers had lost that match by design.
Justice Bhandari averred that the yardstick applied must lie between the "beyond reasonable doubt" condition used in criminal cases and the "probability" condition used in civil cases. Keeping this in mind, the report said that Sarfraz Nawaz's and Majid Khan's testimonies were merely opinions, and that the Commission could not deduce the match was fixed.
The report reached a similar conclusion regarding a Pakistan-India match in the Super Sixes stage of the same tournament. Justice Bhandari was also instructed to look into the conduct of umpire Javed Akhtar, who, according to the UCBSA, awarded a disproportionate number of leg-before decisions against the home side during an England tour of South Africa.
The Commission cleared Javed Akhtar, but its report was particularly critical of the UCBSA. No assistance, said Justice Bhandari, was forthcoming from the UCBSA on any matter, even though Dr Bacher initiated the charges. Dr Bacher did belatedly send a transcript of his deposition before the King Commission, but Justice Bhandari was already in the process of compiling his report by that time.
The Commission also worked with the International Cricket Council's (ICC's) Anti-Corruption Unit, whose head, Lord Paul Condon, invited Justice Bhandari to London for a briefing. A subsequent meeting with Alan Peacock, Senior investigator, was arranged at Sharjah, but little evidence materialised from that tryst.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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