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Col (Retd) Rafi Nasim
June 9, 2000
Justice Malik Mohammad Qayyum's report on match fixing released a few days back gave a jolt to Pakistan's cricket but it has at the same time, done the wonderful job of putting to an end, the burning controversy of betting and match fixing as far as Pakistan is concerned. The punishments awarded to some players notwithstanding, it has lifted the Damocles' sword hanging on their heads and provided them a psychological boost up to perform better. The charges on the players right or wrong were instrumental in tarnishing the image of Pakistan's cricket. With the report made public, Pakistan can now walk with its head high. The ball is now in the court of such cricket playing countries who have either wrapped such cases under the carpet or hushed them up fearing loss of prestige. The eyes of the cricket world should now focus on them so that they also conduct a similar probe and clear the over all cricket environment of this evil practice.
The Qayyum report called for life bans on Saleem Malik and Ata-ur-Rehman and imposition of fines on Wasim Akram, Mushtaq Ahmed, Waqar Younis, Saeed Anwar, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Akram Raza. According to the report, no evidence was found of any organized match fixing on the part of the Pakistan team. Some of the players have only been punished on suspicion of involvement. In a press statement Justice Qayyum said that although he would like to see all his recommendations implemented, the PCB can choose to implement any recommendations that they feel like. It is, however, commendable that the PCB has neither deviated from the report nor is in a mood to give any concessions to players. The board has already announced that it will not ask for any remission in the punishment awarded to Saleem Malik.
By conducting a judicial inquiry on the menace of match fixing and making the report public, Pakistan has set on example for other countries to emulate. South Africa appears to be the second major cricket playing country to follow suit. The country's cricket is thus on trial since Wednesday, when retired judge Edwin King started the inquiry launched after former captain Hansie Cronje admitted taking money form the bookies. It may be noted that Cronje has lived as a virtual recluse since his confession that he accepted between $10,000 to $ 15,000 in cash from bookmakers based in South Africa and India.
Match fixing being the hottest topic of the day, many journalists from abroad have reached Cape Town to cover the proceedings of a probe considered vital for the future of cricket. One must appreciate the United Cricket Board of South Africa (UCBSA) for being so prompt in holding the inquiry and realizing that they had to be decisive and resolute in eradicating this cancer from the game.
The inquiry will probe Cronje's acceptance of money from a bookmaker and whether other players and officials were promised or received money. It may be recalled that apart from Cronje, the Indian police also accused Herschelle Gibbs, Nicky Boje and Pieter Strydom of involvement in the scandal. The judge who has called 45 witnesses to appear before the inquiry seems to be adamant that "if the inquiry points towards any criminal activity by any one involved in the sport, he will recommend prosecution." Apart from the stipulated list of witnesses, the judge has also invited the common people to come forward to give evidence.
It is surprising that since the match fixing episode, especially the Hansie Cronje's involvement came to surface, the former players and others associated with the game have come forward to expose certain incidents of the past, as if they had no tongue to speak earlier.
Former South African coach Bob Woolmer, who is one of the important witnesses, is showing keenness to testify about an offer to the South African team to throw a match in Mumbai, India in December 1996. The incident has been confirmed by former South African cricketer Pat Symcox who admitted before the Inquiry Commission that Captain Hansie Cronje called a meeting of the players in his hotel room and disclosed that an offer was received to lose the match in exchange for 250,000 dollars. Through a telephone call made to the person concerned by Cronje, the amount was raised by another 100,000 dollars. Talking of an earlier incident, Symcox mentioned that he was approached by Cronje about "throwing" a cricket match against Pakistan during the 1994-95 season.
It clearly indicates that the disgraced South African Captain was involved in dealings related to the results of matches in his first season incharge of the South African team. UCB Managing Director Ali Bacher says, he will reveal the sources to prove that match fixing had been a fact in international cricket in recent years and had also taken place during the 1999 World Cup in England.
Besides such claims and revelations coming from ordinary mortals, the one from Sir Vivian Richards, one of the top five cricketers of the would is most exciting. Waking up form his slumber he has added fuel to the raging match fixing row by stating that he suspected foul play even in the mid seventies. Choosing to make Pakistan as his target, he quoted that a former Pakistan Captain had forfeited the toss during a test in the home series against the West Indies in 1974-75. Intikhab Alam who was Pakistan's Captain during the series reacted sharply by saying, "A man of Richard's status cannot issue such a statement but if he has accused me of the foul play, I will not spare him and sue him." Richards claim is like digging out a skeleton from the grave after a quarter century.
Similarly the former Australian test cricketer Dean Jones has woken up to say that he fears for his life if he identifies the Indian player who introduced him to a bookmaker. Explaining further he claims that he was offered $50,000 in Sri Lanka in 1992 to give forecasting. He informed the Australian Cricket Board management and players but nothing was done.
It is flabbergasting to see the way these players try to make a fool of the whole world by twisting the motive of money that they receive from bookies. When Shane Warne and Mark Waugh were caught committing the rape of cricket, they described the deal as "providing information on pitch and weather." Hansie Cronje termed it as "forecasting." Now we hear a similar rhetoric from Dean Jones. Since forecasting cannot influence the result of a match, even a fool would not offer $50,000 for forecasting.
By promulgating the Qayyum report, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has almost marked an end to the evil of bribery and match fixing as for as the Pakistani players are concerned. A judicial inquiry has already commenced in South Africa, while India is vigorously in the process of collecting evidence to start the proceedings. Should we expect the Australian Cricket Board to follow suit? Showing no intention of re-opening the case of Shane Warne and Mark Waugh is not Cricket.