June 13, 2000

Ali Bacher tells King's commission: Majid tipped me off about match-fixing

Cape Town, June 12: South African cricket chief Ali Bacher said on Monday Pakistan's former Test batsman Majid Khan told him more than two years ago there was widespread match-fixing in Pakistan.

Bacher, managing director of the United Cricket Board of South Africa (UCBSA), was giving evidence at the South African government inquiry into match-fixing.

He told the judicial commission headed by retired judge Edwin King that Majid had told him two matches between India and Pakistan and Bangladesh and Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup in England had been fixed.

Bacher also said he believed South Africa had lost the fifth Test match against England at Leeds in August 1998 because umpire Javed Akhtar was in the pay of the bookmakers.

"If you will recall, that Test match was won by England but there were a lot of dubious decisions given in that match. There were 10 lbw's, nine of them given by Pakistani umpire Javed Akhtar and eight of them went against South Africa," he said.

Citing contacts with international players and a high-stakes Indian bookmaker he identified only as "R", Bacher told Judge King that match-fixing extended far beyond disgraced South African captain Hansie Cronje, who has admitted taking money.

"A process has begun with the Cronje revelations to purge the game of cricket once and for all of this cancer," he told the government inquiry.

He said Majid had given him permission to relay the information to the South African inquiry - a point Majid confirmed to Reuters in Lahore, offering to come himself to testify to the inquiry.

Bacher has previously referred to two matches that were fixed but named them for the first time on Monday.

Shoaib Akhtar implicated

Bacher read a letter from a senior executive of a local company, Jacques Sellshop, about a conversation Sellshop said he had with Pakistani fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar in April this year on a flight from Johannesburg to Durban.

Sellshop said he did not know at that stage it was Akhtar but was later given photographs and identified him.

He said Akhtar told him "...match-fixing was common in cricket worldwide and had been going on for several years. He recalled the details of many matches, including a game between Pakistan and Bangladesh last year, which was fixed for one million U.S. dollars."

He said match-fixing involved teams from India and Pakistan but said South African and Australian players had also been taking money.

The letter quoted Akhtar, no relation to the Leeds umpire, as saying Cronje had been unwise to deal directly with the bookmakers rather than doing as others did and using third parties to negotiate.

"He said Hansie was stupid, he should never have negotiated with the bookmaker on the phone," Sellshop's letter to Bacher said.

However, Bacher also said there was no proof that the alleged conversation with Akhtar took place as there was no record of him being on the flight in question or even in the country at the time.

Pakistan was touring the West Indies at the time, although Akhtar missed the test series due to injury.

However, PCB director Yawar Saeed said: "The only think I can say at the moment is that Jacques Sellshop's alleged conversation with Shoaib Akhtar is incorrect because he (Akhtar) was with the team in the West Indies," the PCB's Saeed said.

Bacher said he had been shocked by the revelations that Cronje, whom he described as a role model for South African youth, had taken money from bookmakers and offered bribes to team mates to underperform in test matches.

"I was devastated. It devastated this country and I don't think this country has recovered," he said.

"In my history of involvement in South African cricket there has never been a better captain. I never ever questioned his integrity, never ever," he said.