June 24, 2010

Live from the Warne-Waugh affair

Malcolm Conn
A look back at how the story of the involvement of two leading Australian players with bookmakers broke, 12 years ago

There was a buoyant mood flowing through the breakfast room of the Pearl Continental in Rawalpindi. Australia had just won a Test in Pakistan for the first time since 1959, with Stuart MacGill claiming nine wickets in just his second Test as a replacement for the injured Shane Warne.

But there were two significant absentees from this bonhomie on October 6, 1998, Mark Waugh and the team's security officer Reg Dickason.

From the time Australia had arrived in Pakistan, hearings had been taking place in the Lahore High Court surrounding allegations of match-fixing among Pakistani players. Waugh and Warne, who was recuperating at home following shoulder surgery, had previously given long-distance evidence against Saleem Malik for alleged offers of six-figure sums to underperform on Australia's previous Pakistan tour in 1994. These allegations had been dismissed by Malik and an earlier Pakistan inquiry.

But now Australia were in Pakistan, here was the chance for Waugh to give evidence in person. Where was he if he wasn't at breakfast?

Suspicious, I knocked on the door of team manager Steve Bernard, a former NSW fast bowler.

"Where's Mark Waugh?" I said.

"I can't say," he replied.

The penny dropped as the anger rose. Waugh had been whisked off to Lahore at sunrise and Australia's touring media had not been told. This clandestine operation was supposed to include a secret hearing, but there is little secret in Pakistan or its cricket.

The office rang from Sydney to say they had received a wire story that Mark Waugh was going to appear at a special sitting of the match-fixing hearing, and soon photos began circulating around the world of Dickason leading Waugh into the hearing.

When they arrived chairs were being arranged in a row.

"What are they for?" Asked Dickason.

"The media," came the reply, before Dickason put a stop to that.

It seems about the only people who did not know Waugh was to appear before the hearing were the touring Australian media.

After the hearing we spoke by phone to Waugh, who had reiterated that Malik offered him a large sum of money to underperform during the one-day series in 1994.

On the opening day of the second Test in Peshawar explosive allegations surfaced from the match-fixing hearing, with Safraz Nawaz claiming that Dean Jones had retired early because of match-fixing. Back in Australia, a furious Jones screamed his innocence from the rooftops and threatened to sue anyone who made the claim. Later, evidence emerged from Hansie Cronje's bookie, Mukesh Gupta, that Jones had in fact rejected a $50,000 offer on the 1992 tour of Sri Lanka.

With the hearing hotting up, I abandoned the Test and caught the first plane to Lahore the next morning. Mark Taylor, unbeaten overnight on 112, was on the way to 334 not out, equalling Bradman's highest score by an Australian.

Taylor was still batting on the television above the carousel at Lahore airport as I waited for my luggage.

"I'm glad I'm not bowling on that," a voice beside me said, referring to the flat Peshawar pitch. It was Wasim Akram, who had been a late withdrawal the day before.

"What's wrong?" I said.

"I've got a cold. I don't feel very well," he replied.

I'd never heard of an Australian pulling out of a Test because of a cold.

"What do you think of these match-fixing allegations," I asked.

"Rubbish. They're driving some of the poor guys mad," he said, before picking up his bag and disappearing into the crowd.

During a break on one of the hearing days I was shown a letter by a member of the Pakistan Cricket Board's legal team. Folded at the top and the bottom it was impossible to see who it was from, but it accused Mark Waugh of being involved with a bookmaker. I was aghast

Justice Malik Mohammad Qayyum sat high at the back of the Lahore High Court, looking down on what had been a continuing procession of Pakistan's finest current and recent former cricketers. All said they had heard rumours about match-fixing, but none apparently knew anything about it.

A large and imposing figure in his flowing black robes, Justice Qayyum looked like he was sitting on a throne in this large and majestic colonial red brick building dating back to the 1860s.

As any players, past or present, appeared, numerous people gathered around with pen and paper.

"Gee, the journalists are standing close to the action," I thought, watching from the back of the court. As the player finished giving evidence they were mobbed. These were autograph hunters in the middle of Pakistan's most important court.

During a break on one of the hearing days I was shown a letter by a member of the Pakistan Cricket Board's legal team. Folded at the top and the bottom it was impossible to see who it was from, but it accused Mark Waugh of being involved with a bookmaker. I was aghast.

Mark Waugh involved in match-fixing? Never. I went through his one-day figures on the subcontinent. They were outstanding. There were no obvious or unexplained patterns of failure.

I put the allegation to team manager Bernard, who said he would speak to Waugh.

Bernard later told me: "He denies ever betting on cricket or being involved in match-fixing."

I was convinced this was just a cheap attempt to discredit Waugh for giving evidence against Saleem Malik, and wrote a strongly worded piece saying as much.

During the Peshawar Test, an Indian who had done some liaison work with the team on a tour of India earlier that year flew in to watch the match. Knowing the players and management, he had access to the dressing rooms. Such was the hysteria about match-fixing in Pakistan at the time that one newspaper claimed the Indian had been linked to an illegal bookmaker and had influenced Taylor to declare after the second day, thus not breaking Bradman's record. Taylor's claim of wanting to leave enough time to win the game was not considered a good enough reason.

I wrote a furious piece about that too.

Later in the tour, a colleague and I hired a driver in Lahore to do some sight-seeing. He took us to a small shop in Old Lahore to buy some film. The first ICC Knockout was being played in Bangladesh, from where we had just returned after Australia were beaten by India. The omnipresent voice of Tony Greig blared from a small television as men milled around on both sides of the counter. One had a ledger book. I assumed he was doing the accounts.

When we left the shop our driver burst out laughing.

"What's up?" I said.

"That was a bookie shop," he spluttered. "They were betting on the cricket."

"How many shops are there like that?" I asked.

"They're everywhere," he said, still laughing.

A month later, back in Australia, there was a gala launch for the Ashes series in Brisbane and most of the crowd, including some players and officials, had adjourned to Ian Healy's night club, Adrenalin. In a dark corner of the noisy bar during the early hours of the morning, I asked someone about the allegations of Mark Waugh being involved with a bookmaker.

"That's right," he said above the dance music.


He began to explain how Mark Waugh had been fined by the then Australian Cricket Board for taking money from an illegal bookmaker to provide information.

So it wasn't match-fixing after all but selling information.

Desperate to get as much detail as possible, I borrowed a barman's pen and grabbed some coasters, writing furiously on the back of them and sticking them in my shirt pocket. Next morning I could hardly read my own writing but I began making phone calls.

A couple of weeks and two Tests later I met then ACB chief executive Malcolm Speed with a list of questions. He said "No comment" to every one.

I rang Mark Waugh. He denied it then added: "Who told you?"

More phone calls and I had enough to write. I rang Speed and told him I was going to publish. He told me to wait.

An hour or two later he rang, explaining that not only had Mark Waugh been fined A$8000, the amount he had received for selling information to illegal bookmakers, but Shane Warne had been fined $10,000 for the same offence.

I was gobsmacked. Warne too.

So why didn't Waugh give that evidence at the match-fixing hearing in Lahore during the Pakistan tour?

"He wasn't asked the question," Speed replied.

What a disgrace to the game and affront to Pakistan.

A two-day Pakistan hearing was subsequently set up in Melbourne to grill Waugh and Warne. There was never any evidence they had been involved in match-fixing.

The fines had been imposed in a small airport room before the team flew out to the West Indies in 1995 by then ACB chairman Alan Crompton and chief executive Graham Halbish, who later announced the decision to a board meeting and instituted a cover-up.

All hell broke loose when the story broke. Waugh and Warne, who was still recovering from shoulder surgery, read prepared statements at a press conference before the third Test against England in Adelaide, saying they had been naive and stupid. They did not answer questions. That was left to Speed, who had not been with the ACB at the time of the cover-up.

Waugh was booed when he went out to bat at the Adelaide Oval and made just 7.

Little more than a year later I covered the Hansie Cronje match-fixing hearing in Cape Town.

Cricket was never the same again.

Malcolm Conn, chief cricket writer at the Australian, was presented with a Walkley Award, Australia's most prestigious media award, for his Waugh-Warne expose

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Billy on June 27, 2010, 23:53 GMT

    JigneshPatel, maybe you feel strongly about the underarm incident, but it happened in a meaningless one-dayer and outside of a World Cup. One-dayers were only great marketing opportunities in those days and that incident fuelled all the marketing, the allegations and everything else you could think of. If the incident had happened in a Test match and clearly it was against the spirit of the game, then I would agree with you and both Chappells should have been sacked. And I can't believe you insist on the McGrath-Tendulkar incident. It looked out, so they appealed, and it was given out because the umpire thought it was out. I thought it was out, many people thought it was out. At the least, it was poor batting and he deserved to be given out. It was one of the few times that Tendulkar was all at sea, and in that series, McGrath and Warne had his measure.

  • JIGNESH on June 27, 2010, 20:31 GMT

    BillyCC, how could you say the Under-arm bowling incident was the meaningless. That incident was the most ungraceful and disappointing moment and incident in history of cricket. The moment before the bowler bowled that ball, one of his team mates came to him, and whispered him in his ear and also showed him what to do with his own hand. That means not only bowler was the culprit, but the but other players was also culprit, may be whole team. You said the hitting ball on the head and the umpire given him out was the umpire's decision, but why he gave him out? Because they appealed. Anyone can see the ball hit on the head. I saw every teams' up and down era in history of cricket, but Australians never going down. In order to stay on the top, desperately, they do any thing such as cheating, accusing opposite team players, pressuring umpires to make wrong decision, sledging opposite team players on the ground, and of course coming out stronger.

  • Dummy4 on June 26, 2010, 19:31 GMT

    Wasim Akram denying about match fixing and waugh-warne incident dragged into media limelight ,simply turning out to be information selling (which is quite ugly but not as unacceptable as match fixing)shows that match fixing is a rare if not absent taboo in modern cricket. This is in contrary to a common poor guy (as said by legendary Wasim Akram)who thinks the match has been fixed every his team loses unconvicingly. Top level cricketers have enoughj character and struggle in their memory bank to deny the futile hard cash in consequence of pride of their country and themselves. This article has changed my views towards cricket matches for good.Thanks Mr.Malcom Conn

  • Daanyal on June 26, 2010, 6:49 GMT

    @JigneshPatel_USA Your post is very funny as if you read Adam Gilchrist's autobiography (He is a close friend of Michael Slater) you would find out that Michael Slater was having personal issues at the time and according to Gilchrist, it affected his game.

    Also, the Laws of Cricket state that if the ball hits any part of the body that is not deemed to be the bat and the ball bounced in line with the stumps and would go on to hit the wicket, the batsman/woman may be called out.

    Shane Warne was kicked out because he was using a drug to enhance his appearance. Inconveniently, that particular drug can also be used to hide the use of steriods.

    PS: I'm 11 and I'm an Aussie with Pakistani origin. I'm 11 and also seem to know a lot more about cricket than you.

  • Robin on June 25, 2010, 20:19 GMT

    The ACB exercised poor judgement in this instance, and the ICC should have intervened in the interest of fairness. Waugh and Warne had to be involved in something to be fined by the ACB.And why was it kept a secret? A few years after this incident, Marlon Samuels from the West Indies was alleged to have been involved with bookmakers in a similar manner, and was suspened for two years.Different strokes for different individuals?

  • Dummy4 on June 25, 2010, 10:22 GMT

    I think ACB has no right to hide this affair from the common public. They should have let it out. Whether it is match fixing or some silly information sharing, it should have been aired to the public. Let the Australian public or the jude decide the punishment for them. Every nation's Board has come out to the public explaining each and every cricketer's involvement in this scandal and their punishment (to the best of their knowledge). I do not like this decision of ACB hiding this incident altogether. If it is very cheap information, why were they fined? If it is costly information that they leaked, why is ACB hiding it from the public? If this had gone to the pulic, Warne could have been dismissed before retirement, which would have stopped Australia being No1 long time before. A lot of records would have been changed because of that. This is one of the reasons the ACB does not want Warne to be a captain, but still it wants Warne as a bowler to keep it's ranking. Shame on you ACB...

  • kaiser on June 25, 2010, 5:13 GMT

    Mr. Malcolm Conn thanks for doing some honest and humane job out of this world of hypocrisy. I salute your honesty and great article. I have known these things through articles and all other media but i was waiting for someone who could blow the whistle and ring alarm bells for others to follow the honest line of dignity. Thanks once again. To say the least in the test match between India and Australlia MJ clark took a bump catch and Ponting backed him, instead of going for replays they forced umpires to give Ganguly out. Believe the fielder policy.

  • Billy on June 25, 2010, 4:08 GMT

    Paullie, I agree with all your comments 100%. The journalist in question sensationalised the issue and attempted to drive his own agenda and a wedge between the public and the Australian cricket team.

  • Paul on June 25, 2010, 2:25 GMT

    Jealousy. The real issue that gets this writer's goat is that he was given the slip in Rawalpindi. That's why he repeatedly refers to it. As for Waugh and Warne "selling information" isn't that exactly what journalists do? The only difference is that people paid W&W more for the info because they are (quite rightly) more respected in the field than this writer. And to include this incident in an article which refers to real corruption is to taint their names by association. There IS nothing wrong with what they did. They didn't give out confidential team tactics and they certainly didn't influence the course of a match. And the picture at the top is actually supporting Waugh by mocking the figures who interpreted their innocent behaviour as corruption.

  • hayden on June 25, 2010, 2:23 GMT

    JigneshPatel_USA i agree but the aussie cricket team never pretended to be saints! however sachin was out lbw that time he was hit in the head! the term leg before wicket is misleading. the ball can hit any part of your body thats not deemed part of your bat. if that part of the body is in line with the stumps upon the ball hitting it your still out lbw! still out of that whole sage in the 90's i would like to think that the end result was a less corrupt international game!

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