April 9, 2001

Match fixing accusers should put up or shut up

Such is the mud being splattered over the good of cricket, the International Cricket Council should be looking to immediately suspend players, officials, umpires and others who publicly claim match fixing has occurred.

Suspensions should only be lifted when claims have been investigated and either proven or thrown out.

Javed Miandad
Miandad - fixing claims
Photo CricInfo

It is too easy for comments to be made that are injurious to the game, its participants and its history without backing up those claims with hard evidence.

Pakistan coach Javed Miandad had claims attributed to him about match fixing on the New Zealand tour.

Even if he later claimed he never used the word 'fixing', Miandad's comments will taint the memory of the match until it is proven or otherwise. All the more reason for making suspension the punishment for loose talk.

This was one of the most internally riven tours of modern times.

Reprisal was always going to be part of the game when Pakistan got home after losing the one-day series and drawing the Test series.

Yet, by drawing attention to his own team's shortcomings, and its long-goings given the number of replacements flown in and out of New Zealand during the tour, Miandad has undermined what many would have thought was some fighting cricket by the home team.

That Miandad reportedly made his claims should surprise no-one, claims of just about every other sort were made during the tour.

It goes without saying that Pakistan tours are never short of entertainment value off the field.

But the just-completed tour has to take the cake.

The bizarre shenanigans of fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar set the trend for all that was to follow.

Having just thrown New Zealand out of the first One-Day International with a five-wicket bag, Shoaib mouthed his defiance of world-wide concerns over his action by claiming he had never changed one aspect of his action since being reported last summer in Australia.

The problems of senior players not getting along with Miandad threatened to railroad the tour from the middle stages, if not earlier.

The injuries suffered by Wasim Akram and Saeed Anwar, especially, added fuel to the dissension claims.

Then there was the farce in the New Zealand A game when on the final morning Pakistan lost five wickets for 16 runs to lose by an innings and 54 runs. Miandad didn't even see the end of the game, he was doing some coaching on an adjoining ground with other players.

After that disappointment, Miandad said everything would be different in the Test matches.

The first Test victory was a superb example of the Pakistan side's ability to quickly mould together and take advantage of the situation. Younis Khan and Mohammad Sami were launched on their international way while New Zealand were left to query the state of the match ball at the end of their innings.

There was no way the Jade Stadium Test was going to produce a result anything other than what occurred.

But the last Test produced a complete turnaround.

It will be recalled that on the last full scale tour of New Zealand in 1993/94, the last Test produced what was thought to be a notable win for the home team, chasing a target of 324 to win, a result that stands as New Zealand's most successful chase for a victory.

That win has since had the tarnish of match fixing thrown over it.

The question, in the light of Miandad's now-disputed claims over the one-day series, will be asked of the series-equalling third Test match this time around in which the Pakistan batting on the first morning was akin to headless chooks on valium. Eight wickets down in a session against bowling that was neither accurate nor as fiery as it might have been.

Was it that bad? Were the Pakistan players looking homeward knowing they couldn't be beaten in the series? Was the Pakistan effort in the first innings, and in the second, any worse than New Zealand's second innings in the first Test?

The point is that the Test matches may have been perfectly legitimate woeful performances.

But until the evil of match fixing is eliminated its tarnish will hang over all such results.

Which brings us to the one-day series.

Before discounting Miandad's reported claims, those interested should ask themselves about Saqlain Mushtaq's final over in Christchurch.

Remember McMillan was 85 not out going into the last over, and then hit a six first ball and followed up with another second ball. Ninety-seven with four balls to go.

A quick leg bye was taken from the third ball. Chris Harris then couldn't connect with the fourth ball.

A quick run was taken by Harris off the fifth ball. McMillan on 97, faced and took a single off a no-ball.

Left on 98, Harris faced the last ball. Again, it was a no-ball and a single was taken.

McMillan lined up for the last ball and it was hit for six.

Wonderful for McMillan, a maiden ODI century and a record-equalling innings as he scored his century from 75 balls, the same number Chris Cairns hit in setting the record.

Twenty-four runs off the last over and, the only two no-balls bowled by Saqlain in his 10 overs.

In three other matches in the series he bowled only one no-ball.

Was he rattled under pressure as McMillan launched a furious assault during the last five overs? Was McMillan just too good for him? Why was Saqlain dropped for the next game - the series decider?

Moving on to that next game.

If, as Miandad reportedly claimed, there had been suspicions about the match, the Pakistan batsmen didn't seem to know they were supposed to lose. They scored 285 runs batting first!

But then, what was Shoaib Akhtar doing dropping two easy catches during New Zealand's record opening partnership?

Was it the sun peeking through the gap between the Rose Stand and the Western Stand at the ground? Should he have been on the field after suffering injury and then coming back to bowl off half a run-up?

Miandad has reportedly made his claims, and added that he had video and audio support.

If that was the case why did he not, as teams are required to do, report the matter to the match referee at the time?

Given the emphasis on illegal match fixing and betting being paid by the International Cricket Council it is difficult to believe some questions will not be asked of Miandad, at least.

But because of the nature allegations have over performances and how they are viewed, the ICC must act to ensure internal mud-slinging does not diminish achievements on the field for the sake of personal revenge. Make the claimants put up or shut up. The game needs it.