Spot-fixing controversy November 3, 2011

'I blame myself for bringing Mazhar to cricket'

Exclusive by Richard Sydenham
An exclusive interview with Azhar Majeed, the brother of the convicted agent, Mazhar

On the day that Mazhar Majeed was sentenced to 32 months in prison for his role in the spot-fixing scandal, Richard Sydenham spoke exclusively to his elder brother, Azhar, whose own integrity was called into question during the trial

How do you sum up this day, with your younger brother jailed for 32 months?
It's a very, very sad day. My parents are heartbroken that their son is going to prison. We knew he would be going to prison but it still doesn't make this any easier. If you have a relative who is sick and you know they are going to pass away, it's still not nice. This feels just the same.

What did Mazhar say to you about this situation?
The fact is my brother accepted what he did. He accepted he made a mistake and said he was guilty from the start. He didn't plead guilty to have his sentence reduced; he wanted to do the right thing. He's a very religious man. People might not believe that because of what has gone on, but he is.

Did you know he was fixing matches or spot-fixing?
I had absolutely no idea that he was up to no good. People might not believe that, but that's up to them. You are talking to the idiot who, as this story was breaking at the hotel by Lord's last year, was sitting with Ron Hope (an English-based ICC anti-corruption officer) asking him why the PCB security manager was chucking me out of the hotel. Ron was saying he couldn't understand it either and would find out what was going on. In fact, while I mention Ron, something that came out in the trial was that I lent Amir my phone to text a Pakistani bookie. What happened was, I was sitting with Ron in the hotel lobby and Amir passed by, looking for Mazhar. He asked if he could borrow my phone and that was when he said those things about not texting him any more because the police had taken his phone. I'm sure Ron would remember that. So if they brought it up in the trial and it was so important, why wouldn't anyone have asked me about that?

During the trial, the prosecution labelled you a match-fixer. What do you say to that?
That was a total abuse of power from (chief prosecutor) Mr Jafferjee. To say 'we know Azhar was doing it (fixing) as well' - that was way out of order. Not one person from the ECB, the ICC, the Anti-Corruption (and Security) Unit or the police has asked me one question. So if I was at it as Mr Jafferjee said, wouldn't one of these authorities have asked me some questions?

So you clearly feel you have been wrongfully accused of fixing?
Yes, and it's disgraceful. I did not deserve to have that said.

Do you recall when you became aware that you were being labelled a match-fixer, like Mazhar?
It was last week when I read it on Cricinfo. I couldn't believe it. When I clicked on the story I thought 'I'm going to sue this guy'. But having spoken to a QC who I know, he explained that Mr Jafferjee was using his legal right of Privilege inside court. They also said we were business partners - that just isn't true.

Another time your name came up in court was when you texted Mazhar to say, 'Let's squeeze everything we can out of cricket'. What was that about?
I had lost my day job a couple of days earlier. Mazhar had called me over to his house so I went with my wife. He came up with this idea about starting cricket coaching courses for children using professional players and we would take a commission. I wasn't all that convinced by it and Mazhar had said that I should show more enthusiasm and be more positive. When I was driving home my wife suggested that it might not be a bad idea after all and that I should go for it. So, after sleeping on it, I texted him that message. But in court they used the quote and made it sound how they wanted it to sound. They didn't show the full conversation.

It's going to be hard for you to be a cricket agent after this, so is that career over for you now?
I have not been involved since this started. My livelihood was taken away the night the police raided the Pakistan team hotel last year. Because of my livelihood being taken away I effectively became unemployed that night. My family has been under a lot of financial strain since.

But people on the outside will look at Mazhar's Aston Martin and his £1.8 million house in Croydon and think you must be a wealthy family?
Look, my brother had all that before I introduced him to any cricket players. He had that life before. It came out in court that he was £700,000 overdrawn but what didn't come out was how many properties he owns. I don't know exactly how many he does own, but this is how business at that level operates.

How is life for you now that your cricket agency has gone?
I'm working for a company in sales and things are better. I'm working hard and working my way up from the bottom - as a 42-year-old. My brother always worked hard as a matter of fact. He worked hard all his life to build up what he had.

Does the Majeed family, or even Mazhar's wife, feel angry towards him?
Look, he has three lovely children and they have a fantastic mother, who will be strong enough to cope and support her family until he returns. People make mistakes in life. She fully supports him and knows he made a mistake.

What are your thoughts towards Salman Butt after the court heard this week that Mazhar blamed him for introducing him to fixing?
All through the time I have known Salman, which doesn't include the last 12 months, all I can say is that he is a lovely person. I don't feel bitterness towards Salman, in fact I feel responsible myself because I'm the one who introduced my brother to cricket and to cricket players. We have all got to answer to our maker and if you do something wrong you get punished for it.

So there is no bitterness towards Salman at all, even though he's the one who corrupted Mazhar, if we are to believe his statement read out in court?
It's how you treat people on a daily basis and how you are that makes you the person you are, and these three - Salman, Asif and Amir - are fellow Muslims. Salman has made a mistake. I cannot hold any kind of hatred against these people. I knew them all well, or thought I did, and I can't feel anything bad towards them.

What hurts you the most?
Well I don't know about the most but it does upset me that even though I did quite a bit of business with a lot of players and made some of them good money, not one of them from the team has called me. Because they are so scared that I am Mazhar's brother. It's guilt by association. There are no other words for it. There are so many other people who feel the same, especially after what Mr Jafferjee said. If I was so involved in all this, do you not think I would have been questioned?

Finally, what are your thoughts about fixing and is this rife in the Pakistan team?
Despite all of this, life moves on. The game will move on. I just hope there are more investigations with regards to spot-fixing and match-fixing. I don't know how much is going on or went on. I had never even heard of spot-fixing or brackets before this case. The only brackets I know about are what you use when writing.

Richard Sydenham covered every day of the spot-fixing trial for ESPNcricinfo