Allegations of match-fixing resurface February 9, 2004

Timing of match-fixing leak curious

The publication of confidential correspondence between the Anti Corruption Unit and the PCB, detailing the former's concerns over match-fixing in the Pakistani camp during two ODI tournaments in 2002, raised some uncomfortable issues, and leaves more questions than answers.

The two letters, both written by Lord Condon - the Elliot Ness of international cricket - highlighted concerns the ACU have over the activities of senior Pakistani players during the Champions' Trophy in Colombo in 2002 and the Morocco Triangular preceding it. The letters were written in response to an inquiry from the PCB, who at the time was reviewing an appeal filed by Wasim Akram against the recommendations of Justice Qayyum's report on the match-fixing scandal.

Tauqir Zia, at the time the PCB's chairman, acknowledged the correspondence, but stated that it was part of the PCB's ongoing cooperation with the ICC against corruption, and no further action was taken because, as the letters clearly state, no proof or evidence of wrong-doing was available. That, then, would have been that, but the leaking of these documents throws a different light on the matter.

Rameez Raja, the PCB's chief executive, speaking to Wisden Cricinfo, expressed concerns about the leak. "It is an old story that doesn't concern anyone now. We have been in contact with the ICC but if there is no proof, what can we do? The timing of the leak is bad, with a big series coming up. We will be carrying out an investigation at our end to find out what happened with the leak and will be making an official announcement in a couple of days."

It is difficult to ascertain whether the content of the leaked letters or its source is of more significance. If the players involved also include members of the current setup, then the matter holds menacingly disturbing implications.

Raja's comments, that it is an old story raked up in the name of sensationalism, suggest that current players are not involved. If this is the case, then the leak, and the motive behind it, becomes important. Ostensibly, it appears that someone within the PCB is trying to derail a new administration or further blacken the name of the previous one. Either case should not be surprising to followers of the political games often played out in the corridors of the PCB.

The ICC and ACU released an official "no comment" statement after the documents came to light, and have refused to budge from that position. Waqar Younis, who was captain at the time, has strongly condemned the ACU for making "allegations or raising suspicions without proof." However, as it was the PCB which had initiated the correspondence for the purposes of its own inquiry, there is little wrong with the ACU providing any information they felt was relevant to the inquiry - solid evidence or not. That the letters were leaked can hardly be blamed on the ACU.

With the ICC leaving the matter to the PCB, the whole affair stands now at a temporary impasse. The PCB will examine the issue of the leak itself through an official inquiry, one that will be launched in the next couple of days.

More than the nature of the story itself, one suspects the key may lie with the person responsible for the leak and his motives. Pakistan's match-fixing closet apparently has some skeletons to drag out still.