Match-fixing investigations April 21, 2000

Bacher caught in game of Chinese whispers

David Liverman

An interview with UCBSA chief Dr. Ali Bacher has sent shock-waves around the cricket world, and has caused angry reaction from the Pakistan Cricket Board, the Bangladesh Cricket Board, Javed Akthar (the former Test umpire), and ICC supremo Jagmohan Dalmiya.

Much of this reaction stems from widespread mis-reporting of the Bacher article. The article, originally published in The Australian newspaper, alleges that Bacher believes that two World Cup matches were fixed; serious questions have been raised about more than one umpire and at least one international team was throwing and manipulating matches. The article, however, does not substantiate these particular claims with direct quotes, and more to the point, clearly indicates that Bacher was not specific as to individuals, matches or teams involved. The Australian's reporter goes on to suggest that the claims might be associated with the Bangladesh-Pakistan World Cup match, and further suggests that Pakistani umpire Javed Akthar, and the Pakistan team might be related to Dr Bacher's allegations.

In the uproar that followed this article, Dr Bacher, when contacted by CricInfo, denied implicating any team, individuals, or identifying specific matches; and later issued a statement indicating his belief that match-fixing was widespread. However, news-agencies carrying the story appear to have seriously misinterpreted the original article, and stories started to appear across the world, directly linking Bacher to accusations against Javed Akthar, Pakistan and identifying the Bangladesh victory over Pakistan as suspect.

There's a game popular amongst children called "Chinese Whispers" where a message is passed round a circle by one participant whispering into the ear of the person sitting next to them. Inevitably, when the message emerges at the end of the chain it is garbled, usually to the amusement of everyone. In this case however, the end result is far from amusing, with Javed Akhtar taking legal advice, the Pakistan and Bangladesh Cricket Board outraged, and Dalmiya publicly taking Bacher to task.

The responsibility for this sad state of affairs lies largely with the press, who chose not to carefully check the original source, as well as to feature the more sensational allegations rather than Bacher's denial. Bacher himself did not help matters with a low key press release that did not specifically dissociate him from the allegations spreading through the world's media. It is further unfortunate that the various official bodies did not think to check with the UCBSA and Dr. Bacher before issuing outraged statements that further promulgated the inaccurate tale.

Perhaps in this difficult time for cricket, all media sources must take extra care to check their sources, and to think twice before spreading half-truths and rumours. Possibly a similar responsibility must lie with those charged with dealing with this whole match fixing affair on behalf of the game.