It had been obvious for some time that cricket's great bribery saga was far from over. The wholly unexpected twist of December 1998 was that the goodies threatened to change places with the baddies.
The original accusation was that the Australians Shane Warne, Tim May and Mark Waugh had been approached by Salim Malik, who allegedly offered them $200,000 bribes to throw matches in October 1994. This first alerted a dozing cricket world to the heavy illegal betting going on in the subcontinent and Sharjah, and to the possibility that players were being bribed to rig matches.
More than four years later, it finally emerged that Warne and Waugh had their own involvement with subcontinental bookmakers and that the Australian Cricket Board knew about this and had covered it up all that time. Suddenly, the rights and wrongs seemed a great deal muddier.
Until the new Australian revelations, the affair had followed a predictable pattern. The Pakistanis had held three inquiries into the allegations, the Indians had held one, Malik had denied everything, nothing had been proven and in four years the only victim had been a journalist. This was Ramaswamy Mohan, for 18 years the cricket correspondent of The Hindu, one of India's leading newspapers. The paper has never officially commented on Mohan's departure, although one source there said: "The Hindu had to think of the credibility of the paper."*
But everyone's credibility was at stake. In 1997 the Delhi-based magazine Outlook published claims by the former Indian Test cricketer Manoj Prabhakar that he was offered 2.5 million rupees (about £40,000) by a teammate "to play below my usual standards". Prabhakar said the incident happened just before the India--Pakistan fixture (which was rained off anyway) in the Singer World Series in Sri Lanka in September 1994. "I told him to get out of my room," Prabhakar said.
Until then, the Indian Board had been looking on Pakistan's difficulties on this issue with a slightly smug and superior air. Now it asked Mr Justice Chandrachud, a former Chief Justice of India, to examine the Prabhakar story. But Prabhakar refused to name the player concerned, so Chandrachud concluded in December 1997 that there was nothing to report. This limpwristed conclusion pleased no one. The general feeling by now was that betting and match-throwing were part of the subcontinent's cricket culture, and that nothing could be done about it. People began to accept the resigned comment of a Bombay police investigator: "Every side with the exception of Australia and England can be purchased."
This remained the accepted wisdom for another year. In the meantime, the Pakistanis did begin a far more serious inquiry into the issue. Justice Malik Mohammad Qayyum sat in Lahore while Pakistan's cricketing elite made depositions. Inexorably, a picture of casual corruption built up. The International Cricket Council privately promised that, once Qayyum had finished, it would take action. But it was, the rest of the cricketing world thought, primarily Pakistan's problem.
Then, On December 8, 1998, the former Australian cricketer David Hookes mentioned to a Melbourne radio station that two Australians had given information to an Indian bookmaker. This turned the whole story on its head. The new revelation was that, during the same tournament in Sri Lanka in 1994, Waugh and Warne had been approached by an Indian bookmaker identified only as "John", who had asked them to begin giving him apparently innocent information about the weather and the state of the pitch - less, said the players, than they might routinely give free to journalists. For this, Waugh was paid $A6,000 (about £2,500) and Warne $A5,000.
The players had admitted this after making their original allegations about Malik to the Australian Cricket Board, which then fined them slightly more than John paid them ($A10,000 for Waugh and $A8,000 for Warne). But the ACB had said nothing about this publicly for almost four years. However, it informed ICC at the time, telling Sir Clyde Walcott, the then chairman, and David Richards, the chief executive, to keep it secret, which they did. The news incensed the Australian public, and Waugh was booed during the Adelaide Test against England. Warne escaped this because he was injured. But letter-writers to Australian papers demanded that both be drummed out of the game. Warne and Waugh admitted being "naive and stupid" but insisted they had not been involved in match-fixing in any way.
The news also incensed the Pakistanis. Justice Qayyum's inquiry was just nearing its end. Two months earlier, Waugh and Mark Taylor (representing Warne) had given evidence to him during Australia's tour of Pakistan. The Pakistanis had made special arrangements to accommodate their wishes, assembling a special court in a private house. Waugh and Taylor promised to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. They were not asked about John and (though Taylor was in on the secret) neither said anything. They did speak loftily about their cricketing ideals, and Justice Qayyum was much impressed by Waugh's testimony - until the news broke. "If he did not have a legal obligation, he had a moral duty to bring it to our notice, and it casts doubt on his credibility," Qayyum said.
Pakistani officials were also angered by ICC's connivance in the Australian cover-up. We felt the way ICC was constituted, we could not inform Pakistan, said Richards. We were of the view that the onus was on the ACB to disseminate the information. Yet when the first Pakistan inquiry, under Justice Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, suggested that the Australians had concocted their complaints against Malik, the Australians had demanded that ICC hold its own inquiry under Rule 2 of the Code of Conduct.
Now it was the Pakistanis who were making demands. They wanted Waugh and Warne to return to Pakistan to give further evidence. The compromise was that the Pakistani court travelled instead, at the Australian Board's expense. A hearing was arranged in Melbourne; it was in effect a Pakistani court, sitting under Pakistani law. Ali Sibtain Fazli, the Pakistan Board's lawyer, closely questioned Warne and Waugh about the match that was now felt to be the key to the whole affair. This was the one-day international in Colombo on September 7, 1994, eight days before the washed-out India--Pakistan match, and immediately preceding the Australian Test tour when Malik allegedly made his approach. Australia had scored just 179 for seven; Pakistan, captained by Malik and going well until Saeed Anwar retired with a hamstring injury, had lost by 28 runs. The Singer World Series involved India, who went on to win it, and Sri Lanka as well. It was rapidly becoming the centre of the many allegations; and it was after this tournament that the Pakistani Board banned mobile telephones from the dressing-room. A Pakistani bookmaker had previously told the commission in secret that he had given money to two players to fix this game. Both denied it.
When Warne and Waugh were given a grilling by the Pakistani investigators, no new information emerged. And the sense of anticlimax was heightened two days later when ICC held its much-heralded executive meeting. This was billed as the occasion when the organisation would finally come of age and take some of the powers of policing invested in similar international sporting organisations. Instead, ICC announced a three-man commission to supervise the investigation of such allegations but left the initial responsibility with the domestic boards.
The belief that this is a Pakistani issue remains deeply ingrained. Yet in the month before the meeting, one Australian - Ricky Ponting - and two England players - Adam Hollioake and Dougie Brown - said they had received approaches from bookmakers. The approach to Ponting was made at a Sydney dog track, a long way from Pakistan. In 1817, it was easy for MCC to ban the miscreant William Lambert and expel the bookmakers from Lord's. The world is a more complex place in 1999. There seemed little sign of this sorry story ever ending, let alone soon.
*Editor's note: Mohan admits having bet on cricket and having passed on routine information, but denies acting as a linkman between players and bookmakers, or any involvement in match-fixing. In the absence of any evidence that would justify his removal, he remains as Wisden's Indian correspondent.
Mihir Bose is sports news correspondent of the Daily Telegraph.
Extracts, from statements made by players and officials, on oath, to Justice Qayyum's inquiry in Lahore, and to its special sitting in Melbourne:
I was absolutely sure that match-fixing and betting was going on in Pakistani team.
Javed Burki, former Pakistan captain and chairman of ad hoc committee running Pakistani cricket 1994-95
In July 1997, I took over charge as coach of senior Pakistani team. Even before that there was talk about match-fixing and betting. I cannot say with certainty whether any match was fixed or not. During my tenure as coach, there were some matches which I, as a cricketer, felt should have been won by Pakistan but they lost. In my opinion, those matches were thrown away.
Haroon Rashid, former Pakistan player and coach
In my view, although I have no positive proof, there is match-fixing and betting prevalent in Pakistani team. In 1994, at Sharjah, the betting was going on in full swing.
Aqib Javed, former Pakistan player
I have been writing about cricket since 1987... I have come to the conclusion that more and more players, who are leading ones, are involved in corruption, with the result that the entire team is being polluted.
Fareshteh Gati, Pakistani journalist
I was never myself contacted for match-fixing nor did I indulge in betting. When I was captain, I have no proof that any player was involved in these nefarious activities.
Ramiz Raja, former Pakistan captain
The allegations against me regarding match-fixing are totally wrong and baseless. If the figures are compared it will be seen that the maximum number of matches was won under my captaincy, which itself shows the allegations are false.
Salim Malik, former Pakistan captain
I now believe that I spoke to John on approximately ten occasions. The information I gave him was no more than anyone could receive by listening to expert commentators on radio or television or to pre-match interviews with cricketers.
Mark Waugh, Australian player
I next heard from John in Melbourne just before the Boxing Day Test later that year. He telephoned me in the hotel at Melbourne. He said: "G'day, it's John. I met you in Sri Lanka. I'm just wishing you a Merry Christmas... what's the MCG pitch like?" I said: "Mate, it's a typical MCG pitch. It should be a good batting wicket. It should turn a bit and keep a bit low towards the end of the game." He said: "Is it going to rain?" I said: "I don't know, you can never tell in Melbourne, but I don't think so." He said: "Well OK, have a good Christmas."
Shane Warne, Australian player