Senior members of Pakistan's team management on the ill-fated tour to Australia earlier this year raised concerns about a run-out wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal fluffed during the second Test in Sydney, hinting that it may have been more than just a cricketing error. This has emerged in a video, leaked to a leading Pakistan sports channel, of meetings between officials and the six-man inquiry committee which investigated Pakistan's performance in the aftermath of the tour.
The tour is currently being investigated by the ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) to establish whether Pakistan's on-field performance was the result of what it called a "dysfunctional" team or "something more serious". This was announced on Thursday by the ACSU's outgoing chief, Paul Condon.
The leaked segments of the video centre around the testimony given by Aaqib Javed and Intikhab Alam, assistant coach and coach respectively on that tour, to the committee. Akmal dropped Michael Hussey three times in the second innings, allowing the batsman to score a hundred that was pivotal in Australia winning the Test having conceded a 204-run lead.
But the miss that has aroused suspicions was a run-out chance against Shane Watson, when Akmal cleanly collected a throw from the outfield but neglected to remove the bails with Watson short of the crease. In his statement, Akmal denied any wrongdoing. "I got the ball but was totally blind and couldn't run out the batsman," he said.
Aaqib says of the miss that it was the "most shocking" of all his errors. "But the run-out, that was shocking, really shocking," Aaqib says to committee members, including the head Wasim Bari, the PCB's chief operating officer. "What did he do? How can this happen?"
Asked specifically by a committee member how firmly he believes that Akmal's mistakes were deliberate, Aaqib says, "I'm not sure, but my suspicions are pretty high. They are high because of other things I know about the process, the people in the surroundings. There is a high percentage. These things are not new in Pakistan cricket. These things have happened and I was a victim of them. There is a question mark, yes."
Intikhab, asked about the same incident, appears more reluctant to point to anything untoward. While describing the incident, though, he repeatedly refers to how shocked he was initially. "That run-out I saw, I was flabbergasted. If you see it, it is shocking….the ball came, he was diving so far out, what can I say? We couldn't believe it. I heard many stories about match-fixing also."
The video, aired first by Geo Super, a Pakistani sports channel, is particularly significant because it is the first time people within the board have spoken of match-fixing, an issue that has swirled relentlessly over Pakistan cricket over the last year. In the past, however, such statements have come only from ex-cricketers, or senators and parliamentarians. It isn't clear, however, whether these suspicions were included in the various written reports handed to the PCB by touring officials or in the final inquiry committee report; it is understood, for example, that Intikhab's written tour report did not raise this alarm.
After these meetings, the inquiry committee decided to ban four senior players and fine three others heavily. Many of the other incidents in the video have already become public knowledge since the PCB completed its findings. Intikhab and Aaqib talk, for example, of Umar Akmal and the allegations that he faked a back ailment before the third Test in Hobart in protest at the dropping of his elder brother.
Intikhab is also critical of the players' behaviour away from the field, questioning their education levels and upbringing, their mental aptitude and ultimately concluding that they "seem to be mentally retarded." He suggests, as remedial measures, that Shoaib Malik, Misbah-ul-Haq, Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan be removed from the team, though he says of Younis that "he is not a troublemaker but he has other issues."
Parts of the interaction between Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, another player facing a one-year ban from the national side, and the committee are also on the video. Rana talks at length about the players' unhappiness with Younis when he was captain last year, admitting that he was part of a concerted movement to try and remove him.