Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent
A private cricket league in Ajman, UAE, has come under the spotlight for suspected 'irregular activities', as the International Cricket Council's (ICC) Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) launched an investigation. The tournament, named the All-Time Ajman league, had to be called off on its second day after local cricket authorities refused to allow them to continue using the ground. The venue, Ajman Oval, a popular cricket ground in the country, has been suspended with immediate effect.
The tournament was a private one and since it is not sanctioned, it does not come under the purview as such of the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) or the ICC. But the ICC took notice after a video went viral in which batsmen appeared to be doing their best to get dismissed. Efforts to return to the crease after charging the bowler were virtually non-existent, while suicidal attempts at runs and a lack of urgency and intensity raised eyebrows. The tournament involved expatriates from a number of South Asian countries, and a few former international players. One of the recruiters, acting as a player agent, was also involved in the tournament in Uganda that ended up being overshadowed by a pay dispute.
The ICC confirmed it had taken up the case. "There is currently an ICC Anti-Corruption Unit investigation underway in relation to the Ajman All Stars League held recently in Ajman, UAE," Alex Marshall, the ICC general manager, Anti-Corruption, said in a statement. "The ICC ACU works to uphold integrity in cricket, and in keeping with that role we are talking to players and officials and will not make any further comment at this time."
The Ajman Oval has, over the last few years, emerged as a potential cricketing venue owing to facilities that are of international standard, including floodlights. But any cricket that takes place there has to be approved by the local cricket council. The secretary general of the Ajman Cricket Council Shaji Ul Mulk told ESPNcricinfo that this tournament wasn't sanctioned by any cricketing authority.
"The tournament wasn't approved and we only came to know about the activity on day two," Mulk said. "There are procedures and when my staff asked them to go by the rule book, they dispersed and never came back again. Meanwhile, we found the Ajman Oval breaching the code more than once and hence we have suspended their affiliation. We have a zero tolerance policy towards corruption and are cooperating with the ICC in their ongoing investigation."
Cricket in the UAE is mainly regulated by the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) with Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Dubai and Ajman the most popular venues in the country. UAE is an associate member at the ICC whose club and department cricket actives are regulated by four major councils under the ECB's watch.