The slur of match fixing having disgraced the princely game of cricket, strict disciplinary measures are on the cards to put an end to it. A code of conduct in this respect has been enforced by the International Cricket Council (ICC) followed promptly by other Cricket boards of the world. The players involved in the evil practice have been or are being suitably punished by their respective boards. It is, however, a different thing that the gravity of punishment varies from player to player and from country to country. The object should be to save the game from falling into disrepute, not to destroy the career of players but to put them on the right path. Prompt and deterrent punishment should be the key note.
Of all the countries allegedly involved in this evil practice Pakistan was the most prompt as well as logical in dealing with this issue. The cases were investigated and handled by three different committees. (1) An inquiry committee formed by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and presided by Justice Ijaz Yousuf of the Federal Shariat Court, who also happened to be a senior member of the PCB Council (2) The Senate's Sports Committee presided by Justice (Retd) Javed Iqbal (3) Inquiry Commission of the Lahore High Court presided by Justice Malik Muhammad Qayum, whose report was acknowledged as the final verdict. As per Justice Qayum's recommendations former Captain Saleem Malik and pace bowler Ata ur Rahman were banned for life and fined $ 20,000 each while six other players were awarded fines of different denominations. The verdict was conveyed to the players concerned and the ICC informed accordingly about four months ago. The final action about the recovery of fines is being taken now.
Upholding the punishment of fines imposed on six players, the PCB has issued show cause notices to Wasim Akram, Saeed Anwar, Waqar Younis, Inzamam ul Haq, Mushtaq Ahmed and Akram Raza. The players were fined between US $ 2000-6000.Though the punishment was announced the action could not be finalized on account of the team's continuous commitments abroad. The amount of fine is to be deducted from the match fee of players before the team proceeds to Nairobi to participate in the ICC Knock Out tournament. We hope the action will act as a last nail in the coffin of match fixing as far as Pakistan is concerned.
Pace bowler Ata-ur-Rahman having been shunted out of the Pakistan team long ago has not reacted to the punishment, while former captain Saleem Malik has lodged a violent protest against the humiliation caused to him by the PCB as well as the Inquiry Commission. His major point of defense being that when he was initially blamed for match fixing, he appeared before the inquiry conducted by Justice (Retd) Fakhar ud Din G. Ebrahim and acquitted because no charge against him was proved. There was thus no justification in placing his case before the Inquiry Commission headed by Justice Malik Muhammad Qayum again. Though Saleem Malik's reply to the show cause notice has been rejected by the PCB, he is taking up the case again through his lawyer on the ground that the ban against him was not legally imposed.
Incidentally I happened to know Saleem Malik when he was a schoolboy. He made his entry into the Pakistan Under-19 team followed by the Test debut when I was Secretary of the Pakistan Cricket Board. He was a meek, gentle, soft spoken and a well-behaved youngster. The scion of a middle class family he was not an outgoing type what to speak of being a socialite. One could not really imagine how a player of his apparently good nature and conduct fall into such a sinister game of making illegal millions. Either he is innocent or ours is a case of mistaken identity like Hansie Cronje about whose involvement in the shameful act of match fixing, no one in South Africa could ever imagine.
The match fixing scandal, however promises to take a dramatic turn when India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) releases its interim report later this month. According to a news that has just trickled out from India, the investigating agency is likely to name 2 English and 3 Pakistani players while painting an exhaustive picture of international cricket corruption. The press report reveals that earlier in the year former all rounder Chris Lewis hinted about 3 English players suspected of complicity in match fixing. An internal investigation was swiftly carried out by the ECB and all English players absolved of any involvement.
It is alleged that the ECB, after absolving its own players turned the heat on Pakistan, first demanding that the entire report of the Qayum Commission be made public, then insisting that the players named by the judge be dropped from the side if England had to go ahead with its tour of Pakistan. Interestingly while all the pressure was put on Pakistan, no one asked the ECB to release the investigation report about the suspected England players. In any case Pakistan has finalized the issue promptly and wisely meeting all ends of justice and no further problem is likely to crop up unless the players accused by the CBI are over and above those already punished.