Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo
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Mazhar Majeed, the man at the centre of the spot-fixing controversy that has engulfed the ongoing Lord's Test between England and Pakistan, is known to many members of the Pakistan team as a UK-based agent. Along with his brother Azhar, Mazhar claimed to represent the interests of a number of Pakistan's top cricketers in the UK.
Mazhar was arrested by Scotland Yard on Saturday night on suspicion of a conspiracy to defraud bookmakers. He was caught on camera by The News of the World claiming to have bribed Pakistan's bowlers to bowl no-balls at previously agreed moments during the Test. He claimed to the paper to have up to seven players from the side working for him, though so far only four have been named.
Cricinfo understands that the brothers have known many members in the team since at least 2006, the last time Pakistan toured England. It is unclear whether any official agreement was signed between the players and the brothers, but over a number of years Azhar and Mazhar have handled various sponsorship and marketing contracts for the players in the UK.
How familiar the brothers are with the players is also evident from the UK-based Pakpassion.net, a popular fan website that regularly carries out interviews with Pakistan's top cricketers. In a number of interviews with players such as Salman Butt and Saeed Ajmal, Azhar and Mazhar were thanked for setting up the interaction.
For a while, between 2008 and 2009, the website had a regular section called "The Agents Views", in which Azhar would update readers on the activities of a number of players. The introduction to this section calls Azhar the UK-based agent for a number of players including Abdul Razzaq, Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Yousuf, Shahid Afridi, Kamran Akmal, Misbah-ul-Haq, Abdur Rauf as well as others.
The same website also revealed that Mazhar was in Australia during Pakistan's tour at the start of this year. Pakistan lost every single international through the series; an inquiry in the aftermath of the fractious tour revealed that coaches Aaqib Javed and Intikhab Alam suspected Kamran Akmal of deliberately underperforming. Allegations centred, in particular, around the second Test in Sydney, which Pakistan lost from a dominant position by 36 runs.
However, Pakpassion.net insisted Mazhar's role was purely to set up interviews. "Let us clarify that Mr. Majeed was a representative for the said players who allowed us access to interview these players," they told Cricinfo. "There is no other connection with him or his organization as far as PP is concerned - our only mission was to bring the voice of the players to the fans and also take feedback to the players."
The inquiry committee looked into other matches as well, including the Twenty20 international in Melbourne, which Pakistan lost by two runs. Board officials stopped short of using the term match-fixing, but privately conceded that players might have underperformed to undermine others as part of rampant factionalism and politicking within the side.
While in Australia, the players apparently sent a video message to their Under-19 counterparts, at that time across the Tasman Sea in New Zealand preparing for the World Cup final against Australia. And a post underneath the thread thanks Mazhar, "who is currently in Australia with the players for sending clips to PP [Pakpassion]".