BBC BLOGS - David Bond
« Previous | Main | Next »

Cricket integrity on the line in spot-fixing case

Post categories:

David Bond | 22:23 UK time, Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Doha

Amid all the euphoria of England retaining the Ashes in Australia, the shambolic climax to Pakistan's tour last summer feels like an awfully long time ago.

But on Thursday, in an imposing new building in the heart of Doha's financial district, the events of that tour will be played out once again as the International Cricket Council's anti-corruption tribunal begins a six-day hearing into spot-fixing allegations against three Pakistan players.

Qatar is an unlikely setting for cricket to hold such an important case. The tiny oil rich state is still coming to terms with the shock of being awarded football's 2022 World Cup and is getting ready for the start of the Asian Cup on Thursday.

And yet it is the scene for the most important inquiry cricket has staged since the King Commission into the Hansie Cronje affair 10 years ago.

The Pakistan Test captain Salman Butt and the fast bowlers Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif might be on trial here but the sport and its rulers know cricket's reputation and integrity are also on the line.

Although the three players are facing multiple charges under article two of the ICC's anti- corruption code, it is worth reminding ourselves exactly what this case boils down to - bowling three deliberate no balls in the fourth Test at Lord's last August.

Pakistan cricketers Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif and captain Salman Butt

The ICC anti-corruption tribunal in Qatar will last for six days - photo: AFP

Sounds relatively harmless doesn't it? Until you realise the players' agent Mazhar Majeed had predicted exactly when those no balls would be bowled to an undercover reporter from the News of the World posing as a frontman for an illegal gambling syndicate.

The Metropolitan Police opened an inquiry immediately - still ongoing - and four days after the News of the World published their story, which included secretly recorded video footage of Majeed with Butt and a series of recordings of conversations, the ICC charged the players.

They have been provisionally suspended ever since - a sign of just how seriously the ICC is treating the matter.

Although some of the £150,000 paid to Majeed was traced to Butt and Amir's hotel rooms in London by police, the ICC's case against the players does not rest on the discovery of the cash, which was identified by serial numbers recorded by the newspaper.

Instead the ICC will rely on the sheer weight of video and recorded evidence which they believe proves a link between Majeed's predictions and the three no balls - the first by Amir in the third over of the first day, the second by Asif, with the last ball of the 10th over, and the third by Amir, during the third over the next day.

The most telling quote from the pages and pages of transcript published by the News of the World on 5 September is this one: Majeed: "After you see these three [no balls], yeah, you'll know that's no coincidence, yes or no?"

Providing the evidence from the News of the World stands up - and all three players have now dropped any attempt to argue it was in any way made up - then it is very difficult to see how the players could argue the no balls happened at exactly that time by complete chance.

What will be really interesting is whether the three players start turning on each other to try to get off the hook.

As Amir and Asif actually bowled the no balls, will Butt try to claim that he knew nothing about any fix despite the far closer connection between the batsman and Majeed?

Will Amir and Asif say they were put under pressure by their captain to bowl no balls and that they did not know why or have any knowledge of any fix?

The Pakistan team coach Waqar Younis and one day captain Shahid Afridi are also due to give evidence to the tribunal chaired by Michael Beloff QC.

But the most significant witness for the ICC could be the team's former security adviser Major Javed Khawaja Najam.

His testimony was leaked to Pakistan's Dawn newspaper over the Christmas holiday and revealed how he had asked police who searched Butt's room to place on record the details of the £42,000 they had found in his room.

When challenged Butt said the money was for his sister's wedding. He also claimed in an interview with Sky last month that some of the News of the World money from Majeed was for a sponsorship appearance at an ice cream parlour in Tooting, south London.

There is no question Butt, as the captain and the man with the clearest connections to Majeed, is firmly in the ICC's sights.

Should he and the others be found guilty, Butt is likely to face the most severe ban which, for all three players, could range from a one-year suspension to life.

It is really a question of what mitigating circumstances they could then argue. In Amir's case his lawyer Shahid Karim told me he would point to the young bowler's unblemished record.

He added: "I have my fingers crossed and I hope Amir gets the benefit of the doubt."

For Asif, who has been banned for drugs offences in the past, that may be harder to argue. But no money from the News of the World was found in his hotel room and he could argue he has no clear or direct connection via any phone records or video evidence with Majeed.

All of this will be vigorously contested by the ICC who want to send the clearest message yet that the sport will not tolerate anyone who tries to fix even the most seemingly inconsequential passages of play.

Failure to do so will only cause further damage to a sport which has already had its reputation undermined by the fixers.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    On Comment 7: Youn49, you really believe its about India vs Pakistan? This is cricket man.. a sport. Not a war to have spies and double agents. Grow up. Guys like you need to stop behaving like cats drinking milk with their eyes closed.

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 11.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.

    I believe that Hansie took the fall for a few cricket players as he wouldn't name and shame. I hope that this will not happen here.

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 15.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 16.

    Like many, I tend to think that severe penalties should be handed out, if found guilty. What I don't understand is the ICC's approach to this. They have 6 days, in which witnesses, statements and evidence that is already in the public domain, will be scrutinised again. Why would it take this long to arrange?
    If they want to send out a clear signal, then surely they should start by dealing with affairs more swiftly?

    But more importantly, if any wrongdoing is discovered in this case, then I believe that the national board should be punished. They are responsible for the selection of players and the security arrangements surrounding them. If there was any wrongdoing, then the national board let it happen on their watch. They are responsible.

    Banning a whole country from the game seems a bit like shooting ourselves in the foot, though. So I'd suggest that all board members and administrators should be immediately unrecognised by the ICC and all other boards and suspended from official activities within the sport. Yes, it´s rather lame and tame. But I think it´ll hit harder than expected.

  • Comment number 17.

    Innocent until proven guilty, but is anyone really expecting anything other than an ICC whitewash?

    Reputation and age are nothing to do with it, a crime is a crime.

  • Comment number 18.

    3 no balls can change a match. A batsman who gets out from a no ball could go on to make a match changing innings, or could be dismissed on the 7th delivery, or the match could be won or lost by 3 runs.

    I know these are potentially slim margins, but the possibility still stands. Any deliberate effort to change the legitimacy of any delivery can change a game of cricket.

    I know this is about defrauding the bookies, which is an offence, but it's also about defrauding the supporters, the people who pay to watch the games at the ground or on the TV. Surely they deserve to see a competition where all are giving their best efforts to win.

    Ban them if they are guilty. A cheat is a cheat.

  • Comment number 19.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.

    I back you up completely LeeTUFC with regards to moderating issues, i dont really know what i said, i just put foreward my opinion on the matters at hand!

    I agree that if found guilty, lengthly bans to both butt and asif. Butt because he was leading the side and like you said LeeTUFC, asif due to his past altercations. Amir could potentially get a less severe punishment as it appears he may have been led astray.

    Lets just hope that cricket is the winner in all of this.

  • Comment number 23.

    Shame that this case potentially detracts headlines from Englands fantastic result down under.

    However, it's a serious issue and one the game needs to get under contol. For me, it's irrelevant that it was 'just three no balls' and that it didn't affect the outcome of the game. Firstly, the panel has to find that the bowlers deliberately bowled these no-balls under instruction from the captain or some outside party.

    Should this be the case, the key thing in terms of censure for me is motivation. IF the no balls were bowled for financial gain by the bowlers, then they should be punished with a fine and lengthy ban. Effectively this sends out a message to the players that there is a real risk in getting involved even at such a seemingly innocuous level. In turn, this makes it harder for those outside the game to influence players, as risk outweighs reward. IF the panel find that the bowers bowled these no-balls under duress from the captain (i.e. bowl it or you're dropped), or with the knowledge of the captain (he is ultimately responsible for the conduct of his team) then Butt should be banned for longer. If they were under pressure from the fixers/bookies themselves (remember Haider fleeing the Pakistan tour last year claiming threats against himself and his family) then the ICC has a bigger problem as it's effectively a police matter. Although the players can (and should) still be banned I suspect many would accept the risk of a ban to ensure the safety of their families.....

  • Comment number 24.

    What bothers me is why would any bookie accept a bet on something as precise as when a no ball is bowled. #18 - I'm certainly not bothered that anyone would be defrauding them - they obviously bring it on themselves, unless they too are in on the fraud.

  • Comment number 25.

    @ 24:

    Well, bookmaking in India is illegal, so it makes sense that there may well be some collusion. However, bookies will take a bet on almost any event with chance involved. I wager the legitimate bookies will think twice before offering odds on this sort thing in the future (was that ironic?).....but, where there is a potential to take someone's money I'm sure they'll give it a go.

  • Comment number 26.

    Massive day for world cricket and the future of cricket
    I hope the right decision will be made

  • Comment number 27.

    What's the latest on Zulqarnain Haider? His allegations were much more serious than the bowling of three deliberate no-balls in a test match - they related to the fixing of the results of matches themselves.
    Given the seriousness of Haider's claims, and the suggestions that the no-ball allegations were just the tip of the iceberg when it came to match-fixing in cricket, one hopes the ICC will make serious efforts to get to the bottom of this, and won't settle for making scapegoats of players caught in a newspaper-instigated sting.

  • Comment number 28.

    The best way of stopping cricket match fixing is to just ignore it.

    The acceptance of money by players for information, forecasts or for losing matches should be just accepted and ignored.

    Yes ignore match-fixing and stop wasting police time and resources.

    If it is recognised that the outcome of a match could be a function of not just the toss, the weather or the relative skills of the players, spot betting and match outcome betting will dry up, soon followed by bribes to players and the temptation to throw matches or bowl no balls or miss the stumps.

    Whilst I was an undergraduate studying Probability I worked on Saturdays in a betting shop. I was wisely advised by the "turf accountant" never to bet on anything that could speak.

    The moral is:

    Don't bet on anything where the result can be managed by someone. Unless of course that someone is yourself.

    And as for cricket match-fixing,

    1) generate / maintain uncertainty in the match outcome and let it be assumed that the matches are fixed

    2) nobody will bet if they believe in the possibility that matches are fixed against them

    3) if nobody bets nobody will bribe players to fix matches

    4) if there are no bribes then there will be no matches fixed.

    5) problem solved by ignoring match-fixing not by dealing with it.

    Warren EDWARDES

  • Comment number 29.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 30.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 31.

    These are the people who damage sports for personal gains and therefore, if found guilty they must not be allowed to anywhere near a cricket field for a long time. So that by the time they finish their sentence no one would want to know them.

    ICC should protect the sport


  • Comment number 32.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 33.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 34.

    Bigot boy says "Once you accept this you begin to understand why countries like the USA and Australia focus on local sports and have large misgivings about internationally governed sports."

    I am a huge Baseball fan but I'd be the first to say that MLB has not covered itself with glory with its governance of the game and the issue of drug abuse cheats within the game. The failure to hold regular unannounced drug tests and expunge the records of proven drug enhanced "heros" hardly suggests that sports that choose isolationism are any better at challenging cheats than worldwide sports like cricket.

  • Comment number 35.

    28. At 8:47pm on 06 Jan 2011, wedwardes wrote:
    The best way of stopping cricket match fixing is to just ignore it.
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------

    I think that people will always bet on sport and cricket cannot afford to ignore the damage that this does to the game. The administrators have to act. I do strongly believe that this goes far deeper than three players and a newspaper sting, and that some very unsavoury people are involved in sports fixing worldwide, but the ICC needs to run a full inquiry on what comes under their remit before giving their information to police and relevant authorities.

  • Comment number 36.

    wedwardes - as professional sports' existence relies solely on its ability to attract an audience there's another logical conclusion to your suggestion of ignoring match fixing:
    1) generate / maintain uncertainty in the match outcome and let it be assumed that the matches are fixed
    2) nobody will bet if they believe in the possibility that matches are fixed against them
    2) nobody will come to the matches
    3) if nobody bets nobody will bribe players to fix matches
    3) if nobody comes there will be no one to pay the players
    4) if there are no bribes then there will be no matches fixed.
    4) if there are no fans or players then there are no matches to fix.
    5) problem solved by ignoring match-fixing not by dealing with it.
    5) problem solved by ignoring match fixing the sport ceases to exist.

  • Comment number 37.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 38.


    David,

    One wonders about not only the integrity of cricket, but also the integrity of the BBC when it removes posts for no reason whatsoever.

    I read all the opening comments and cant remember any of them giving anything but their own balanced opinion on the subject, mine included.

    Could you care to explain your stance on this ?

    Kind Regards,

    Daniel

  • Comment number 39.

    As post #28 highlights, it's sad that there seems to be so many people willing to take a bet that can be so easily fixed so that they will lose.

  • Comment number 40.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 41.


    http://www.transparency.org/policy_research/surveys_indices/cpi/2010/results
    seems clear
    way of life

    maybe the ICC should call Dawood Ibrahim as a witness ?

    They cannot bowl noballs in x over unless the captain puts them on to bowl right ?
    Lifetime ban from all forms of cricket for all of them found guilty as a warning to others.
    Fine the country board also to make them more diligent in future.

  • Comment number 42.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 43.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.