Match Fixing Monster Refuses To Die This time it comes back to haunt Aussies, Indians
The cricket match/spot-fixing scandal has come back and this time it has hit the Australians and the Indians. After fixing the Pakistani cricketers, the notorious fixer Mazhar Majeed has now named Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh along with Australians Ricky Ponting, Brett Lee and West Indian Chris Gayle. Majeed, it seems, is well versed in the legal implications of making unsubstantiated allegations, so he has not made any direct charges against these cricketers but merely said that he had access to these players. In the process, he has raised doubts, which I think was his main purpose about these players and to some extent he succeeded in that.
The above-mentioned players strongly refuted the charges, the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) chief executive Paul Marsh was forced to say that though Majeed’s allegations were far from true but they had brought every player under a cloud of suspicion. An angry Marsh said that every player had been unfairly tainted by the sensational match-fixing allegations. He asserted: “I believe it would be an almost impossible task for an Australian player to escape detection if he was involved in match-fixing.”
Both Harbhajan and Yuvraj also expectedly reacted strongly, saying they had never met Majeed. “I don’t know who this person is; I have never met him. We will definitely take some action against him. I don’t know whether it will be a legal action or whatever,” said livid spinner, adding: “But I will definitely bring it to the BCCI’s notice and I’m sure they’ll take the right kind of action against these kind of people who are trying to spoil the game.” Yuvraj took it to Twitter to vent his ire: “And who is Majeed? Absolute rubbish! Don’t no (sic), never met! The problem in India is if someone says a rooster has given an egg it will become news!! Whether it’s true or not, it doesn’t matter.” However the real cause of worry is the way the names of Indian, Australian and West Indies players figured in.
It was during the ongoing trial of the Pakistan players—Salman Butt and Mohd Arif, who have been implicated and banned for their role in match fixing scandal—in London that it was claimed that Australian and other Pakistani cricketers had allegedly “rigged” games. Covert recordings of Mazhar Majeed talking to undercover News of the World journalist were played. He also said that match fixing had been happening for years and named players. He further stated that the Australians were “the biggest” when it came to fixing matches.
On the tape, 36-year-old Majeed told the undercover journalist that Australian cricketers and Pakistani stars were involved in betting scams. The jury played recordings of meetings between the London-based agent and Mahmood, who was posing as a rich Indian businessman seeking major international players for a tournament. “It’s been happening for centuries. It’s been happening for years. (Pakistani cricketers) Wasim, Waqar, Ijaz Ahmed, Moin Khan— they all did it,” Majeed said, adding that Pakistan cricket players were paid “peanuts”, with “very big money” to be made from match-fixing.
However, the drama took another intriguing and disturbing twist when it was further revealed that Pakistani players were ready to throw one-day internationals and Twenty20s in a bid to undermine the then Captain Shahid Afridi and make “a hell of a lot of money”. The players wanted Afridi to be replaced by the then Test captain Salman Butt and were prepared to fix matches to do it. The court also heard how a shadowy Indian contact offered the agent $1 million (740,000 euros) to ensure Pakistan lost a Test match against England. The jury in the trial was shown a video of meetings between Majeed and the News of the World’s investigation’s editor Mazher Mahmood posing as an Indian front man for a Far East gambling syndicate.
Prosecutors allege Butt and Asif agreed to no-balls to be bowled as part of a spot-fixing betting scam. The two players have pleaded not guilty of charges of conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments, and conspiracy to cheat at gambling. The court was shown covertly-filmed footage of a meeting between the agent and the reporter at a London hotel, where Majeed told Mahmood that he had appeared on the scene at the right time ahead of one-day internationals and T20s between Pakistan and England. The footage showed Mahmood handing over 140,000 pounds and Majeed counting them out.
Interestingly, when the scandal broke out last year, the Australian media and players were at the forefront demanding action against the guilty, with Peter Roebuck from The Age thundering: “Let’s not hear any bleating about innocent till proven guilty…. The culprits ought to be arrested and charged.” The Courier Mail’s Robert Craddock declared: “The line that corruption is so prevalent in Pakistan that the players deserve sympathy is wearing thin.” Others suggested that despite their exceptional talent, Pakistan’s professional cricket players were among the lowest-paid in the world contracted for around £22,500 a year, according to the Daily Mail—roughly the same as Britain’s average wage. The newspaper noted that Amir earned £1,300 a month, while Asif was paid £2,500. Since most cricketers retire in their thirties—if they are not forced out of the game earlier by injury—they rely heavily on sponsorship deals and prize money. Already, Amir’s sponsorship deal with clothing label Boom Boom has collapsed due to the spot-fixing scandal.
Now the Australians are alleged to be involved, the reaction is totally different.Cricket Australia (CA) chief executive James Sutherland dismissed the claims that Australian players were involved as “baseless” and “outlandish. CA also raised serious doubts about Majeed’s credibility: “We are aware that some very outlandish claims have been made by a person of very dubious repute. What we can say is that we are not aware of any evidence. Our long-standing formal view for well over a decade since this (match fixing in international cricket) became an issue has been that any credible evidence needs to be pursued and investigated with vigour and that is our position today.”
Strangely, an ICC Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) officer also rubbished the alleged claim of Australian cricketers’ involvement in match, saying the world body had “no evidence” of any wrongdoings carried out by the Aussies. Alan Peacock, who has been with the ICC’s ACSU since its inception claimed that there was no evidence of corruption against Australian cricketers. “We have no evidence that the Australians have committed 10 brackets a day, or any brackets,” he said when Salman Butt’s legal team asked a question as to whether he had evidence that Australian players fixed matches or were parts of matches.
However, the question is: If Majeed is taken seriously when it comes to Pakistani cricketers and three of them—Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohd Ameer—have been banned, then how can he be dismissed so easily when it comes to others?
Also, are the players only to be to blame for these scandals? The vast illegal gambling and match-fixing industry, largely based in India, is mirrored by the immensely profitable legalised gambling industry in the west. In the nine months till April, the British company Sportingbet, which also operates in Australia, took bets worth almost £1.5 billion through its phone and Internet operations. The Guardian recently noted that betting was now so closely tied to Britain’s sports industry that “bookmakers’ logos (are printed) on the front of the shirts of Premier League footballers and the pernicious Skybet slogan (is) broadcast daily into British homes: “It matters more when there’s money in it.”
By Harpal Singh Bedi