Who is the real cheat in spot-fixing saga?

Part II: Who is the real cheat in spot-fixing saga?

By Rashid Latif

Pakistan team manager Yawar Saeed and associate manager Shafqat Rana read the damning News of the World paper on the fourth morning of the Lord’s Test. —Reuters Photo

I have also noticed another blunder in the reported conversation between Mazhar Majeed and Mazhar Mehmood, published by the NOTW, which gave me the initial feeling that this saga could be a made-up thing.

The conversation went on like this:

Reporter: What does that mean, a script? Majeed replies: In other words, this bowler is going to concede this many runs or more. This batsman’s going to do this. Reporter: Right, so he’ll be out before 20? Majeed: Exactly…

Now Majeed who portrayed himself as the bookie gave a totally wrong definition of the word “script” in the conversation. I would like to give a classic example of what a ‘script’ really means in this business. In the only T20 match played between the West Indies and Zimbabwe this year on Feb 28, the starting rate of the match was 10/1 for Zimbabwe. But if the match was scripted in Zimbabwe’s favour then one would witness swings in the match to trigger rate fluctuation and that was what exactly happened in the match.

Zimbabwe won the toss, elected to bat and scored 105 runs. With this score the rate fluctuated to 25-1 in favour of the West Indies. However, the West Indies lost the match by 26 runs. One can argue that they (West Indies) followed a script and after pushing the market rate, they succumbed to defeat.

Bear in mind that I am not at all claiming that the above mentioned match was fixed but the trend of the game was such that a ‘script’ appeared to have been followed there.

Another ambiguity in the whole episode is that usually a bookie never comes to the fore in such deals, instead his punters deal with the players for fixing. So it doesn’t make much sense that in only their second meeting, the bookie (Mazhar Majeed) told the reporter (Mazhar Mehmood) that a few players were in his pocket and he would charge around half a million pounds to fix the Test match.

Secondly, the amount of risk is much higher in a Test match and the money that was asked was too meagre an amount for me to believe the whole thing.

According to a story published by the News Of The World (NOTW), the bookie made $1.3 million out of the Sydney Test. Also, as a normal practice a fixer do ask the names of the players who are ready to fix a match, but in this case Mazhar Mehmood did not make any queries in this regard.

What I understand from this is that since it was a set-up, therefore both Mazhar Majeed and Mazhar Mehmood did not take names otherwise they could face legal action from the players. Let me tell you that 10 years back Mazhar Mehmood approached Salim Malik for the same purpose and Malik asked for a sum of around half a million pounds. In the past 10 years the rate of fixing has increased by as much as 300 per cent and a team or a bunch of players can ask for around 5 to 6 million pounds to throw a match.

Also, according to the story, the bookie (Mazhar Majeed) said he was aware of the outcome of the Sydney Test in advance which Pakistan lost from a commanding position. Now let me take you back to the third day’s play when Australia in their second inning were leading by 10 runs with only two wickets remaining. The reports of the day suggest that the rate was 40-1. There is a saying in India and Pakistan that if you are sure of winning a bet then put the entire money you have on it, but Mazhar Majeed, surprisingly, opted for just $32,500 when he knew that Pakistan, despite being in a commanding position, would eventually lose the match.

According to his figures, he could have gained around $8 million upon investing only $200,000. In the story by NOTW, the rate was mentioned as 40-1 but my investigations tell me that the rate of the day was 10-1. Following are the rates of the day which can be verified from various sources as well:

Before the Test match:

Australia 40cents-1 (Against $100 on Australia you will get $40)

Pakistan $7.5-1 (Pakistan’s win will increase $100 to $750)
Rate for a draw was $4-1 (If you bet $100 you will get $400)

Rates of the last innings:

$10-1 if Australia win

Cent 8-1 if Pakistan win

$100-1 for a draw

Here I would like to question the management of the NOTW which published the figures without a thorough re-check. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) can also raise this issue in the court of law and I have no doubt that they will win a plea in case the Sydney Test is questioned by the NOTW. If the match was fixed then concrete evidence must exist, such as money transfer receipts or a video evidence or any property of expensive gifts given to the players, etc. If concrete evidence is furnished in case of the Sydney Test, then I would be the first to demand a lifetime ban for the whole team.

It is sad that everyone tags the Pakistanis as cheats. I am also a Pakistani and am proud to be one. My question to the authorities and the critics is that when I started fighting against this menace at the peak of my career and brought to light the matter, where were the other cricket boards then? Instead, some boards put a lid on the issue and even protected their key players.

If we specifically talk about spot-fixing, then I would say that every act can’t be proved but doubtful activities could be judged by watching things closely. Remember the first ball of the 2006-07 Ashes series, which was bowled by Steve Harmison? The ball was pitched wide and went further away and was eventually grabbed by a first slip fielder. Now it can be called an error as well as spot-fixing but nobody questioned Harmison’s intentions because such practice was not common then.

Another incident happened in a 2005 Test match between Pakistan and Australia in Sydney. At that time I was doing my research on the spot-fixing phenomenon with intentions of exposing it to the world. During the match, Australia had lost three wickets at one stage and Michael Clark and Adam Gilchrist were at the crease.

For the 4th wicket, the rate for a ‘stumped out’ dismissal was set at 15-1 (bear in mind that the last batsman was also stumped). After 20 minutes, Michael Clark was stumped off Kaneria which didn’t appear like any coincidence to me.

On the 5th wicket, the rate of stumped out dismissal fell to 1-11. Astonishingly, even the next batsman was out stumped and there definitely appeared something fishy in that. (The scorecard and the betting receipts can be verified from anywhere).

I am not saying that both players (Clark and Gilchrist) were involved in spot-fixing but the sequence of events was enough to create a doubt in my mind.

Now another point of concern for me is the presence of a laptop in the dressing rooms with internet connections which is mostly used by a coach. In my view, the players can use it for betting on their wickets and I feel that the internet access should not be provided during matches.

Just imagine that if a player had put 5,000 pound at a rate of 15/1 in that 2005 Test, he could have easily earned 75,000 pounds but since he was not caught, he cannot be labeled as a culprit. Here I want to say that a player is called a cheat only when he is caught otherwise nobody points a finger at him, and believe me 50 per cent of the players fall in this category.

I was a very average player, yet I was offered money for wrongdoings and I brought it to the knowledge of the ICC. So how can I believe that offers are not made to the top players? The reality is that they don’t disclose it to the ICC every time.

The fact of the matter is that I did not have a solid evidence like a video, etc for whatever happened with me or I was a witness to. But I had witnesses to support me and that’s why I kept on fighting against the menace.

In this case, Mazhar Majeed and Mazhar Mehmood are telling half truth which is even more lethal than a blatant lie. Being a patriotic Pakistani, I had no choice but to poke my nose in this matter and reveal the facts. I am keen to unearth the reality behind this current ‘fixing’ episode and want to drive home the point that these guys have no interest whatsoever in cricket; they are doing it for the money only.


The writer is a former Pakistan captain.
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