article -- Match-fixing report calls for life bans

article -- Match-fixing report calls for life bans

Post by Aneesh Pate » Mon, 15 May 2000 04:00:00

Match-fixing report calls for life bans
Owen Slot - 14 May 2000

Evidence of malpractice in cricket continues to spring up around the world.
There can now be no covering up the match-fixing scandal in Pakistani cricket.
Justice Malik Qayyum, the Lahore judge who conducted a two-year inquiry into
match-fixing, has finally broken his silence on the contents of his report and
confirmed months of speculation and rumour: Pakistan players were definitely
involved in match-fixing and Salim Malik and Mushtaq Ahmed are recommended for
life bans from the game.

Meanwhile Bob Woolmer, the former coach of South Africa, has given a television
interview which badly sullies the previously untainted image of Dr Ali Bacher,
the managing director of South Africa's United Cricket Board. Woolmer says that
he reported condemning evidence "on two or three occasions" to Bacher four years
ago. Bacher, however, has always maintained that he knew nothing.

In Pakistan, Qayyum's words completely contradict the statement made last
Wednesday by Lieutenant General Tauqir Zia, the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket
Board. Zia claimed that the judicial report found "no planned match-fixing" and
he went on to boast that "Pakistan's image will not be stained over this: we are
giving a lesson to others."

A bemused and frustrated Qayyum had been honourably waiting for the release of
his report - which he completed seven months ago - before discussing its
contents. But Zia has put such a strange interpretation on his findings he has
now disclosed some to The Telegraph.

Is it true that he recommended a life ban for Salim Malik, the former Pakistan
captain? "That is correct."

And a life ban for Mushtaq Ahmed, who is involved in the Test series in the West
Indies? "I can't say, but the answer isn't no."

And Wasim Akram, who captained Pakistan in last year's World Cup? "I can tell
you that he has not got off scot-free."

It could hardly be clearer that some of the biggest names in Pakistan are due
for a fall. Malik and Wasim have both been tainted by match- fixing allegations
in the past, yet this is the first time that Qayyum has openly condemned them.
All of which makes Zia's statement exceedingly hard to comprehend.

"It depends on how you look at it," said Qayyum, charitably. "He is looking from
a certain angle and there can be another way of looking at it. But I don't know
from what angle he is looking. The one thing he is right in saying is that there
was no planned match-fixing by the team as a whole."

But was Zia correct when he said that there was no match-fixing at all and that
Pakistan's image will not be stained? "That is not the case because there were
one or two players who were involved and there are others also to be fined for
certain things."

We have thus reached the stage when the PCB and Qayyum are reading from
different scripts. This has been the concern ever since pressure was put on the
PCB to release the Qayyum report: that when it did find its way into the public
domain, after such a long wait, it would be an altered or watered down version.

However, by giving the world a taster of the contents of his report, Qayyum is
making it very hard for the PCB to pull off a face-saving cover-up. He has
already said that he has a sealed copy of the report and that, were the PCB to
publish a different version, he would blow the whistle.

The release of the report has thus assumed monumental significance. After the
International Cricket Council's summit meeting 11 days ago, the PCB were given
five weeks to release it.

Qayyum says that he met Zia on Wednesday and that Zia "said that he would
release the whole report". He remains mystified as to why Zia should be speaking
out before its release: "I am surprised because they should release the report
and then say these things."

If the report has been altered, and Qayyum remains true to his word and exposes
it as a sham, then the ramifications would be huge. The ICC would have no
alternative but to suspend Pakistan from international cricket. England's tour,
which is due to begin on Oct 16, would then clearly be in jeopardy.

The tension will also be mounting in South Africa this week. The inquiry into
the Hansie Cronje scandal was due to get under way anyway, but the picture has
suddenly changed dramatically. Suddenly we have another case of two men giving
different accounts of the same story.

Woolmer told Australia's ABC about the events before a one-day international in
Bombay four years ago, when the South African team debated (and eventually
rejected) taking a large sum of money to throw the match. When asked by ABC if
he reported the incident to the South African authorities, Woolmer replied:
"Yes, I did, yes. I mentioned it on two or three occasions to Dr Bacher when we
were talking about various things that happened on the tour."

Cronje's former team-mates, meanwhile, are prepared to give evidence freely to
the inquiry. Jacques Kallis said: "Once you put your hand on that Bible and take
an oath I can't imagine anyone not telling the truth - certainly amongst the
players, anyway. We want it cleared up quickly."

"I'm completely happy to talk," said Mark Boucher. "I certainly don't have
anything to lie about and I don't believe any of the guys have, it's gone way
too far for that."

? The Electronic Telegraph