KARACHI: The spot-fixing scandal that had rocked Pakistan cricket late Saturday evening was further fuelled by revelations that the team management had warned players not to interact with Mazhar Majeed, the London-based bookmaker arrested by London police.
On Saturday, a London-based tabloid “News of the World” published a report which showed Mazhar accepting money from undercover reporters posing as Arab businessmen. In this, Mazhar had promised certain players performing as per prior arrangement against payment. The paper alleges that certain members of the Pakistan team performed as per this arrangement.
This scandal has not only rocked Pakistan cricket but also put into doubt the future of the tour.
Investigations by The Express Tribune reveal that a London-based source close to the Pakistan team shared his earlier worries with regards to the Majeed brothers, Mazhar and Azhar.
He told The Express Tribune about how he, and Pakistan’s One-Day International and Twenty20 captain Shahid Afridi, had barred the players from interacting with the duo.
“It’s a shame to see this happening to Pakistan cricket but I could see it coming for a long time,” said the entrepreneur. “I have known the duo for a very long time and Mazhar in fact had an argument with the PCB Chairman Ijaz Butt prior to Pakistan’s first Test of the tour at Lord’s. But it’s a shame how, despite my and Afridi’s constant reminders, the players still chose to entertain the brothers and I see no way out for them from this.”
Azhar, Mazhar’s brother who was arrested late Saturday evening for ‘conspiring to defraud bookmakers’, pleaded innocent while speaking to The Express Tribune and confirmed that he was oblivious of his brother’s illegal activities.
“I don’t understand what has happened,” said the London-based Azhar, who has been involved with the players and often acted as their agent in England. “Until last night, I didn’t even know what spot-fixing was. It’s a complete shock for me and I’ve never indulged in such activities despite being involved with the players for a long time.”
Meanwhile, in the shocking aftermath of the spot-fixing scandal – and the crushing defeat in the fourth and final Test at Lord’s – captain Salman Butt and manager Yawar Saeed failed to defend the accused players in front of the media.
Salman, who had remained composed since taking over the captaincy last month despite heavy losses, looked downright distraught in the post-match press conference, accompanied by Saeed, and his assertive remarks gave way to meek muttering as the cricket world awaits the Scotland Yard inquiry.
“At this point in time, they’re just allegations and obviously we’re sad to hear those,” said Saeed while at no point claiming that Pakistan players were innocent. “Aamir is a young bowler who’s done very well so far in his career all over the world. He’s down because his name has come through but if he comes through clean, then there’s nothing to worry about.”
Salman, who led Pakistan to a Test win over Australia after a gap of 15 years and beat England for the first time in England since 2001, did speak of his team’s innocence but for the troubled look on his face, a first, despite losses to the magnitude of 150 runs, 354 runs and nine wickets on the tour.
“Every member in the team has given his one hundred per cent,” said Salman. “You don’t achieve what you want every time you go out but all you can do is try your best and the rest is out of your control.”
The PCB late on Sunday said it has submitted a report on the issue to the president of Pakistan. It said that it also wanted access to the accused persons alleged to have been involved in the spot-fixing. Interior minister Rehman Malik also stated that an FIA team is proceeding to London for further investigations.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2010.
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