Oman cricketer banned for seven years for breaching anti-corruption code

Yousuf Abdulrahim Al Balushi suspended in case that could provide guide to UAE player sanctions

Sport is more susceptible to match-fixing due to the financial constraints caused by the coronavirus paandemic, experts warn. Satish Kumar / The National
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A cricketer from Oman has been banned for seven years by the ICC for breaching cricket’s anti-corruption code, in a case that could provide a guide to potential sanctions facing three UAE players.

Yousuf Abdulrahim Al Balushi has been suspended after he accepted four corruption charges, all related to the T20 World Cup Qualifier in Dubai and Abu Dhabi last year.

Ahead of that competition, three UAE players – Mohammed Naveed, Shaiman Anwar and Qadeer Ahmed – were also charged with a variety of breaches of the game’s anti-corruption code, and suspended indefinitely.

Although the cases of each of the UAE players differ from each other, and are entirely separate to that of Al Balushi, the process by which the Oman cricketer’s ban was reached is instructive.

According to the ICC, Al Balushi accepted an agreed sanction, rather than take his case to a tribunal.

Naveed, the highest profile of the UAE players, is understood to have turned down an agreed sanction of a five-year ban from international cricket in order to fight his case.

He will now face a three-man tribunal at some unspecified time in the coming weeks, chaired by Michael Beloff QC, who oversaw the case of Pakistan players Mohammed Amir, Mohammed Asif and Salman Butt in 2011.

If found guilty, the ban could be in the range of eight to 10 years.

Al Balushi chose to admit four charges. They related to "being party to an agreement or effort to fix or contrive" results or aspects of matches, as well as "attempting to solicit, induce, entice, persuade, encourage or intentionally facilitate a participant" to do similar.

He also admitted to failing to report “approaches to be a party to an agreement or effort to fix matches” in the qualifier, as well as “obstructing” the ACU’s investigation.

“This is a very serious offence where a player attempted but failed to get a teammate to engage in corrupt activity in high-profile games, and this is reflected in the severity of the sentence,” Alex Marshall, the ICC General Manager, Integrity, said.

“Without Mr Balushi’s admission of guilt and full cooperation throughout our investigation, the ban could have been significantly longer.

“The player has also indicated that he is willing to contribute to future integrity education programmes on our behalf to help younger players learn from his mistakes.”

Al Balushi is a domestic cricketer who has played for Oman B-Division side OCT SEEB.

According to the ICC report into the case, he was contacted last August by an individual he knew from an unsanctioned league in Bahrain, staged in 2017.

The individual approached him with a plan to do some “work” – meaning to fix aspects of the Qualifier.

In a subsequent meeting in Dubai with two friends of the individual, Al Balushi was told he needed to get a specific player from the Oman team to agree to certain terms.

“On their signal, Player A would need to get out, and that, to show he was ready for the fix, Player A would use a particular colour bat handle grip,” according to the ICC report.

The grip would be either orange or black, “and he would be expected to get out in less than a certain number of runs following a signal” from the two individuals in the stands.

In three matches, the player needed to make 12 to 15 runs, then get out. In exchange, he would be paid 3,000-4,000 Omani Rials (Dh29,000-39,000).

The player immediately rejected the approach and reported it to the ICC.

Al Balushi subsequently deleted messages, including some which showed he was offered 10,000 Omani Rials (Dh95,000) for his part in the activities, according to the report.