LONDON // Fresh allegations, including one of match fixing, were levelled against Pakistan's international cricketers yesterday. With cricket fans already reeling from last week's claims that three players were involved in a "spot betting" scam by deliberately bowling no balls, the News of the World said yesterday that a fourth, unnamed, player was under investigation on the even more serious charge of match fixing by the International Cricket Council (ICC).
The ICC, which is based in Dubai, would neither confirm nor deny the report, although the newspaper also published an interview with Pakistan's opening batsman, Yasir Hameed, in which he accused his teammates of fixing "almost every match". Just hours before England took on Pakistan in Cardiff yesterday in a Twenty20 match, Hameed issued a statement in which he denied making the comments, only for the best-selling tabloid to release a video of the interview.
Regarding the suspension of captain Salman Butt and bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamir in the spot-fixing scandal, the newspaper reported Hameed as saying: "They've been caught. Only the ones that get caught are branded crooks. "They were doing it [fixing] in almost every match. God knows what they were up to. "Scotland Yard was after them for ages. "It makes me angry because I'm playing my best and they are trying to lose."
Last week, the News of the World published a secretly filmed video of Mazhar Majeed, a south London businessman who acts as a commercial agent for several of the players, accepting £150,000 (Dh851,000) in cash from an undercover reporter posing as a representative of an Asian betting cartel. In return, Mr Majeed, 35, told the reporter exactly when three no balls would be bowled by Asif and Aamir in the final England-Pakistan Test match at Lord's. The no balls were bowled as predicted, potentially making thousands of dollars for gamblers on the spot-betting markets in the Far East and Indian Subcontinent.
Mr Majeed has since been arrested by Scotland Yard detectives on suspicion of conspiring to defraud bookmakers and by tax officials on suspicion of money laundering. The BBC reported yesterday that several thousand pounds worth of banknotes bearing the same serial numbers as those handed over by the reporter to Mr Majeed had been recovered by police from the players' hotel rooms in London. The three suspended players, who have also been interviewed by detectives, now face more than 20 charges by the ICC, which is continuing to investigate Pakistan's current tour of England and last winter's series in Australia.
Sir Ronnie Flanagan, formerly a chief constable in the United Kingdom and now special adviser to the police in Abu Dhabi, is heading the ICC's anti-corruption and security unit's investigation into the allegations. "We are making no comment regarding the suggestion that the ICC is probing a fourth player," the council said in a statement. "We do not comment on ongoing investigations." On Saturday, Shahid Afridi, Pakistan's captain for one-day games, apologised on behalf of the team and the three suspended players for the scandal.
"I think this is a very bad news. On behalf of these boys - I know they are not in this series - I want to say sorry to all the cricket lovers and all the cricketing nations," Mr Afridi told reporters. "These two Twenty20s and five one-day internationals are a big challenge for me as a captain. "The coach [Waqar Younis] and "I have told the boys not to talk about this issue. "It is none of our business and we are here to play cricket.
"The boys know that. They want to win and motivate themselves - and as a captain, that is what I want." Younis Ahmed, a former batsman for Pakistan, said in a BBC radio interview yesterday that there was real anger in Pakistan over the scandal at a time the country was being ravaged by floods. "Pakistanis are totally furious and very disappointed by what they have read in the papers and the way this is being reported in the media," he said.
"All the floods that Pakistan had - 16 million people without their homes, belongings, their livestock destroyed and their livelihoods at stake - this was the last thing they were expecting." Michael Atherton, a former England captain and now a broadcaster and journalist, made a plea to the ICC to show clemency towards Aamir, who is 18 and one of the brightest prospects in Pakistani cricket. Writing in the News of the World, Mr Atherton said he believed the teenager had been manipulated by others and had fallen into "the grip of evil".
He described Aamir as a "young, good-looking and prodigiously talented Pakistan bowler who had blown England away on the second morning at Lord's with a mesmeric [sic] spell of left-arm bowling". email@example.com