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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Ajman All Stars League probe: Former Pakistan cricketer Hasan Raza says youngsters may have been pressured to throw matches

Sharjah resident withdrew from Twenty20 league because of suspicious activity, which is being investigated by International Cricket Council

The international Cricket Council is looking into the alleged fixing story. Mike Young / The National
The international Cricket Council is looking into the alleged fixing story. Mike Young / The National

Hasan Raza believes young players might have been put under pressure to throw matches in a tournament in Ajman that is now part of an ICC investigation.

The former Pakistan batsman has lived in Sharjah since 2013, and plays regularly on the domestic circuit.

He said he has “never seen anything like” the incidents that took place in the Ajman All Stars League, in which he was playing for a team from Abu Dhabi.

The ICC’s Anti-Corruption Unit is investigating matches from the tournament, while the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) and Ajman Cricket Council say the matches were not sanctioned by them.

Footage of the competition has been widely circulated on the internet, featuring batsmen giving up their wickets to farcical dismissals.

Raza said he did not play in the match in the video, but did withdraw from the Twenty20 league because of suspicious activity.

“Nobody approached me,” Raza said. “The youngsters said people came to them. I don’t know if they offered money. Maybe they tried to put them under pressure.

“These are young, 20- to 22-year-old players. They came to me. They said they were told, ‘Lose your wicket, drop your catch’. Those are the things they were told and what they told me.

“I told them to play their own game, their natural game and I told them not to listen to anybody.”

Matches were aired live on Neo Sports. Raza said he “walked out” as soon as he realised it was “not a proper match”.

“I played in the first opening match and I was told it was a friendly game, but after the second match I was shocked at the tournament,” Raza said.

“This is the first time I’ve seen something like this in Ajman. The first match was fine. The second match was a night match. I knew there was something wrong. It felt different.

“It didn’t feel like an organised tournament and there were many dropped catches. I understood it was not a proper match. On the third day I just walked out.”

Shaji Ul Mulk, the secretary of Ajman Cricket Council, does not believe UAE cricket has been damaged by association with the competition.

“I think the council and the ECB have acted very swiftly on it,” Ul Mulk said.

“These elements are there all over the world. It is a matter of how the local authorities react to a situation. I think we acted very well, and the ICC appreciated the efforts of the council and the ECB.

“I don’t see any damage at all. Of course, it shouldn’t have happened, but is something that the cricket boards and the ICC are fighting all over the world.”

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Paul Radley: Ajman All Stars League is subject of ICC's anti-corruption investigation

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Sharjeel Khan slapped with five-year ban for spot-fixing in Pakistan Super League

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Hasan Raza withdrew from the Twenty20 league because of suspicious activity. Christopher Pike / The National
Hasan Raza withdrew from the Twenty20 league because of suspicious activity. Christopher Pike / The National

Some domestic cricketers, however, are furious about the damage to the reputation of the game.

“Irrespective of whether it was sanctioned or not, the event happened here,” said Qais Farooq, a former UAE team player. “It was televised. Our domestic cricketers were participating in it, there are allegations, and now the ICC is involved.

“It is still reflective of what is happening in the country, and gives the country a bad name.

“Why do the necessary authorities, be it the ECB or the councils, not take the necessary steps to shut down these tournaments?

“There are lots of private organisers, which don’t have an impact because they are at a junior level, not televised, but how can something so big, that is being televised, fall through the cracks without anybody questioning it?”

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In a nutshell ...

The ICC released a statement on Tuesday saying its Anti-Corruption Unit had started an investigation in relation to the Ajman All Stars League.

The Emirates Cricket Board and the Ajman Cricket Council said the Twenty20 competition had not been sanctioned by them, terming it “disapproved cricket”.

Footage of the event, in which batsmen gave up their wickets in scarcely believable fashion, went viral, and was shared on social media by a number of former international players.

Michael Vaughan, the former England captain, tweeted: “This is unbelievable.” Damien Martyn, the former Australia batsman, responded with: “It will never be stopped.”

The competition was shut down by the Ajman council, who then suspended the venue, Ajman Oval, from staging matches.

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