As the fallout from fixing allegations gains momentum, Pakistan's players face an uncertain future. Gary Meenaghan reports.
Send new Pakistan team to England: Miandad
Pakistan cricket is in crisis as investigations continue into allegations of match fixing against the national team. And if the accusations are proved to be true they will produce devastating consequences for the future of the country's game, with Javed Miandad, a former Pakistan captain, already calling for the whole touring side to be replaced. A report by the News of the World claimed Pakistan pacemen Mohammad Asif, 27, and Mohammad Aamer, 18, benefited financially for deliberately bowling no-balls during England's first innings of the fourth Test at Lord's - a match which ended on Sunday with the home team winning by an innings and 225 runs. If the British newspaper's expose, which involved Mazhar Majeed, a 35-year-old property developer and agent to a number of Pakistan players, being caught on video-tape accepting £150,000 (Dh857,000), is found to be factually correct, the sentencing could be severe. Any player found guilty of involvement in match-fixing faces a life ban from the sport, but the fact is any proposed punishment could span further than simply to the two players involved.
Dilawar Mani, the chief executive of the Emirates Cricket Board, told The National that if the allegations are proven then "there is no doubt in my mind the players should be banned for life", but Malcolm Speed, the former head of the International Cricket Council (ICC), yesterday said on Australian radio that suspending the entire team "is an option". "It looks as though it is endemic that several of the team members are involved and have been for some time," Speed said. "So perhaps they need a rest. It looks a fairly compelling case."
Such a serious stance is required if corruption is to be stamped out of the gentleman's game, but Angus Porter, the chief executive of the Professional Cricketers' Association, told BBC Five Live that, while he "would never condone what the players did, we must examine all the circumstances including the social conditions surrounding it. With an 18-year-old in a dressing room, the cultural norm may be to do as he is told."
Aamer, the young fast-bowler from Punjab, had established a promising reputation with some fine displays at last year's Twenty20 World Cup at Lord's. For Pakistan to lose a player of such potential would be seen as disastrous for the country. But, justice must be served. Miandad, the director general of the Pakistan Cricket Board, suggested that while the country's tour of England should continue, the whole team should be stood down. "It will be tough for the players to handle this pressure as they will not be in the right frame of mind," said the former Pakistan captain. "It's better they should be replaced with new players, and I think we have enough talented players in reserve."
The ICC, following an emergency meeting with the England and Wales Cricket Board and Marylebone Cricket Club, cancelled the presentation ceremony for England's series win on Sunday after deciding such a public display could pose a security risk. And while English media reported spectators were angry at the decision, the ICC's apparent unwillingness to coment on the scandal itself will do little to quell such emotions. Sharad Pawar, the president of the sport's governing body, said that so long as the police investigation continues, it is "improper for me to say a thing at this point". Asif, Aamer and Salman Butt, the Pakistan captain, have all had their mobile phones confiscated by authorities.
"The British police are investigating the case and we will take action after that. The Pakistan Cricket Board and the England and Wales Cricket Board will never encourage or protect anything which is wrong," Pawar said. "The prime minister of Pakistan has shown the seriousness on the issue. It is a good thing. I will be speaking to the PCB and ECB to discuss the matter." As the team left their London hotel yesterday, bound for Taunton and a match against Somerset on Thursday, Asif Ali Zaradari, the Pakistan president, had asked for a preliminary report into the allegations, while Yousuf Raza Gillani, the prime minister, said the scandal "has hurt us". "Our heads are bowed in shame and I have asked the sports minister to inquire about it," Gillani said. Butt insisted his team have never compromised their performance, but stopped short of publicly refuting the newspaper's claims. "We have definitely given our best every day," Butt said. "Every person in my team has given 100 per cent, all the effort that he could. But you don't go out and achieve what you want every time. All you can do is try. The rest is beyond your control. "These are just allegations. Anybody can stand up and say things about you - it doesn't make them true." Yawar Saeed, the team manager, echoed his captain's remarks as well as saving special mention for his young seamer. "The allegations are allegations," Saeed said. "We are disappointed with them. But we would still like to wait until the investigations are over. "Mohammad Aamer is a young bowler who has done very well so far in his career all over the world." firstname.lastname@example.org