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Match-fixing net widens, more games 'rigged'?

| August 30, 2010, 12:15 PM IST

New Delhi: The International Cricket Council on Monday urged the Pakistan Cricket Board to take strict action against Mohammad Aamir, Mohammad Asif and captain Salman Butt after England players said that they will not like to take the field against 'tainted' players in the forthcoming one-day series.

Sources told CNN-IBN that ICC president Sharad Pawar, who had earlier in the day ruled out any action until investigations were completed, was compelled to do some tough talking after the ECB communicated their players' reluctance to play Pakistan.

Speaking in Mumbai after a conference call with top ICC officials, PCB chairman Ejaz Butt and ECB chairman Giles Clarke, Pawar had said that "it is the desire of the ICC, England and Pakistan that the game is continued".

"We have discussed it within the ICC and have decided to wait for the police investigation report," Pawar told reporters in Mumbai, adding that the ODI and T20 series between Pakistan and England will be played as per schedule, even as reports emerged indicating that as many as 80 games will have to be probed now.

Pawar had earlier said it was "improper for me to react until and unless the process-related stories of investigation are over."

"If this is established, there will be quite a serious view that will be taken by the Pakistan Cricket Board, the England Cricket Board and the ICC," Pawar added.

Earlier in the day, former ICC CEO Malcolm Speed said that the game's governing body could seriously consider suspending Pakistan.

"I think that's (suspension) an option. It's serious. It looks as though it is endemic that several of the team members are involved and have been for some time. So perhaps they need a rest. It looks a fairly compelling case. The News of the World do this sort of thing very well and it's very graphic," former ICC CEO Malcolm Speed told ABC Radio in Melbourne.

The tough stance is on expected lines after investigators said that alleged fixer Mazhar Majeed was orchestrating a wider match-fixing network and that 80 more international cricket matches will now be probed.

Majeed, who was arrested on Sunday, is now out on bail without being charged. Also, the mobile phones of players Mohammad Aamer, Mohammad Asif and captain Salman Butt have been confiscated.

More skeletons tumbled out with reports saying that the Sydney Test between Pakistan and Australia in January were also fixed.

Meanwhile, another report claimed that the Pakistani players were found with cash exceeding their daily allowances during a Scotland Yard raid on Saturday night.

The bookie at the center of the match-fixing storm, Mazhar Majeed, who was arrested on Saturday and released on bail on Sunday night, is seen claiming that the result of the Sydney Test between Australia and Pakistan was rigged in the video of the sting operation conducted by British tabloid The News of the World.

In the video, Majeed is seen boasting about the fixed result of the Sydney Test and the money he earned from it.

"Let me tell you the last Test we did. It was the second Test against Australia in Sydney. Australia had two more wickets left. They had a lead of 10 runs, yeah. And Pakistan had all their wickets remaining.

"The odds for Pakistan to lose that match, for Australia to win that match, were I think 40-1. We let them get up to 150 then everyone lost their wickets," Majeed was quoted as saying in the sting video.

"That one we made 1.3 million pounds. But that's what I mean, you can get up to a million. Tests is where the biggest money is because those situations arise."

Australia clinched an unlikely 36-run win in the match after Pakistan lost nine wickets for a mere 89 runs. Pakistani wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal dropped four catches in the match which helped Australia recover from a potentially losing situation.

The ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit had investigated the match but gave it an all-clear.

Compounding the Pakistan cricket team's woes is a report which claimed that the side's players rigged the opening Test against England, which the hosts won by a massive 354 runs last month in Nottingham.

According to British tabloid The Sun, Scotland Yard's Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick was told about Pakistani players being involved in match fixing a month ago.

"... police were told a month ago about match-fixing in the England v Pakistan Test series. Scotland Yard's Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick was tipped off over alleged corruption in the first match (July 29 to August 1)," the tabloid claimed.

Quoting a source, the newspaper said that an informer had given "credible" information about match-fixing by Pakistani players to the police in London.

"The information given to Assistant Commissioner Dick was credible. But such an investigation would have soaked up a huge amount of resources, with no guarantee of a result," the source was quoted as saying.

"The intelligence was still being analysed to see if there was any possible way forward. It now transpires that corruption has continued.

With what emerged yesterday and the information supplied four weeks ago, it's hard to see how people will look at cricket the same again. Millions will have been watching on Sunday wondering if it was real or not," he added.

The new revelations are bound to damage the Pakistan cricket team's reputation even more after the sting operation "exposed" 'spot-fixing' by pacers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamir, who were allegedly paid by Majeed to send down no balls during the lost Lord's Test against England.

But the storm has failed to force a resignation from Butt, who has reacted by saying that, "I haven't heard any allegations, except just taking my name. There's nothing I've seen or been shown on TV that involves me."

But rattled by the bookie's claim about the Sydney Test, Cricket Australia said the allegations are "most disturbing" and called for a thorough investigation into the scandal.

"The reports from the UK are most disturbing and we look forward to the outcome of rigorous investigation by the UK authorities as well as by the ICC," CA chief James Sutherland said.

"It is critical for cricket that the public has confidence in the integrity of the outcome of games, which is why CA and other ICC members have supported the significant world cricket investment in anti corruption over the last decade or more," Sutherland added.

Sutherland said so far CA has no doubts about the Sydney Test.

"CA had been in no doubt that Australia had won that game on the merit of their on-field performance and will now wait on evidence from UK and ICC investigations before making any further comment," he said in a CA statement.

Equally disturbed by the turn of events was Australian captain Ricky Ponting, who said if the match-fixing slur is proved right, all individual milestones by his players in the Sydney game would be "tainted".

"The thing that I'm most worried about if any of this is proven to be true is some of the individual performances that took place in that game," he said.

"You look at Mike Hussey's second innings hundred and Peter Siddle's batting and the way he was with Mike Hussey that day and Nathan Hauritz taking five wickets on the final day to win us the game.

"All of those individual milestones will be tainted as well," he added.

Ponting insisted that he never suspected anything fishy during the match.

"Not at the time, no, I had no idea about anything like that at all," Ponting told ABC Radio.

"The way we won was one of the more satisfying moments that I've had on the cricket field. And now when some of these things come to light is when you start to slightly doubt some of the things that have happened. It's not up to us to worry about that anyway," he added.

(With PTI inputs)

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