International cricket is in turmoil.
The allegations of a match-fixing scandal that has embroiled Pakistan may not come as a surprise to everyone. The fact that it was English tabloid News of the World that has exposed the seediest side of professional cricket may have surprised a few.
The fact is, that News of the World’s exposé into match fixing involving Pakistan players in the Test series against England is destructive. Its report is damning and dare I say it, fine investigative journalism.
News of the World reporter Mazher Mahmood, aka the “Fake Sheik”, has made a career of journalistic entrapment. His targets have been royalty, English football coach Sven-Göran Eriksson and a child actor of Slumdog Millionaire.
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Despite what you think of his methods — or ethics — his report for News of the World is compelling:
Our undercover team was posing as front men for a Far East gambling cartel. In return for their suitcase of money (Mazhar) Majeed then calmly detailed what would happen — and when — on the field of play next day, as a taster of all the lucrative information he could supply in future.
And happen it did:
Majeed then explained that the third no-ball would come in the first over that teen wonder boy (Mohammad) Amir got to deliver to an England right-hander, after one of the opening two left-handers had been dismissed.
And, as promised, on the FIRST BALL of the THIRD OVER to England opening batsman Alastair Cook Amir overstepped the white line marking his bowling crease by a huge margin.
So where to now for cricket?
Pakistan captain Salman Butt has slammed the reports:
“These are just allegations.”
“Anyone can stand out and say anything about you. It doesn’t make them true. They include quite a few people and they’re still ongoing and we will see what happens. I haven’t heard any allegations except just taking my name. There’s nothing I have seen or has been shown on TV that involves me.”
However, there have been links to the current match fixing scandal and Pakistan’s loss in Sydney against Australia in January.
In a statement released today, Cricket Australia chief executive officer James Sutherland expressed Australian cricket’s concerns:
The reports from the UK are most disturbing and we look forward to the outcome of rigourous investigation by the UK authorities as well as by the ICC.
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.
We have no knowledge of the current allegations but by their very nature, they demonstrate the absolute importance of world cricket maintaining its vigilance in relation the anti-corruption.
Pakistan has insisted that its planned one-day international and Twenty20 series against England, beginning September 5, goes ahead — despite the question marks that must now hang over any cricket involving them.
And the mobile phones of Butt and bowlers Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif have been confiscated by Scotland Yard detectives as part of their investigation into the allegations.
But it is the involvement of 18-year-old left-arm opening bowler Amir that has cricket fans despondent. He is an exceptional talent — the youngest bowler to take 50 Test wickets — and his 6-47 at Lords saw him earn a place on the famous ground’s even more famous honour board. He is the youngest person in the history of cricket to have achieved this.
He is a true talent. A prodigy. And his potential demise from these allegations is among the saddest of this scandal’s fallout: