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, a.k.a the “Fake Sheik”, has made a career from 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 have insisted that their 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 for 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.

Watch him bowl, he is a true talent. A prodigy. And his potential demise from these allegations is among the saddest of this scandal’s fallout:


Cricket writers the world over are in lament:

  • James Lawton, The Independent: “Assuming that Aamer’s name goes up on the Lord’s honours board after his astonishing haul of five front-line English wickets, and the not inconsiderable scalp of Graeme Swann, last Friday, we can only hope there will be difficulty in explaining to some future generation of cricketers how it was that such talent was banished from the game at such an early age.”
  • John Etheridge, The Sun: “The downfall of Amir is the saddest and most shocking part of the scandal that is rocking the game. He is just 18, for goodness sake. The age when people in this country are allowed to drink, vote or legally enter a betting shop.
  • Richard Williams, The Guardian: “At 18, Mohammad Amir is at the other end of his career and has it in him to become one of the greatest players in his country’s history, as he showed with that mesmerising passage of play in which he captured four English wickets for no runs on Friday morning. If this case is proved, however, and it is hard to see how it can be defended in the light of the evidence presented today, his reputation will never be the same.”

Perhaps Jonathan Agnew’s perpective is, however, the most apt: “There are so many awful things happening in Pakistan at the moment, with floods devastating the country. The cricket team was something they could all cling to.”

As a Crikey subscriber and someone who began working as a journalist in 1957, I am passionate about the importance of independent media like Crikey. I met a lot of Australians from many walks of life during my career and did my best to share their stories honestly and fairly with their fellow citizens.

And I never forgot how important it is to hold politicians to account. Crikey does that – something that is more important now than ever before in Australia.

North Stradbroke Island, QLD

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