Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pakistan Cricketers Face the Death Penalty Over Corruption Allegations

The Pakistani Cricket corruption allegations have taken a sinister twist after it emerged today that team captain Salman Butt, Kamran Akmal, and bowlers Mohamad Amir and Mohamad Asif face the death penalty in Pakistan if they are found guilty of cheating and aiding a betting syndicate.

On Sunday, the News of The World broke the story that a match-fixing syndicate rigged the recent match between England and Pakistan at Lords.
In their world exclusive, Mazher Mahmood and Amanda Evans met with Mazhar Majeed who indicated that he had an influence over the result of the match and predicted down to the minute "no-ball" deliveries by bowlers Asif and Amir.
A televison audience of millions tuned in to watch the test between the two countries and were shocked to see Pakistan collapse and bowled out for just 74 in their first innings.
As part of the betting coup, Majeed then pointed out that Salman Butt was the ringleader of a betting clique of 10 cricketers that had made huge money from accepting offers from betting syndicates.
To further prove his influence, Majeed then proclaimed, "I'm going to give you three no-balls to prove to you firstly that this is what's happening. They've all been organised, okay?
"This is EXACTLY what's going to happen, you're going to SEE these three things happen. I'm telling you, if you play this right you're going to make a lot of money, believe me!"
Over the last couple of years, Internet betting on cricket in the Middle and Far East has grown to huge proportions with a multitude of different markets being offered.
This would appear to be where Majeed has focused his attention and where "no-balls" come into effect as the syndicate's seem to be betting upon the exact amount of runs that batters will gain but also the amount of runs that bowlers will concede.
The evidence against the four named cricketers looks incredibly compelling, to such an extent that MI5 contacted the News of the World the next morning so they could launch an investigation into the claims.
Such is the seriousness of the situation in Pakistan, where Cricket is the No. 1 sport and something of a religion, that the recent unprecedented flooding that has destroyed part of the country and caused a humanitarian situation that has effected millions has been moved to the second most important story in the country.
Ministers have had to release statements on the allegations and the Pakistani government has started its own investigation into the situation.
Majeed has since been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud bookmakers.
Pakistan's standing in the game has been severely dented after these allegations, but that has not stopped the English Cricketing Board give the go ahead for the upcoming 20Twenty matches with Pakistan.
Many commentators felt that the ECB would have been better served by cancelling the upcoming games, which will include three of the four named players after Salman Butt, the captain, was suspended.
However, these matches will be worth an estimated £12 million to the ECB. And the board is anxious to bring in as much money as quick as possible in the financially unstable environment.
Over the last 20 years, allegations of corruption in cricket has been rife.
In 1993 Australia's Allan Border alleged he was offered £500,000 by former Pakistan captain Mushtaq Mohammed to lose the fifth Test against England, although no investigation into the incident was launched.
Scotland Yard investigated an incident in 1994 involving allegations with the English game although no charges were made. They did re-open the case in 2000 after new evidence emerged but again no charges were placed.
Further cases of match-fixing have been investigated over the last 20 years but the most famous incident in cricket saw South African captain Hanse Cronje being suspended for life after admitting he took money from a bookmaker to forecast results.
The conspiracy theories surrounding Cronje's match fixing grew exponentially in 2002 after the South African died in a plane crash where the former captain was the only passenger on board.
The year 2000 was a poor one for cricket lovers everywhere as India captain Mohammad Azharuddin also received a life-time ban after fixing three one-day-internationals.
This prompted the ICC to hire the former head of the Metropolitan Police and establish The Anti-corruption and Security Unit for Cricket. However, the growth of 20Twenty cricket has made their job almost impossible over the last ten years.
In 2006 and 2007 controversy surrounded Pakistan as they refused to take the field in 2006 after being accused of ball tampering. Then in 2007 Pakistan were unbelievably beaten by Ireland in the Cricket World Cup.
Hours later, Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer was found dead in his hotel room with police launching an investigation into the death after preliminary pathology reports found that Woolmer had been strangled to death.
Scotland Yard immediately sent detectives to Jamaica to assist in the investigation but could find no evidence to suggest that Woolmer had been drugged or strangled.
However, six months later after a tribunal the case was left open after lead coroner Patrick Murphy could find no evidence to suggest that the death was natural or a murder.
One year later and Marlon Samuels, the West Indies Batsman, received a two year ban after being found guilty of receiving money.
Last year Pakistan lost every single match in a tour of Australia. One of their performances was so abject and unprofessional that the ICC immediately launched an investigation into the match.
The inquiry into the Sydney Test resulted in Mohammad Yousuf and Younus Khan being given indefinite bans while Shoaib Malik and Rana Naved received one year bans; and Shalid Afridi and the two Akmal brothers being fined and placed on probation.
Senior figures from Pakistani cricket were then summoned to a Parliamentary session to discuss allegations that they deliberately lost a match to prevent India advancing to the Semi-Finals in the Champions Trophy.
Breaking news from Pakistan today would suggest that, if found guilty, the best the cricketers can hope for is suspension as under Pakistani law they could actually be sentenced to death.
The case has caused such uproar on the streets of Islamabad that crowds are now demonstrating against the alleged and are dressing donkeys up as the stars and pelting them with tomatoes.
Meanwhile, the MI5 investigation has begun, and some would say it's just not cricket...