Would Salim Malik’s apology work?

Published May 5, 2020
Not much has changed in all this time except the game itself. — YouTube screengrab
Not much has changed in all this time except the game itself. — YouTube screengrab

Almost after two centuries when William Lambert, an accomplished county cricketer who played for Surrey, Middlesex, Kent and Sussex, was banned from Lord’s for match-fixing in 1817, the game of cricket still continues to attract controversies of similar nature.

Not much has changed except the game itself which has a wider audience as well as heaps of money to share, which also includes clandestine approaches to the players and even to the officials to influence the result of matches for mutual benefits.

Cricket, as the history goes, owed its popularity in the 17th century England to its permutations as a sports for gambling and gamblers. In the countries in which it is legal to bet on this game and where the bookies operate officially within the premises of the ground and outside it, there is not much of a problem.

But in countries where gambling is considered to be a curse and an unacceptable pastime, players or officials do succumb to greed for making money through illegal means. In cricket, they do it by spot-fixing or fixing a game to influence a result.

Unfortunately, in our part of the world - be it Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka or Bangladesh — cases of such nature have been surfacing all the time. Players have been banned for life or for a certain period if nabbed by their respective anti-corruption officials.

The recent ban slapped on Umar Akmal by an investigating Judge for vilating the code of conduct laid down by the PCB has attracted various reactions in favour and against the verdict. Umar Akmal, in fact, has been asking for this for some time as he just could not discipline himself.

But what really amazes me is the recent apology made to the authorities by former captain of Pakistan, Salim Malik, who was banned for life by Justice Malik Mohammad Qayyum enquiry for his alleged involvement with the bookmakers. His apology has suddenly initiated a debate, with some speaking in his favour and some against him.

His accusers Shane Warne, Mark Waugh were not angels either. They were caught by ACB when they got involved with ‘John’, an Indian bookie in Sri Lanka, and were fined. The incident was kept a secret from the cricketing world by the ACB for some time.

What really irks me is the fact that those who were not even on the scene then or may have been in their pampers when things started to go against Salim Malik, are now making it sound as if Malik was a victim in the whole controversy and the rest got away lightly.

Justice Qayyum may have been right in banning him and Ata-ur-Rehman for the evidence that he must have had in front of him, but he grossly flawed in his judgement while recommending fines to others who according to him were not coming out with the truth.

When a Judge with a reputation of his own says in his judgement that he has no proof against the ones he was recommending for fines, then he had no business to recommend fines because he was then contradicting his own judgement.

In law when there is no proof, you remain innocent. It has to be proven beyond reasonable doubt to punish someone and Qayyum failed in that. In his judgement he also admitted the pressures that he was subjected to from ‘outside’. When a judge says that he was influenced, then we assume that his verdict is flawed and that is what happened in the case of those who were fined in the Qayyum inquiry.

The hilarious part of it is that some of the players did pay the fine on promise by the board that they will get the money back, as mentioned by Mushtaq Ahmed in his autobiography. They never got it back, according to him.

Qayyum was also economical with the truth when writing in his report the toss controversy of Calcutta Test in 1979 involving Asif Iqbal. Qayyum mentioned it as reference to a story he read in Gundappa Viswanath’s book. The fact is that Vishy never wrote a book.

Salim was such a beautiful looking batsman and a nice guy and I covered his Test debut at Karachi and almost his entire career. It was sad that he allegedly got lured into dicey world of the bookies and had to pay for it.

I wouldn’t mind if he is back in some capacity if PCB and ICC are convinced of his sincere apology and clear him. But they would be in their rights to ask I am sure as to, a) why after he was banned, he once again got lured into a sting operation by a person posing as a big businessman and to deal with him for mutual gains? In a bugged room in a London hotel, Salim gave his consent to this fake businessman - who was in fact a journalist in disguise - to help him in fixing games with the help of his friends according to a story which appeared in a Sunday paper in London in the year 2000.

He may also be asked why he as captain of Pakistan failed to call head or tail at the toss in some matches and instead saying something in Urdu or Punjabi to claim he had won the toss.

When he did that in 1994-95 Test at Harare, calling, ’Bird’ instead of head or tail, Salim was admonished by match referee Jackie Hendricks who was a former West Indian captain. He asked for the toss to be done again in that Test which Zimbabwe won. Hendricks was well briefed by authorities about Pakistan captain’s behaviour at Auckland against Ken Rutherford when he tossed the coin in the match.

My report on that Harare Test and the toss is in Wisden Almanack 1995 edition.

Just how would Salim Malik, such a fine talent of Pakistan batting, would face up to that when the files will be re-opened for him to answer?

Published in Dawn, May 5th, 2020

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