Pakistan Cricket Board’s failure in implementing the recommendations of the retired Justice Malik Qayyum Commission report on match-fixing in letter and spirit and Board’s practice of patronising those cricketers who were fined and instructed to be kept away from the Board are the major reasons why the spectre of fixing comes back to haunt Pakistan cricket and more players keep falling prey to the strong network of the bookies.
It has been 20 years since the publication of the Qayyum report and yet it is once again being debated in the media. The resurfacing of former captain Salim Malik, who was banned for life by the Qayyum Commission, has triggered the recent debate. Malik has asked the PCB for removal of his ban and for allowing him to be part of mainstream cricket, as done with other tainted cricketers.
Surprisingly, the current debate has once again brought to fore the professional jealousies among the players and have highlighted the fact that certain lobbies are still active behind the scene, which makes it difficult for an analyst or an investigator to reach the right conclusion about anyone.
While few lobbies are declaring some cricketers as heroes, the other are painting them as villains. As one goes through the Qayyum Commission report as well as the media reports published during 1999-2000, one could notice similar attitudes among the cricketers, organisers, bookies and various lobbies who were blaming each other and giving contradictory statements during the hearings of the Judicial Commission.
In his recommendations, Justice Qayyum has admitted on many occasions that ‘overall no one could produce strong evidences against any player and the allegations on each other are based on hearsay.’
In one of hisobservations, Qayyum has said that: “Various cricket experts like Imran Khan, Javed Miandad have stated that for a match to be fixed at least 5-7 players ought to be bought. As seen above, this commission could not find conclusive evidence against as many players, thus on the whole the team is cleared of blame.”
The Justice had also expressed his reservations over the evidence produced by ex-Test wicketkeeper Rashid Latif in video tapes, because those were edited.
However, the PCB’s lawyer representing the Board in court, Mr. Sibtain Fazli, in his observations had named Saleem Malik, Wasim Akram and Mushtaq Ahmad as major suspects. He also stated that in the case of Basit Ali and Waqar Younis, there are some evidence against them, but it is not sufficient to arrive at any final conclusion.
He also named Ijaz Ahmad and stated that although his name has been mentioned by quite a few persons, there is no direct evidence against him to prove that he has been involved in match fixing.
It is surprising to note, though, just how the PCB went about implementing those recommendations in the last 20 years which seem to be based on personal likes and dislikes. While the the PCB went on to ban both Salim Malik and Ata-ur-Rahman and removed Wasim Akram from captaincy, they later hired the services of both Wasim and Mushtaq Ahmed on numerous occasions and even today they are working with the PCB in different capacities. It is amazing how then PCB regime set aside the observations of its own lawyer Sibtain Fazli against the aforementioned two cricketers.
Later, the PCB also removed Ata’s life ban, but upheld Salim’s which defies logic. Claiming to having zero tolerance against match-fixing, the PCB in principle should have either banned all those described as suspects by the commission or it should have set all free with a strict warning, to both the cricketers and the PCB to follow all the recommendations with true spirit, to avoid such happenings in future.
The Justice has said that:”This Commission believes that the appropriate punishment for match-fixing is a ban for life and institution of criminal charges.” But this recommendation was not taken serious, as the cricketers like Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif, Salman Butt, Sharjeel Khan had made a comeback in the domestic cricket after completing their punishment.
A powerful role of the patron of the PCB, who is Prime Minister of Pakistan, is also a big hurdle in running the Board’s affairs in transparent manners. The patron has been recommending the names of some person for the coveted posts in the PCB in the past, too. And once a man recommended from the patron is bound to hold a sway over the board. Once remember that in past PCB chairman Shaharyar M Khan has stunned every one by appointing Inzamam-ul-Haq as chief selector. Earlier, in his own book Shaharyar M Khan had declared Inzamam as responsible for the Oval’s Test fiasco in 2007. But as the name of Inzamam was came from some strong personality, might be from the Prime Minister office, Shaharyar bowed down, as he has no other choice either to accept or resign. The same trend is still going on as it has been in the media that Chief Executive Officer Wasim Khan was recommended by a federal minister for this important place, though it was advertised. Many such examples can be produced.
In most of the disciplinary cases, the PCB had tried to hide the cases of strong cricketers, until the media had not come out with strong evidences.
The PCB also supported the trio of Salman Butt, Muhammad Asif and Muhammad Amir in 2010’s scam in England as it refused to accept the ICC’s instruction to sideline the cricketers and send them back to Pakistan for internal inquiry. But then PCB chairman Ijaz Butt refused that as no proofs against the cricketers were available and moreover as the cricketers were ready to take oath on Holy book of Quran that they were innocent, the PCB would not sent them back.However, then every one saw they were not only banned by the PCB but also sent behind the bars in England.
The PCB also failed to take any disciplinary action against Wasim, Waqar, Aaqib Javed and Mushtaq Ahmed when they were caught by police in Grenada in a tour of the Windies in 1993, reportedly in a drug case and also brawling with the police.
No doubt in the 90’s decade Pakistan had a star-studded team in the presence of Javed Miandad, Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Shoaib Akhtar, Waqar Younus, Moin Khan, Rashid Latif, Salim Malik, Aamir Sohail,Ijaz Ahmad and some other noteable.
To control such a strong team, extra-ordinary measures should have been taken by the PCB to create unity among the cricketers. But the team was split in almost three or four groups and it might be one of the reasons that blame game was started among them to get the captaincy. What a strong team that was, it could be proved easily that despite facing inquries before Justice Qayyum the team reached the finals of World Cup-1999 but lost it to Australia. Pakistanis are still waiting that kind of achievement in the mega event at yet.
In the recent past, the services of Wasim Akram and Mushtaq Ahmad were hired by the incumbent PCB chairman Ehsan Mani, totally ignoring the Justice’s report. Earlier, PCB chairman Najam Sethi also hired the services of Wasim Akram to pick a head coach for the team.
“This Commission therefore recommends that Mushtaq Ahmed be censured, kept under close watch and be not given any office of responsibility (selection or captaincy) in the team or on the board. Furthermore, he should be fined Rs. 3 lac. Final findings against Mushtaq on the charge of match-fixing will soon follow in the Supplementary statement,” the Justice has recommended.
Moreover, former Test cricketer Haroon Rasheed, who had given his statement against Salim Malik, Wasim Akram and Ijaz Ahmad before the commission, continued to work with the PCB as domestic cricket head, despite Ehsan was making their appointments. Haroon might become a true preacher against the match-fixing trend by resigning instead of working with those cricketers. Same was the case of Mohsin Hasan Khan, who has been critic of Wasim Akram for his alleged role in the match-fixing. But when he was offered a post of chairman of the powerless cricket committee by Ehsan, with Wasim Akram as a member, he ended his reservation against the former pace bowler and worked with him. In first press conference, Mohsin had said that he sat with Wasim and his reservation against Wasim has been removed.
The PCB chairman had also amazed everyone while including Wasim Akram in the cricket committee, totally rejecting the finding of the Justice Qayyum. Though Qayyum in his report had said on couple of occasion that he would also prepare a supplementary report about some cricketers, which could not see the light of the day till now, that does not mean his recommendations to fine many cricketers had gone in the dust bin until the supplementary report.
In his several recommendations, the Justice had recommended to the PCB that the captain of Pakistan Cricket team should be a person of impeccable character and not someone anyone can point a finger at. But it appointed fined cricketers as captain namely Waqar Younus, Inzamam-ul-Haq and some others who had some controversies in the past like Shoaib Malik and Salman Butt. Same were the instruction about the manager of the Pakistan team. But many blue eyed of the PCB chairman were appointed on the said post.
“That all foreign tours should take along an independent third party, an ombudsman of sorts to deal with players complaints and indiscipline. Such a person could be the chairman of the PCB or his impartial nominee.,” was the another recommendation.
“That a permanent Review Committee should be formed to look into inter alia allegations of the match-fixing in the future. It should consist of people independent of the Board. The members of the review committee should have a good knowledge of cricket and have clean records.
“That generally discipline of the team be strictly monitored and maintained. Allowing minor breaches to go unpunished leads to players taking liberties and bigger breaches follow,” he further recommended.
“A watch-dog Review Committee be formed to deal with future allegations if any. Further that all Pakistani cricket players should declare their assets at the time they start their career at the national level and annually submit their asset forms to the Pakistan Cricket Board. A zero tolerance approach be taken against match-fixing in the future and strict discipline generally be maintained.
Though the commission had also recommended handsome increase in the remuneration of the cricketers at part with other cricketers of the world, despite the fact the Pakistani cricketers are richer, due to mushroom of the T20 cricket, still the cases of match fixing are coming up and last one was of Umar Akmal, who has been banned for three years last months.
Published in Dawn, May 7th, 2020