Where is Ijaz Butt?

An Englishman has just pleaded guilty to a charge related to spot fixing and Ijaz Butt has this magnificent opportunity to be shouting about it from the roof tops, but he is no where to be seen or heard. Why?

Butt must have been longing for this day over the past 18 months so that he could put the boot into England over match fixing and kick us off the morale high ground that we English had been occupying until yesterday.

I’m sure though that he will speak out soon, he is probably just preparing a massive statement and is taking his time over it to make sure he gets in as many telling blows as is possible.

So come on Ijaz, hurry up. I can’t wait much longer…..

Mervyn Westfield – The first of many?

Today, Mervyn Westfield became the first English cricketer to be convicted of  ‘corruptly accepting or obtaining, or agreeing to accept or obtain, corrupt payments’ for his part in on field corruption in a Pro-40 match between Essex and Durham back in 2009.

The first thought that came into my head is that he probably isn’t the only English (or county) player who has got involved in something like this.

Westfield’s crimes would have been committed long before the Pakistani trio’s conviction, and I doubt very much at the time that he thought he could end up in jail for accepting a £6K bribe.

But jail is probably where he is heading. A precedent of sorts was set with the Pakistani trio, although I’m not sure of the circumstances regarding Westfield’s confession.

For example Butt and Asif denied everything to the very bitter end, while Amir’s confession wasn’t deemed sincere enough by the judge to gain him any leniency in sentencing. So that’s part of the reason why those three got what seemed harsh sentences.

The sincerity of Westfield’s confession, whether or not he is prepared to spill the beans, etc, could depend on the outcome of his sentence.

The problem now though is that if he gets away with a custodial sentence, people will cry foul play – one rule for the Brits, and another for the foreigners. And who could blame them?

It is also very embarrassing the the English cricketing fraternity, for years now they/we have claimed the morale high ground, how everyone else is under suspicion, but we are cleaner than clean. That image has now also been smashed, and as I eluded too in the title of this post, how many more could there be?

I’m not naive enough to think Westfield is the only one, and at the same time I’m sure there is plenty more international cricketers (of all nationality’s) still out there playing who have plenty to hide.

The thing that struck me the most though, is what he has thrown away, and all for six grand. What he has done is the equivalent of going into his local Curry’s or Comet store with a sawn off shotgun and holding it up, just to rob a three hundred quid TV – It is such an out of proportion payment for the risks involved.

I do actually think that maybe Westfield didn’t understand the magnitude of his actions. If he was confident enough to show a team mate the money (as he is alleged to have done) and told him how he got it, then he either didn’t realise how serious this was, or he is totally stupid.

And to finish, I heard on the radio report today about this case that Westfield was mixed up with a man well known in cricketing circles who is believed to have influenced him in this direction.

Well who is this man and why isn’t he been outed? Let’s hope the reason for the silence is because the police are close to pulling him in.

A small insight into the Spot Fixing sting

Former sports editor of the News of the World, Paul McCarthy was talking on Talksport today about the amount of work that went into the undercover sting that led to the jailing of Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir for their parts in the spot fixing controversy.

At the time of the no-balls being bowled, McCarthy was one of only a handful of people who knew at what point they were to be bowled and I remember in the past hearing him describe the feeling of disbelief and stunned silence in the office where they witnessed this happening as planned.

Today he was describing how professional Mazher Mahmood (the so callled fake sheikh) and the rest of his undercover team were in this sting operation and all the other numerous ones they have been involved in over the years.

The thing that stood out to me though, was when he said that Mahmood and his covert team had started working on the sting in January 2010.

Doing my own calculations, I don’t think Pakistan arrived in England until June or early July of 2010. I not naive enough to think that this whole sting started the week before the test match, but I was surprised to find out it started 6 months or so before Pakistan even set foot in the county.

This says to me that well in advance of this tour Mahmood’s contacts either had word that certain players were already on illegal payrolls and therefore should be easy to entice into more corruption, or certain players had made it clear in the so called ‘market place’ that they were available to be bought.

For that type of information to be available to Mahmood – who is not even a cricket man – a full 6 months before Pakistan even arrived is shocking and makes me wonder just how the relevant world authorities who are supposed to police this sort of thing and the national management structure of the Pakistan team didn’t know anything about it.

It also makes me wonder did all or some of these people know and just turn a blind eye, or did they decide that they couldn’t do anything to stop it?

When I hear it said that there is still far more to come out about spot fixing, on the evidence of what I heard today, this doesn’t surprise me in the slightest.

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Did the Commentators know?

I don’t want to harp on about the spot fixing issues for much longer for obvious depressing (for cricket) reasons, but one thing that came out in this last week that I found interesting was the amount of ex cricketers and commentators who claimed to be able to tell that something was going on from the sheer size of the no balls being bowled.

I mentioned it in my last post, the Sydney test match in 2010, the thing that sticks in my mind the most about this game was the tone of the Aussie commentators during the Australian second innings.

Thinking back now, I believe that they came as close as was legally and morally possible to saying that something dodgy was going on in that test match.

I can remember the commentators being staggered by what they were seeing, and in particular Ian Chappell’s incandescent rage towards Mohammad Yousuf’s captaincy, he said on more than one occasion that Yousuf’s tactics were those of a man trying to lose the test.

Looking back with hindsight, I now believe that Chappell was trying to say in a legal way that he felt the match was being thrown.

Equally when you hear the Sky Sports and TMS commentary of the no balls in question in the Lord’s spot fixing scandal, the words and the tones they were delivered in were telling, with one commentator even going as far as to say that you never see a no ball that far over the line these days, referring to one of Amir’s no balls.

Again with hindsight, I think they knew something wasn’t right.

Of that side that played in Sydney, only current captain Misbah-ul-Haq and Umar Gul are playing in the current test against Sri Lanka. I’m not sure of the status of Umar Akmal who also played and I would have thought still has a test future, but it does make me wonder if a lot of the rest of that team have been ‘conveniently’ moved aside.

I would be interested to hear from Pakistan fans who know more than me about why a lot of that Sydney team (apart from the obvious ones) aren’t currently playing.

The Four Weasels

Sentencing on the infamous four takes place tomorrow and I have to say that I honestly don’t think there is anything else that could come out of this extraordinary saga that would surprise me.

Prior to Tuesday, I thought I had heard it all. But what has come out since the end of the trial is nothing short of staggering.

None of the men were ever going to come out of this trial with much if any credibility or dignity, but they at least could have tried. But what we have seen is all four basically knifing the others in an attempt to safe their own weasel skin. It has been an appalling show from all concerned.

On Tuesday night I thought that the fact that Mohammad Amir had previously confessed would get him off the hook from going to prison, then on hearing the judge’s summing up on Wednesday, I’m now not so sure. Amir’s admission that he was merely a stupid boy who just got talked into bowling a couple of no-balls was torn to pieces by a judge who clearly doesn’t believe him, as it now looks like he was playing an active part in attempting to fix the Oval test match.

Butt and Asif have been blaming each other while pleading their innocence, while all along Amir and agent, Mazhar Majeed had pleaded guilty. This makes the pair look pathetic and gutless, not only do they not have the decency to admit what they have done, they are trying to blame each other in an attempt to get themselves off the hook. The arrogance and stupidity of Butt and Asif is astounding.

Then today we were treated to agent Mazhar Majeed’s attempts to blame everyone else. He didn’t just single out Salman Butt as the man who got him involved in fixing, oh no, he then claimed that he gave Mohammad Asif £65,000 for his part in the no-balls.

Now lets get this into prospective. He claimed that Butt got paid £10,000 for his part, and Butt was supposed to be the person who got Majeed involved in fixing, so to pay Asif a staggering £55,000 more than he gave Butt also makes his version of events seem a little hard to swallow to me.

But then we hear the reasons why Asif was supposed to be so expensive, because apparently he was a man in demand in the Pakistan dressing room. If he wasn’t looked after he might jump ship to the other fixers within the Pakistani set up.

Just who and what can the judge believe here? I can’t wait to hear his summing up tomorrow.

On top of all this we also hear more revelations, that apparently Wahab Riaz and Kamran Akmal were very closely linked to this, and that they are now likely to face investigation from ICC over whether or not they were in any way involved.

The name of Kamran Akmal brings me onto my next point about suspicions of believing that what you are seeing is really true and honest.

If I was Stuart Broad I would want to get another hundred at Lord’s because I would be far from convinced in my own mind about the validity of the century he scored in that test.

I would also be very suspicious of the outcome of the infamous test match in Sydney in January 2010, where Kamran dropped Mike Hussey how many times in the 2nd innings, as Pakistan (possibly) contrived to lose a test match that was all but won.

How can any Australian that played that test match be sure of the validity of that win? I know I’m not.  

Now let me be clear here. I’m not anti-Pakistani and I don’t believe that they are the only nationality at this. Who knows how many other countries’ players are possibly involved in things like this, I don’t for one minute think this is just a Pakistani problem. I dread to think how many others are possibly corrupt in this great game.

It is also a damning indictment that ICC seem powerless to do anything about it. They have already admitted that had it not been for the News of the World this case would probably never have been brought to light.

If they had known about it, they couldn’t have set up the same sting that the newspaper did as it would be considered ‘entrapment’ and wouldn’t have stood up in a British court of law – and lets be honest about this, ICC wouldn’t have had the skills or the brains to set up such a slick operation.

The Police have also admitted that they wouldn’t have had the man power or resources to do it, so who is going to be able to do anything in the future? It is a worrying thought.

I’d like to end by saying that this is also partly a human tragedy. No matter how stupid an individual I think Salman Butt is, his wife has just given birth to a baby. He possibly won’t see that baby grow up for the first few years of his life due to his own greed and stupidity, as a father of recent years, I do feel sorry for him in this aspect.

The players will get what they deserve tomorrow. Does Butt’s wife deserve this? I don’t know, maybe she knew what was happening and approved, maybe she didn’t know a thing. The young baby she has just had certainly doesn’t deserve this, Butt has now got to live with the consequences of what his stupid behaviour has caused.

Are Pakistan now Fixing Victories?

This is starting to get ridiculous now. The news that ICC are investigating scoring paterns in Friday’s ODI at the Oval where Pakistan beat England, looks on the surface a little bit of an over reation.

Apparently the evidence they received did happen, but just how wide ranging was this evidence?

Anyone could guess that two wickets might fall in the first 8 overs, or that between 60 and 70 runs will be scored between the 20th and 30th overs, it’s a calculated guess. It dosen’t mean that it’s credible evidence though.

Obviously I don’t know how credible or accurate the information is, but at the moment there must be chancers out there who are trying their best to create a story out of nothing.

I can understand ICC making sure they are seen to be acting in a responsible manner, as at the moment cricket’s integrity is on the line.

But they can’t get drawn into investigating everything, or where will it end? What next, will there be investigations into people predicting what route the coach takes to the ground? It could be never ending.

One thing that is for certain, is the fact that since the original allegations this is the way it’s going to be with Pakistan for the foreseeable future. Anything they do is going to be treated with an element of suspicion, a stupid run out, a dropped catch, a wide, etc.

I’m afraid it’s the price they are going to have to pay after what has happened recently.

Spot-Fixing Bandwagon Rolls On

There still appears to be more questions than answers at the moment, but the Spot-Fixing scandal now (thankfully) seems to be moving to a faster conclusion after ICC charged the 3 men in question with “various offences” under the provisions of the Anti-Corruption Code.

What the offences are, we don’t know as that information hasn’t been released. Questions have also been asked of why it took ICC until Thursday to charge them in light of the evidence already in the public domain.

Personally, I wonder was the ICC’s decision reached after the bombastic inputs from Pakistan’s high commissioner to the UK, Wajid Shamsul Hasan?

Hasan, who seems like a man who can make Ijaz Butt look moderate, started his tirades earlier in the week by claiming the players were innocent, and his evidence is? Because they told him so.

This man is something else, could you really see a British equivalent behaving in such a brash manner in these sort of circumstances? I couldn’t, as I think he might find himself out of a job.

Surely a man in a position of such importance should be more cautious with his remarks. After such a robust defence if the accusations turn out to be true how can he ever be taken seriously again? There are better and more diplomatic ways of defending your fellow countrymen than the way Hasan has gone about things.

He then later went on to claim that the whole thing was a set up by the News of the World, and that they would take the paper “to a court of law to defend them”. Not surprisingley, the NOTW were not impressed and after saying the claims were “ludicrous”, they rather ominously said “watch this space”.

Hasan, then on Friday accused ICC of “playing to the public gallery,” in suspending the trio. He also accused ICC of giving assurances that they wouldn’t act until Scotland Yard’s investigation were over. All of this was unsurprisingley denied by Haroon Lorgat.

With further claims that Ijaz Butt had to be pursuaded to withdraw the players from the rest of the tour to protect the integrity of the game by Haroon Lorgat, it is no wonder that ICC had to take the lead and suspend them. It looks like they had no choice but to act, as it would appear they would be waiting a long time if they waited for the Pakistani authorities to take the lead.

I’m now waiting for Ijaz Butt to start shooting from the hip as well, that should be fun, it’s remarkable how after a week he hasn’t come out with some outrageous take on what has happened.

There is apparently a game of cricket to be played sometime soon, but in the current constant media frenzy it is easy to forget this. Although maybe that could yet be in the balance depending on what the NOTW comes out with this Sunday. It is almost certain that the newspaper has plenty more up it’s sleave, and is the best/worst of the news still yet to come?

In the meantime we can wait and see what claims and counter claims come out on Saturday. Maybe Hasan will have a day off, and see if he can be bettered by Ijaz Butt, or anybody else that fancies a go.

If it wasn’t so serious to the game of cricket, it would all be quite funny.

Spot-Fixing and Cricket

The title of my last blog now looks very outdated and stupid (to say the least) after the latest revelations of Spot-Fixing or at the least, players being in the pockets of middle men working for bookmakers.

Although they are unproven allegations at the moment, it has to be said that it dosen’t look good for certain members of the Pakistani team. Hearing Nasser Hussain say on Sky at the start of todays coverage that it it no surprise to him, that the stories have been in the background for some time now, is a damnation of sorts.

The commentators on Sky and TMS are around the players enough to hear all these rumours, I’m sure that the England players would also be aware, although none would probably openly admit it.

If these allegations are true, then it is remarkable how quickly new captain Salman Butt has been recruited into the system. This would appear to show that these shady characters have been around the team for some time now, a theory which can only be backed up by the news that the Pakistan team were warned by the management not to associate with Mazhar and Azhar Majeed in their hotel, although that would appear to be a rule applied to all agents, not just these two.

At the moment it looks like Mazhar Majeed has proved he has the players in his pocket, there is no evidence to suggest that any match has been thrown or result influenced. Nevertheless, it is still a very serious incident and I hope that ICC don’t use this as a reason to let people off with a slap on the rist. As who knows what the next stage was to be?

It dosen’t take an idiot to work out that the big money gambled on cricket isn’t gambled on a no-ball in the 3rd over of a test match. The fact that Majeed can get the players to do this shows that he could in all probability get them to do other things.

For example, go for a lot of runs in an ODI, while there might not be enough of a market to gamble on a no-ball in a test match, there would be a market for whether or not a bowler went for over or under 60 runs (for example) in his 10 overs in the upcoming 50 over series. This could also be enough runs to influence the overall result of a match.

The problem that could arise for ICC is that there might not be a massive amount of evidence to back these allegations up. It might look dodgy, but in the cold light of day they could be genuine no-balls. Could a conviction in a court of law be obtained on this evidence? Without being a lawyer, I don’t know, but I doubt it.

This is were it becomes a potentially massive problem for ICC. If the evidence isn’t good enough they could be reluctant to hand out appropiate punishments for fear of being sued. And therein comes the next problem. ICC could end up relying on the Pakistani authorities to hand out the punishments, and we all know their track record.

At the very least, the News Of The World have brought this problem back out into the public domain. I would imagine that stories within the cricket industry are rife, but without any hard evidence there is probably a reluctance to look too hard into them and make them public knowledge.

As has been the case in previous match fixing allegations, and bungs in football, it appears to be very hard to prove. It looks like it is never going to be eliminated, as cricketers can’t be watched 24 hours a day.

There is a responsibility on ICC and the individual cricket boards to keep on educating players on the dangers of this, but there is only so much they can do. Are they doing enough, is now the question? These latest stories show that the they all would appear to still have plenty of work to do, it will be interesting to see how they handle it this time.