Mohammad Asif oversteps at Lord’sIt is international cricket’s most shameful and defining image. London-based property dealer Mazhar Majeed seated in a hotel room counting bundles of notes totalling 1,40,000. He was unaware that he was being filmed by a hidden camera and that he, and the so-called gentleman’s game, would,Mohammad Asif oversteps at Lord’sIt is international cricket’s most shameful and defining image. London-based property dealer Mazhar Majeed seated in a hotel room counting bundles of notes totalling 1,40,000. He was unaware that he was being filmed by a hidden camera and that he, and the so-called gentleman’s game, would make sensational headlines across the cricketing world within hours. The London tabloid News of the World’s sting operation on Majeed stripped the covers off a million-pound betting racket involving not just the three players at its heart-newly appointed Pakistan Test captain Salman Butt and the two spearheads of the team’s pace attack, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif-but the shadowy world of cricket betting syndicates and how they operate and make “masses of money” as Majeed, 35, boasted to the undercover reporters posing as representatives of a Far-eastern gambling syndicate looking to make easy money.That’s just what international cricket seems to offer in its tragic transition from the gentleman’s game to a safe harbour for crooks. Majeed’s sensational revelations have rocked the cricketing world like no other previous scandal in any sport. The expose reveals facts that will horrify millions of cricket fans around the world.Video grab of Mazhar MajeedMatch fixing or spot fixing goes on in all forms of the game-Tests, One Day Internationals and Twenty20s.The scam involved no less than seven players in the Pakistan team and that future games against England this summer were already earmarked for cheating.That his match fixing takes him around the world and had netted him millions.That he made $1.3 million from just one game, Pakistan versus Australia at Sydney in 2010.He had opened Swiss bank accounts for players to launder his and their illicit profits.That he was in touch with an Indian bookie and called him during the sting to ask what he would pay for fixing a match in the ongoing Pakistan series.advertisementSalman ButtThat this is the most sensational sporting scandal ever was evidenced by Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif delivering three no balls exactly as Majeed had predicted, during the just concluded Lord’s Test. It must be a case of deja vu for Lord Condon, the outgoing head of the International Cricket Council’s (IIC) anti-corruption unit who had warned the game’s governing body of spot fixing “spreading like a rash” earlier this year. The former Scotland Yard commissioner, recruited to lead the unit in the wake of the Hansie Cronje match-fixing affair a decade ago, had said fixing, which exploits bets placed on short passages of play rather than match results, remained a serious threat.While the ICC has refused to comment on its ongoing investigation, it is believed that it and Scotland Yard were tipped off a month ago about match fixing in the first match of the England-Pakistan Test series at Trent Bridge.AsifIn a separate long-standing investigation, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs officers were also investigating Majeed, the kingpin of the spot fixing racket on suspicion of money laundering. Two others, a 35-year-old woman and a 49-year-old man, were also arrested in connection with the money laundering case but are out on bail. Majeed, who runs a property company Bluesky Developments with a multi-million-pound portfolio, appears to have cemented his role as the players’ confidant in the financially lucrative world of sponsorship deals and marketing opportunities since Pakistan’s last tour of England in 2006.The increasingly close relationship between Majeed and the players appears to have rung alarm bells with the Pakistani authorities and at the start of the current tour the players were told they were no longer allowed to have agents in their hotel rooms. A team official claims former Test captain Shahid Afridi had also warned his teammates to stay away from Majeed.Mohammad AmirMeanwhile, public outrage at the scandal grew as fans demanded refunds for the remaining games in the series. The backlash started in Yorkshire, which is hosting a one-day match at Headingley. Other grounds staging games in the five-match series have also been affected by the scandal, and could also undermine ticket sales for the two Twenty20 internationals in Cardiff. The county’s chief executive, Stewart Regan, admitted that many will be attending reluctantly, having tried unsuccessfully to cancel their bookings in protest against Pakistan’s conduct.This article appeared in the India Today magazine dated September 13, 2010. Subscribe to the print copy.Pakistan’s manager Yawar Saeed and assistant manager Shafqat Ranan (extreme right) read the tabloid at Lord’s.”The phones in the club office haven’t stopped ringing with people wanting to vent their fury and ask whether they can get refunds on the one-day internationals,” Regan said. “I’ve personally fielded several calls and we’ve had numerous enquiries about cancelling tickets. From the club’s point of view, we can’t give refunds simply because people have got a personal opinion about what’s going on, no matter how much we might agree with them.”What is shocking for the image of cricket is the money involved in mere spot fixing, and not throwing a match: 1,50,000 was paid to Majeed by the reporters posing as gamblers. He also sensationally claimed that the syndicate (the reporters) could make “absolutely millions and millions” by paying him up to 4,50,000 a time for information on matches. He excused the players’ shameful behaviour, claiming: “These poor boys are paid peanuts.”advertisementWhat Mazhar Majeed revealedMatch fixing or spot fixing goes on in all forms of the game-Tests, One Dayers and Twenty20s.He had seven Pakistani players literally in his pocket, aiding him in fixing matches.He made $1.3 million (8,37,000) from just one game-Pakistan versus Australia in the controversial Sydney Test in January 2010. That is somewhat true but for so many Test players to be in on a betting racket and Majeed boasting that he fixes matches around the world means the rot in international cricket runs deep. He also claimed to be in constant touch with an Indian bookie. Cricketers past and present have reacted with shock and horror but not with any great surprise. “Given the shift of cricket’s power base to the east, given the way cricket is placed to offer betting opportunities and that the governing body is weak, it is no surprise to me,” said Michael Atherton, former England captain.The immediate fall-out was in Pakistan. “The incident has forced Pakistanis to hang their head in shame,” said Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. Adding sub-continental spice to the allegations has been the rivetting performance by Veena Malik-a Pakistani actor and former girlfriend of one of the players accused, Asif-who has turned a whistleblower.”This is a sad day for international cricket but make no mistake, we will not tolerate corruption in this great game. The ICC will investigate 82 Tests and ODIs for possible match fixing.”HAROON LORGAT, CEO, ICC She claimed that Asif had told her the Pakistani team would not win a single match on its Australian tour last year. “Asif told me he was offered $40,000 by an Indian bookie to underperform in Australia but he had demanded $2,00,000,” she said. The bookie is Delhi-based Dheeraj Dixit, a freelance photographer. Dixit has denied the allegations but he refused to speak to INDIA TODAY, claiming he had been advised by his lawyers. His sudden silence, and his well known friendship with leading cricketers across the world, have put a large question mark over his presence in London when the scandal broke.Allegations linking Pakistani cricketers to match fixing are nothing new but the video footage secretly filmed by the tabloid, brought the scandal into the homes of millions of cricket fans in Pakistan, already reeling from killer floods. Kamran Ahmed, a hospital employee, said it was unbelievable that the players had ignored the people’s attachment to them: cricket is one of the passions that unite Pakistan. The response from the government and politicians was as strong as that of the fans.advertisementHow the sting was plannedA ball by ball account of how the biggest scandal in international cricket was exposed by the News of the World tabloid.AUGUST 16: Posing as a Far-eastern syndicate, undercover reporters meet Mazhar Majeed at the Hilton in Park Lane. AUGUST 18: They meet at the Bombay Brasserie restaurant where Majeed boasts of fixing matches and how he and Pakistan players made money. Explains “spread betting”. Says Pakistan vs Australia Test at Sydneywas fixed and he made 1.3 million.AUGUST 19: He invites the reporter to join him and the players at a restaurant. He borrows a player’s jacket, and he and the reporter go and sit in a Mercedes. The reporter hands over 10,000 which he puts in the jacket pocket. Walks back to the players outside the restaurant, shows the money in the jacket. Fast bowler Wahab Riaz puts on the jacket.AUGUST 21: Majeed invites the reporter to his house in Croydon. Reveals how he launders match-fixing money through a football club he owns and claims he’s opened Swiss bank accounts for the players he “manages”. AUGUST 26: They meet at a hotel where the reporter hands over 1,40,000 in 140 bundles. Majeed counts the money and then reveals which balls would be no balls during the Lord’s Test. It happens as he predicted. This article appeared in the India Today magazine dated September 13, 2010. Subscribe to the print copy.Kamram Akmal (left) during the Sydney Test against Australia.Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the government would take the “toughest action” against anyone found involved in wrong-doing but cautioned that authorities were keen to ensure that the sting operation was not part of a “conspiracy” to defame the country. Sports Minister Ijaz Hussain Jakhrani pledged any player found involved in spot fixing would be given a lifetime ban. Interior Minister Malik directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to form a special three-member investigation team that would, if required, go to London to work with the Scotland Yard to probe the scandal.But Pakistani commentators and former players said the latest scandal had occurred only because the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB)-currently led by Ijaz Butt, considered close to President Asif Ali Zardari-had failed to act on earlier allegations of similar wrong-doing. Even in cases where it did take action, players were let off with a slap on the wrist.”It doesn’t leave a good impression about cricket and cricketers. It is something one would like to erase and make sure cricket heads in the right direction so that it helps cricket to grow across the globe.”SACHIN TENDULKAR, Cricketer Justice Malik Muhammad Qayyum, a retired judge who headed the inquiry that eventually banished Saleem Malik and Ata-ur-Rahman from the game and implicated a number of other Pakistani players in match fixing, has said a “soft corner” for Wasim Akram might had influenced him while handing the former Pakistan captain his punishment. Former cricketer Masood Aamir said the manager of the team must be taken to the task as he was responsible for maintaining discipline.”The manager shouldn’t have allowed players to have links with a controversial man like Majeed, who has been claiming he is the agent of several cricketers,” he said.PAY SCALES MATTERHere is what the top players in various countries get as retainership per annum. It excludes match fees, sponsorship money or money got through domestic events like the IPL.AUSTRALIA – Rs 2.9 crENGLAND – Rs 2.9 crSOUTH AFRICA – Rs 76 lakhINDIA – Rs 60 lakhWEST INDIES – Rs 56 lakhSRI LANKA – Rs 56 lakhPAKISTAN – Rs 16 lakhBANGLADESH – Rs 8.7 lakhSource: The Daily Mail Majeed, or Mr Fixer, has a 1.8-million home in Surrey and is a familiar face at cricket grounds around the world. He bragged to the tabloid that he managed no less than 10 players and handled all their contracts, sponsorship, marketing and even claimed to “work very closely with the PCB”. He also claimed that he had been involved in fixing matches for more than two years “and we’ve made masses and masses of money”. He revealed secret signals like changing gloves or tapping the ground with the bat to indicate that a fix was on.The money for spot fixing during a match he mentioned is shocking. He claimed to charge for “brackets” or short periods of play, as much as between 50,000 and 80,000 from bookies. Twenty20 was about 4,00,000. And for merely bowling a no ball, a person could earn 10,000 on each ball. For results of a fixed match, depending on who was playing, his earnings could go as high as 3,00,000 to 450,000.More ominously for the Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI), he told the tabloid, “You can speak to any bookie in India and they will tell you about this information and how much they’ll pay. If you had the information and they knew that it was coming from a right source they would pay you that kind of money.””Given the shift of cricket’s power base to the East, given the way cricket is placed to offer betting opportunities and that the governing body is weak, it is unlikely that an absolute end to corruption will come any time soon.”MIKE ATHERTON, Former England Captain This article appeared in the India Today magazine dated September 13, 2010. Subscribe to the print copy.The Indian connection apart, it is the larger ramifications that are worrying everyone connected to the game. “It doesn’t leave a good impression about cricket and cricketers. It is something one would like to erase,” says Sachin Tendulkar. Adds Australian captain Ricky Ponting, “The way we won the Sydney Test was one of the more satisfying moments that I’ve had on the cricket field. And now when some of these things came to light, you start to slightly doubt some of the things that have happened.”How Spot fixing is doneEarlier match fixing scandals revolved around individual players or entire teams underperforming and losing matches where the bookmaker’s odds ensured a hefty profit for illegal betting. The latest is spot bets on shorter periods of play. In bookmaker’s language, these periods are called ‘brackets’-events happening in a group of 10 overs. If players score well in the first three overs, punters would be likely to bet on that continuing for the next seven. But if the fixed players then deliberately stop scoring or slow down, anybody with advance knowledge can make a killing. The same happens with bowlers giving away runs or bowling no balls. A fixer like Majeed can prove invaluable to other betting syndicates who are involved in spread betting where wagers are staked on a range of possible outcomes. The players also have secret signals to let gambling clients know that the fix was on. In one case, as Majeed revealed, captain Salman Butt was to indicate he was going along with the scam by tapping the pitch midway with his bat during the over, as players do when flattening a bump. Majeed claimed that on results for brackets, he charges anything between 50,000 and 80,000 per bracket. For Twenty20, his rate was about 4,00,000. On just no balls, if someone knew in advance when it would be bowled, the better could earn up to 10,000 on each ball. During the second Test between Australia and Pakistan in Sydney last January, at the start of the final day Pakistan were in a dominant position but managed to lose dramatically. Majeed claimed the Sydney Test was fixed and based on the shock result in that match it seems he is not lying.Hall of InfamyThey allegedly succumbed to the fixing bug and were thrown out of the gameMOHAMMAD AZHARUDDIN, INDIABanned for life in 2000 for having links with bookiesAJAY JADEJA, INDIABanned for five years in 2000. Alleged to have links with bookies. Ban lifted in 2003.HANSIE CRONJE, SOUTH AFRICABanned for life in 2000. Found guilty of accepting money from bookmakers.HERSCHELLE GIBBS, SOUTH AFRICABanned for six months in 2000. Agreed to underperform in an ODI at Nagpur, but scrapped the deal.AJAY SHARMA, INDIABanned for life in 2000. Found guilty for associating with bookmakers.MAURICE ODUMBE, KENYABanned for five years in 2004. Alleged to have received money from bookmakers.MARLON SAMUELS, WEST INDIESBanned for two years in 2008. Received money, benefit and other rewards from bookmakers.MANOJ PRABHAKAR, INDIABanned for five years in 2000. Tried to implicate Kapil Dev but was later found guilty himself. In fact, investigations by Scotland Yard after the latest scandal broke have revealed that bookies and fixers have raked in profits running into at least 20 million just from Pakistan’s ongoing tour of England with the three players named having received close to 6 million. The ICC is investigating no less than 82 other Test matches and ODIs, including the match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka during the Asia Cup.Just how widespread is match fixing? Cases involving players from almost every country have surfaced over the last 10 years, but the sub-continent is clearly the hub. That cricket betting was institutionalised had been exposed in a series of scandals involving Indian bookies and players. Match fixing first came to light in the mid-1980s when Sharjah started hosting what was referred as the ‘benevolent fund series’ and gangster Dawood Ibrahim made his in Dubai in January 2003. Bookies work under their patronage from Mumbai and Dubai and hire go-betweens who contact players. Spot fixing was introduced to add bookie revenue so that every ball was being bet on.The CBI sources say the role of the administrators of the cricket needs to be investigated as well. “This rot begins from the top administrators. They are aware but do not do much about it.” So far, match fixing involving Indian players has tainted former skipper Mohammad Azharuddin who was given a life ban and Manoj Prabhakar, Ajay Jadeja and Ajay Sharma who were banned for five years.Indian bookies like Mukesh Gupta claimed to have many top players on his payroll. Stephen Fleming, former New Zealand captain, named sports promoter Aushim Khetarpal who had offered him 3,00,000 (Rs 2.3 crore) to join a betting syndicate. Shobhan Mehta, the big daddy of bookies in the country, was arrested in Gujarat in August this year. Maurice Odumbe, the captain of the Kenyan cricket team, admitted that he had made four trips to meet Mehta in Mumbai before the 2003 World Cup.The Hansie Cronje story exposed the depth of match fixing in 2000 when the Delhi Police tapped his phone and stumbled across the scam. Cronje later confessed to taking about $1,00,000 in bribes from gamblers since 1996. He was banned for life and the plane crash that killed him in 2002 was shrouded in mystery.The crux of the problem is that there has been a shift in cricket’s power base from countries like England and Australia to the subcontinent, where a majority of the bookies come from and where the money in the game has reached astronomical levels. Income Tax authorities in India say that an India vs Pakistan one-day international match will invite a betting business worth Rs 800 to 1,000 crore.The advent of cash-rich Twenty20 tournaments like the IPL has only led to a revival in bookie interest and corruption. One reason given for Pakistan player’s vulnerability to bribery is that they were not picked for the IPL’s last edition. Such tournaments are independent of official cricketing scrutiny by the ICC’s anti-corruption unit. An added factor is the change in betting patterns, with spot fixing taking over and being more difficult to uncover. There is also the ICC’s soft approach to allegations of corruption or match fixing and some countries like Pakistan which make a mockery of players’ bans-Shahid Afridi was reinstated as captain four days after been given a six-month ban for ball tampering.The latest scandal will, hopefully, force the ICC’s hand and encourage stricter controls on players and suspected bookies. That may just prove a blessing in disguise and save international cricket from the clutches of crooks and scamsters.with Mihir Srivastava(Aditi Khanna and Tahir Khan reported from London and Karachi respectively)This article appeared in the India Today magazine dated September 13, 2010. Subscribe to the print copy.