Saturday, 8 June 2013

ICC failed to spot the fixing?

By Muhammad Asif Khan

No society in the world is absolutely free of crimes and similarly no business in a society is entirely corruption-free however the custodians do put in place reasonable measures to curb the wrongdoing as much as possible.

Ronnie Flanagan - chairman, Anti-Corruption & Security Unit.
Mainly two aspects are important to put a lid – somehow – on the malpractices in any system. (A) Strict check and balance mechanism (B) Stern punishments.

So it would be safe to say that like other systems – where corruption exists – the game of Cricket, which is indeed not free from wrongdoings, could also be safeguarded to a larger extent with effective measures and here also, the custodian – the International Cricket Council (ICC) – claims to have put in place a formidable mechanism to counter the malpractice then where have we gone wrong?

The flurry of corruption stories in Cricket is narrating a different account altogether. The ICC will probably not admit it but the frequent emergence of the corrupt practice is indicative of the fact that the system to safeguard the game of cricket was not up to the mark.

The two counter measures mentioned above needed to elaborate further.

(A) Strict check and balance mechanism:
Keeping an eye on any affair starts from the education of the relevant individuals, here the ICC seems up to the standard as they have provided all the necessary material to the players and officials. Theoretically, all are aware of the crime but what difference does it make? This literature is like the penal codes present in various countries but still crimes are being committed everywhere.

So, if education doesn’t work alone then move on to the next step of vigilance. In this scenario the ICC, with the help of its Anti-corruption and security unit (ACSU), strives to keep an avid eye, however the ACSU has hardly unearthed any kind of fixing in a cricket match thus far. This service was either done by the Police or by a media organisation through sting operations.

Does it mean that the ACSU has failed completely? This can’t be said with certainty. They might have busted a number of such bids but I have no knowledge of it.

I have been told that they do gather information from legal betting houses to evaluate the betting trends and irregular fluctuations but again betting is not legal in most of the cricket playing countries, so this effort is not entirely worth it.

The option left for the ACSU is to keep a watchful eye on the players and their movements because in the absence of a mandate they can’t review the bank accounts of the players neither they can tap phone calls or monitor emails etc.

At the end of the day, the ACSU is left with their experts to monitor the game and try to pick any irregularity in a particular match. Here comes their weakness, since they are neither cricketers nor are familiar with the technicalities of the game hence a deliberate effort on the field can go unnoticed. What will the ACSU do if a bowler, after setting an on-side field, throws the ball on the off-side?

With the frequent emergence of the wrongdoings, the ICC needs to strengthen it’s anti-corruption unit. Apart from providing them with more powers, the inclusion of technocrats in the ACSU could serve the purpose in a better manner.

(B) Stern punishments:
After investigations the phase of handing out the punishments needs to be looked at as well. Whenever such unpleasant event occurs the axe always falls on the players and that’s it. For instance, the Pakistani trio – Asif, Salman and Amir – were penalised and the chapter was closed. Similarly, the runaway wicket-keeper, Zulqarnain Hyder was also dumped. He might be lying all the way, but where were the investigation? The ICC or the home-board must have carried out a probe but nothing has come to the fore as yet. After every inquiry only a player is seen as the sole culprit, it is about time that the associates within, should also be taken to task.

Danish Kaneria, is also in the news for all the wrong reasons, he recently uttered a name from within the Cricket board set-up and claimed that he was introduced to the alleged bookie by a team official during a tour to the West Indies but again ‘all is well’ in the house and no-one is bothered.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) claims to have put in place a foolproof mechanism to stop the recurrence of unpleasant events but again the entire focus is on the players. Have the other staff members been given the same warnings etc?

In the notorious 2010 spot-fixing episode or the fleeing of Zulqarnain Hyder nobody other than the players were questioned. If someone succeeded in escaping then it was the failure of the managers too. Why the player preferred escaping rather than informing the team official is also a question to be reviewed. It shows the lack of trust in the team management for sure.

Coming back to the penalties and the powers, the cricket boards or the ICC has in this regard? Again the answer is unsatisfactory and the reason is simple. There is no such legislation in the penal codes of majority of the cricket playing nations.

In England the Pakistani trio was jailed because there is a law there to safeguard the rights of the legal bookmakers. In Pakistan, India, Bangladesh or elsewhere there is no such law available to sentence the perpetrators of a fraudulent act. I am not advocating legal betting, but laws, in the name of cheating on the cricket field, should be framed to make the penalties worth.

The ICC member boards can work with respective legislators to form such laws to put some sort of fear in the players’ mind. Otherwise everyone knows that they would get away with a maximum penalty in the form of a life-ban or a hefty fine, but on the other hand, they would earn a lot of money too in quick time. This huge amount of lust must be canceled out with fearsome consequences. 

In the end, with the fear that the malpractices in the game of Cricket will not probably end, I wish and pray that just and substantial actions will be seen in the future.

The writer is a Pakistani sports journalist, heads the sports department at News One TV & tweets @mak_asif 

Monday, 20 May 2013

Tauqeer Zia calls for ad-hoc on PCB

Muhammad Asif Khan

Ad-hoc on PCB 'need of hour' - Zia
: At the time when the incumbent management of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is celebrating the democratic transition a few former and current players and administrators casting doubts on the mechanism adopted by the PCB. The latest to join the bandwagon is the former chairman of the PCB, Lieutenant General Tauqeer Zia (R), who demands the imposition of ad-hoc on PCB. “If the country is run under an interim setup then why can’t the PCB? Ad-hoc for at least three months is the need of the hour to fix issues”, said Tauqeer Zia while talking to this correspondent for News One TV.

“The recent election for the chairman [Zaka Ashraf] was also unconstitutional as major associations did not participate in the voting process”, added Tauqeer Zia, who headed the PCB in the early years of 2000.

Pakistan Cricket Board, earlier this month, held it’s first ever elections after which Zaka Ashraf took the reigns of the PCB as it’s first elected Chairman for the period of four years.

However, his [Zaka Ashraf] appointment was challenged by former captain Rashid Latif at the Sindh High Court and by the heads of the regional cricket associations of Faisalabad and Sialkot at the Lahore High Court.

Meanwhile, on Monday, The Lahore High Court allowed ad-hoc regional committees appointed by PCB to work till the election of regional cricket associations of Lahore, Sialkot and Faisalabad.

Legal adviser of the PCB, Tafazzul Rizvi said the PCB wanted to hold elections as per the constitution and it appointed ad-hoc committees for the purpose.

Tauqeer Zia also spoke about the recent spot-fixing scandal in the Indian Premier League (IPL), saying that the BCCI was striving to reach at the bottom of the event. He added, however, that the International Cricket Council (ICC) should play more active part in curbing the malpractice in Cricket.

On a question, the former chairman paid tribute to the incumbent PCB management for its efforts against corruption in the game. “PCB has put in place a mechanism, in an effort to tighten the screws on corrupt practices, which is appreciable. The policy of zero-tolerance will work well”, hopes Tauqeer Zia.

The writer is a Pakistani sports journalist, heads the sports department at News One TV & Tweets @mak_asif

Saturday, 18 May 2013

PCB has come a long way after 2010 incident – Zaka Ashraf

Muhammad Asif Khan

Zaka Ashraf - The newly elected chairman of the PCB
KARACHI: The 2010 event in England indeed rocked the very foundation of the Pakistan Cricket structure however the incumbent chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is confident to have placed a concrete mechanism to avoid the recurrence of such disgraceful incidents. “We [Pakistan Cricket Board] have framed a formidable code of conduct along with a strict vigilance mechanism to keep an attentive check on such matters”, said Zaka Ashraf while talking to this correspondent for News One TV.

Former Pakistan captain Salman Butt, fast bowlers Muhammad Asif and Muhammad Amir were jailed in London, while the ICC suspended the trio for their involvement in the spot-fixing scandal in 2010.
“The PCB has a separate anti-corruption code and all measures are also mentioned in the players’ central contracts”, added Zaka Ashraf

The chairman further said that before embarking on a trip to the England, to take part in the Champions trophy, the players were thoroughly briefed about all the aspects, however added that the policy of the PCB was firmly based on ‘zero tolerance’ in this regard.

Pakistan is touring England for the first time after the 2010 episode and this is worth mentioning here that to shield players from uncalled-for approaches, the PCB had deployed security & vigilance officers to monitor players’ activities.

On a question regarding the recent election in the Cricket Board, the PCB chairman while terming it legitimate, vowed to face whatever legal challenge comes his way. “Court cases are there but I am confident because the process of my appointment was in line with the PCB constitution.” said Zaka Ashraf, who earlier this month, was elected as the chairman of the PCB for four years.

“The process was carried out in a transparent manner and through election as prescribed by the PCB constitution”, concludes Zaka Ashraf

The election of Zaka Ashraf was challenged in the Sindh and Lahore High Courts a day after the PCB announced him as the first elected head of the board.

In Karachi Pakistan's former captain, Rashid Latif filed a petition through his lawyer at the Sindh High Court challenging Zaka Ashraf's election and the new constitution of the PCB, while the heads of the regional cricket associations of Faisalabad and Sialkot filed a similar petition in the Lahore High Court.
The writer is a Pakistani sports journalist, heads the sports department at News One TV & tweets @mak_asif

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Basit Ali urges PCB to form think tank

By Muhammad Asif Khan

KARACHI: At the time when the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is trying to put it’s house in order with the introduction of a newly amended constitution, former test cricketer Basit Ali urged the PCB chairman to constitute a think tank for the betterment of Cricket in the country. “PCB should form a think tank consist of Javed Miandad, Wasim Akram, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Rashid Latif and Intikhab Alam. I guarantee that country’s Cricket would get better with their valuable contributions”, said Basit Ali, while talking to this correspondent for News One TV.

“PCB Chairman [Zaka Ashraf] has been sincere in his efforts, other departments should also put their differences behind for the sake of Pakistan Cricket”, added Basit Ali

The former test batsman, while spoke very highly about former skipper Rashid Latif, said that the former gloveman was not only qualified but also willing to serve Pakistan. “Rashid is a fitting person to take charge of PCB academies at all levels, the chairman should give it a serious thought”, suggests Basit Ali

Basit Ali, who is currently working with Pakistan’s women cricketers, further said that Pakistan was being through an isolation period due to the March 2009 attack on the visiting team and with the inclusion of internationally respected individuals, the PCB could build it’s case in a better manner. “People like Miandad and Wasim Akram command immense respect around the world. They can use their influence on foreign players and convince them to tour Pakistan”, said Basit Ali.

The writer is a Pakistani sports journalist, heads the sports department at News One TV & tweets @mak_asif

Monday, 29 April 2013

In talks with ECB for bowlers’ exchange programme: Zaka Ashraf

Muhammad Asif Khan

KARACHI: The chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), Zaka Ashraf has been taking numerous steps for the betterment of Pakistan cricket and in this regard, chalking out an exchange programme with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is one of the major strides in the future. “We are in talks with the ECB to finalise an exchange programme under which our fast bowlers will tour England, while young English spinners will come to Pakistan”, said Zaka Ashraf while talking to this correspondent for News One TV.

“Five or six young fast bowlers will be sent to the academies in England, and similarly their spinners will come here to get trained. This exchange will help both the countries”, hoped Zaka Ashraf, who took over as the PCB chairman in October 2011.

On a question, the chairman made it clear that whenever the PCB deals with another ICC member board, the interest of Pakistan cricket is kept supreme. “Nobody should take Pakistan for granted. We deal with everyone – including the BCCI – on a single agenda of benefiting the Pakistan cricket.” said Zaka Ashraf

“India has a huge economic market hence the cricketing world keeps strong ties with the BCCI. Pakistan is doing the same by keeping its own interest intact”

“India has also been very supportive, however we will do whatever it takes to benefit Pakistan Cricket the most”, concludes the PCB chairman.

The writer is a Pakistani sports journalist, heads the sports department at News One TV & tweets @mak_asif

Friday, 19 April 2013

With grants, Afghanistan need exposure too: Rashid Latif

By Muhammad Asif Khan

KARACHI: Former Head coach of the Afghanistan national Cricket team, Rashid Latif, while welcoming the recent grant announcement, urged the International Cricket Council (ICC) to create an opportunity for frequent international fixtures for the ‘passionate’ Afghan team as well. “Along with funds, they [Afghan cricketers] also need support to excel at the international level. The ICC should arrange international tours for the team”, said Latif while talking to this correspondent for News One TV.

“Afghan team is a bunch of passionate cricketers, who can be very good at test level too if provided with appropriate support”, added Latif

Earlier this week, the ICC allocated US$ 422,000 for Afghanistan, from the ICC's Targeted Assistance and Performance Programme (TAPP), which is aimed at developing more competitive teams among Full Members and Associate/Affiliate Members.

As per the ICC press release, this funding for the ACB was for the development of the National Cricket Academy in Kabul and is subject to the fulfilment of certain conditions.

Rashid Latif, while recalling his experience in the war-ravaged country, said that during his stint as coach he was highly impressed with the talent and enthusiasm for Cricket in Afghanistan.

“I was eyeing a Test status for them in two years time, and I still believe it’s not very far from reality. The more exposure they will get, the more confident they will become”, said Latif

“Matches against county teams as well with test playing nations will enhance their skills as well as confidence”, concludes Rashid Latif. 

The writer is a Pakistani sports journalist, heads the sports department at News One TV & tweets @mak_asif

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

What is next for Asif and Butt?

Muhammad Asif Khan

After the International Cricket Council (ICC), independent anti-corruption tribunal and the London court, the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) also upheld the penalties imposed by the ICC on Pakistani crickets Muhammad Asif and Salman Butt.

After ICC’s suspensions, during the January 2011 hearing in Doha, an independent anti-corruption tribunal handed Salman Butt and Muhammad Asif 10 and 7 years bans respectively, out of which five years were suspended on condition that, throughout that period, both would not commit any further breach of the code and would participate in anti-corruption education programmes.

Later in November 2011, Salman Butt along with Muhammad Amir – banned for five years - failed to reduce their sentences after the lord chief justice rejected their appeals, telling their legal teams that the pair had been guilty of "criminal conduct of a very serious kind".

The interesting aspect, during the hearing, was the statement of Salman Butt’s lawyer, Ali Bajwa who argued that Salman Butt's sentence was "out of proportion to the seriousness of the offence that was committed". For the first time Bajwa admitted that Butt had been involved in arranging the no-balls – something that emerged neither in the trial nor in his mitigation-plea hearing – and that this was a criminal offence, but he claimed that spot fixing of individual events was at the "lower end of the scale" of such offences, with result fixing the gravest. Bajwa described Butt as a broken man in a state of "ruin and disgrace".

Then comes the latest CAS appeal hearing where Asif challenged the suspension by the ICC tribunal but on the other hand Salman Butt only requested that the sanction be reduced to less than five years. Why Salman only sough reduction? Doesn’t it mean he accepted the charge against him? Of course, because prior to him, his lawyer admitted that as well (as mentioned above)

Now Salman Butt is eyeing a return after serving the 5-year period out of which he had already served little over 30 months, but it is not that simple.

Both Salman Butt and Muhammad Asif have to complete the five-year period first and then as per the article 6.7 of the ICC Anti-corruption code, both have to go through a procedure to earn eligibility to hit a cricket ground again.

The article 6.7 of the ICC Anti-corruption code states that once the period of ineligibility – five years - has expired they (Asif & Butt) will automatically become re-eligible to play provided that they had

·        Completed an official anti-corruption education session to the reasonable satisfaction of the ACSU.

·        Satisfied, in full, any fine and/or award of costs made against them by any Anti-Corruption Tribunal or CAS panel

·        Agreed to subject them to such additional reasonable and proportionate monitoring procedures and requirements as the ACSU's General Manager may reasonably consider necessary given the nature and scope of the offence committed.

Now the scenario is pretty clear, unless Salman Butt and Muhammad Asif fulfill the above mentioned pre-requisites their return does not seem possible.

The writer is a Pakistani sports journalist, heads the sports department at News One TV & tweets @mak_asif