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Corruption Allegations Snare Pakistani Cricket Stars


The International Cricket Council is promising "prompt and decisive action" if allegations of spot-fixing or manipulating by Pakistan players prove to be true.

Neither the ICC nor the Pakistan Cricket Board have suspended the players involved in the allegedly deliberate bowling of "no-balls" during the final test of a four-match series against England that ended Sunday in London. An umpire calls a "no-ball" generally in the case of an illegal delivery by the bowler.

But the ICC said its Anti-Corruption and Security Unit is investigating newspaper allegations that fixing is endemic in Pakistan matches, up to and including its current tour of England.

Newspaper sting


The scandal broke when Britain's News of the World newspaper reported that it had videotaped its reporters, posing as representatives of a gambling cartel, paying sports agent Mazhar Majeed $230,000 for advance details of three Pakistan no-balls last week as part of a sting. Records show Pakistani bowlers Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif delivered three deliberate "no-balls" during the match.

British police released Majeed on bail Monday without charge, after arresting him on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud bookmakers. Amir, Asif and team captain Salman Butt were also questioned by police late Saturday. Authorities say police have confiscated the men's mobile phones.

Andrew Miller, the UK editor of ESPN's cricket Website, Cricinfo.com, said there is substantial evidence to support allegations of spot-fixing. He said the questionable plays were exactly what Majeed offered during the recorded sting.

"Generally speaking, you land exactly where you want to every time because you're an international cricketer, you're that good," Miller explained. "For these two delivers that are called into question, when it came to it, he [Amir] overstepped his mark by half a meter, and you just don't do that."

Rising Star


Amir is an 18-year-old Cricket superstar who, until the scandal broke, was believed to have had a bright future in the sport. If seen to be corrupt, Amir, for whom cricket was a way out of a life of poverty, could lose his right to play professionally ever again.

"The biggest sadness about this whole episode is his involvement," said Miller. "He is one of the best bowlers that anyone has ever seen of that age. He has the potential without a shadow of a doubt to become one of the greatest bowlers of all time."

The corruption allegations are the second to face the Pakistani Cricket team this year, and drew criticism from the country's leaders. Both President Asif Ali Zadari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani have expressed their disappointment in the scandal.

Financial pressure


Miller pointed out that there are greater financial pressures on Pakistani players than those from the West. Player salaries are good by Pakistan standards, but he noted that the players often have to support large families.

"If you've got one guy who's a superstar such as Amir, that money that he earns is going to be spread across his family in a way that you wouldn't possibly get in a Western society," Miller said.

Asian gambling


Gambling has a massive market in Asia, and cricket holds a top spot in the illegal betting industry.

"There's such a massive interest in cricket in Asia - in India, in particular, and Pakistan, Bangladesh. All these countries that are obsessed and have huge populations and a lot of people with a lot of money at the top end who are willing to put big stakes on small portions of the games," Miller said.

He said the Internet has fueled illegal betting because it has allowed small parts of a game to be quickly fixed.

"In the old days, it used to be the case that to fix a game, to fix the results to benefit the bookies, you'd have to basically buy the whole match or vast portions of the match," Miller said, adding that things are different now.

"Basically, in the middle of a game, you can decide that you want to throw the next five or 10 deliveries. It's a very different, very minute type of fixing that goes on these days."

Despite the allegations of corruption, the fourth day of the match went ahead Sunday, and England's win gave it the four-test series, 3-1. If the allegations are proven, the accused could face jail-time in Britain. The country introduced new stipulations in their gambling laws in 2005 making it a criminal offense to try to cheat for a sports game.

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