Who would bet on Ireland to beat Pakistan? Well, a good friend in Islamad tells us that some people did and not on Pakistan 8-1 against ( a source not a million miles from fast-bowler Sarfraz Nawaz claims that SA resident , coach Bob Woolmer had been murdered as part of a match-fixing plot). No wonder there is suspicion by the Jamaican Police about the unexpected death of an apprehensive cricket coach. "Did Bob know too much about the Bookies?" is the headline today in the Times of India today. (pic Bob with Hansie Cronje in happier times)
A former Pakistan Cricket Board official recently revealed that the deceased coach's forthcoming book, ‘Discovering Cricket’ may have exposed the cricketer-bookie nexus in Pakistan, India, and South Africa which has been known to exist for a long time and would cover and disclose fresh details about the Hansie Cronje match-fixing row. Bob was of course the coach of the South African team touring India at the time it all blew up. Hansie Cronje and Bob Woolmer were almost inseparable during Bob's stint as South African coach during the mid-1990s and always said he couldn't believe that Hans would have fixed matches.
'I believed that Cronje never fixed any match’ is the headline of a story in the Times online today with extracts from his forthcoming book ... even though Hansie admitted he had been dishonest to Ali Bacher, managing director of the United Cricket Board of South Africa. Mohammad Azharuddin introduced him to the match-fixer M. K. Gupta on South Africa's previous tour of India, in 1996, Cronje then got under the spell of Sanjeev Chawla. Cronje unsuccessfully approached Pieter Strydom to underperform - he didn't strike lucky even before the Second Test when he asked Mark Boucher, Jacques Kallis and Klusener if they were interested in throwing the game for money. They put it down as another of Hansie's practical jokes. In the final one-day game at Nagpur that he struck lucky, getting Herschelle Gibbs and Henry Williams to play to plan for $US15,000 apiece. Gibbs was supposed to be out for less than 20 and Williams to concede more than 50.
It emerged that he told Chawla he needed $US25,000 for each player, so guaranteeing himself a $US20,000 cut, Cronje's greed was compliant with his guilt.
Granted immunity from prosecution, Cronje told the King Commission he took US$140,000 from bookmakers, including $US110,000 from Gupta for information on team selection, daily forecasts and when he would declare against India at Cape Town in January 1997 but denied ever fixing the actual result of a match. He also admitted telling the South African team, before the Mohinder Amarnath benefit game at Mumbai in December 1996, that there was $US200,000 (some sources said $250,000) on the table if they played badly. The team actually debated whether to accept the money before rejecting it; no one reported the matter to the authorities. Some of them were said to believe that the offer of a bribe reflected South Africa's coming of age in international cricket.
Cronje met Chawla in Durban and left his hotel room with some $US15,000 tucked in a mobile-phone container. That sealed his fate. Justice King didn't believe believed they had ben told the full story, but enough was known for Cronje to receive a life ban from all cricketing activities. Cronje was later banned for life and eventually died in a plane crash (aged 32) in South Africa on June 1st 2002 when a light plane with three people crashed in the Outeniqua Mountains in bad weather, near his home town of George in the Western Cape.
Apparently the book has details directly from a meeting on April 18th 2005 with the Delhi Police Commissioner KK Paul who was the a deputy commissioner of the Delhi police, who had taped South African captain Hansie Cronje's telephone conversation with a bookie (Sanjeev Chawla) seeking to allegedly "fix" a One-day International during that series.
Historically Pakistani cricketers are known to have had contacts with match bookies and an involvement with match-fixing scandals in the past. Some of these cricketers even had to pay for their links with bookies.
Pakistan's former captain Saleem Malik,Wisden Cricketer of the Year 1988, (pic above) who played for Essex, was the 1st cricket player to be banned from all cricket for match-fixing, when an enquiry in 2000 under Justice Malik Mohammad Qayyum found him guilty of trying to bribe Shane Warne and Mark Waugh and Tim May to lose the Karachi Test of 1994-95 (they testified he did) . Australia lost the Test by one wicket. "Saleem Malik was one of the favourite players," the Judge said, "and if I wasn't 100% sure, I wouldn't have punished him.
Paradoxically although not finding them guilty several players also had to pay substantial fines ....Mushtaq Ahmad, Waqar Younis, Inzamam-ul-Haq (currently , well today at least the captain) Akram Raza, and Saeed Anwar .The Judge also cast suspicion over Wasim Akram (and fined him) ..
"This commission feels that all is not well here and that Wasim Akram is not above board. He has not co-operated with this Commission. It is only by giving Wasim Akram the benefit of the doubt after Ata-ur-Rehman changed his testimony in suspicious circumstances that he has not been found guilty of match-fixing. He cannot be said to be above suspicion."
Ata-ur-Rehman 31 when suspended and now 43 (see pic) , the star pace bowler was also banned for life for being involved in match-fixing but was later allowed back into the fold by the ICC to return to the game in May 2007.
The Accountability Board at the time compiled a list of bookies and made public their names. These included Pappu, Haneef Caddie, Zafar alias Jo Jo, Saleem alias Koki, Chaudhry Khalid, and Mian Kok all men of the highest distinction and probity.
Pakistani lost to Bangladesh during the 1999 World Cup amidst cries of match fixing but nothing substantial was ever proved.
In the latest instance, the Pakistan-Ireland game at the 2007 World Cup has also raised many eyebrows.
Meanwhile Khwaja Arif Pappu (Tariq Aziz, President Pervez Musharraf’s aide is a big pal where they are often seen together at Lahore Race Club where Aziz is President on a Sunday), from Lahore, a man never far from the centre of the storm over Pakistani cricket and match fixing is enjoying the West Indian sunshine. There is no (or well, very little, if any, possibly) truth that he has any connection with with gangster Dawood Ibrahim.
Pappu is a much misunderstood man and was an income-tax officer when Aziz served in the country’s Central Board of Revenue. He was later dismissed (totally unreasonably ) for corruption.... mishandling paper-clips etc.,
Pappu is also said to have close contacts with South Africa.
In a bizarre news item it is said that crowds chanted on Sunday, outside Pakistani captain Inzamamul Haque’s Multan residence and chanted slogans of "Death to Woolmer, Death to Inzamam". The crowds also burnt effigies of the coach and pictures of the captain and demanded that Woolmer and captain Inzamam ul-Haq be arrested on their return to the country
"Inzi" was of course cleared of ball tampering in the Pak v England Test - August 17-21, 2006 at the Oval.
There are some very interesting details that could come out of this story ... but don't bet on it.
UPDATE Thursday 3.00 pm GMT
Rohan Powell of Jamaica Radio says the Police will report Bob Woolmer was killed by strangulation - refuses to give sources. His wife Gill doesn't rule out murder.
UPDATE 20:00 GMT Channel 4 say they have been told that a murder enquiry is to start and the POlice are to make an announcement @ approx midnight GMT. A Florida based pathologist claims (or is reported to claim) that Bob Woolmer's neck was broken and he was bruised.
Bob W's wife Gill, now living in South Africa was interviewed on CHannle 4 and said murder could not be ruled out.. and seemed remarkably relaxed about the possibility.
UPDATE Midnight - Jamaican police looking for a murderer or murderers - Police statement in full here . Everyone saying what a great guy Bob was, but he just happened to spend a lot of time with folks who swung cricket matches.
Watch this space