Thursday, 21 October 2021

Top international cricketers ‘involved’ in spot-fixing

LONDON: Aneel Munawar, an alleged match-fixer on ICC’s radar, is said to have been involved in 26 spot-fixing instances in six Tests, six ODIs and three World T20 matches between 2011-12, according to Al Jazeera’s investigative documentary released on Sunday (October 21).

Titled ‘Cricket’s Match Fixers: The Munawar Files’, the documentary claims fixed passages of play in seven matches by England players, five matches by Australia players, three matches by Pakistan players, and in one match by players from another country.

The high-profile matches under the scanner this time include the 2011 Lord’s Test between England and India and the 2011 Cape Town Test between South Africa and Australia, along with five matches in the 2011 World Cup and three in the 2012 World T20 in Sri Lanka. The documentary also pointed out at successful spot-fixing in each of the three England-Pakistan Tests in 2012 in the UAE.

The documentary pivots around the pictures and recordings – ‘The Munawar Files’ that Al Jazeera’s investigative unit claims to have obtained. The files include recordings of calls made by Munawar to Dinesh Khambat, a subordinate to Dinesh Kalgi who was a serial bookmaker based out of Ahmedabad before he died in 2014. Details of at least three fixes during the 2012 World T20 held in Sri Lanka were provided by Munawar to Kalgi, which included the England-Afghanistan match.

The documentary also revealed a phone call made by Munawar to an unnamed England player just before the start of the 2011 World Cup. He is heard telling the player: “Congratulations for the Ashes. The last payment is ready for going in the account. You will be credited in a week.” The player is heard saying “lovely” in reply, although the audio was distorted to conceal the identity of the player. Al Jazeera claims to have approached the said player, who claimed that the conversation didn’t take place and that the call recording was “fabricated”.

The documentary also revealed pictures of Umar Akmal meeting a ‘D-Company’ associate in the hotel lobby on the night of the fix in the third Pakistan-England Test in Dubai. Akmal and the ‘D-Company’ associate are then photographed with a second man in the hotel lobby, with whom Akmal shakes hands and is seen inspecting a bag. The photographs, however, do not show Akmal leaving the lobby with the bag.

Akmal, in June this year, was summoned by Pakistan Cricket Board’s anti corruption unit after he made claims that he was approached to fix matches in the Hong Kong Super Sixes, Pakistan’s series against South Africa in the UAE, and the 2015 World Cup. Akmal had said that he was first approached during his second stint in Hong Kong, and was offered as much as USD 200,000 to play two dot balls. He also reported being approached for Pakistan’s group game against India in the 2015 World Cup in one of many approaches before matches against India.

The documentary claims that Munawar successfully predicted 25 out of 26 outcomes; in the one he couldn’t, Munawar missed the mark by a solitary run.

Munawar, who had been identified as a prominent match-fixer in Al Jazeera’s first documentary ‘Cricket’s Match-Fixers’ that aired in May this year, is supposedly a member of the “D-Company” controlled by Dawood Ibrahim. He had informed an undercover reporter of impending fixes in the India-England Test that took place in Chennai in December 2016 as well as the India-Australia Test in Ranchi in March 2017, claiming that three England players and two Australian players were allegedly involved in spot-fixing activities.

In this second documentary, which focuses on Munawar’s involvement in fixing-related activities, he is identified by several people as being an important member who looks after the betting syndicate of the ‘D-Company’. Sonu Jalan, a bookie arrested in Mumbai earlier this year, is said to have identified Munawar and his connections with the ‘D-Company’. The ICC, towards the end of August 2018, had launched an appeal to identify Munawar while claiming that it had identified every other person in the first documentary and spoken to several of them in connection to match-fixing.

However, Al Jazeera dismissed that by stating the ICC had known about Munawar for eight years and “yet, the ICC issued a global appeal to find Munawar only after Al Jazeera informed them it was preparing this documentary.”

“They keep banging on about this (providing them raw, unedited footage) and we keep saying no reputable broadcasting organisation hands over footage because there is a risk of criminal investigation that could mean that the programme wouldn’t even be aired. The second issue is that we, and many other people, have serious concerns about the ICC’s ability to govern the game.

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