Cricket Corruption

Explainer: The new spot-fixing scandal that threatens to disrupt the Pakistan Super League

Three Pakistani players have been provisionally suspended as part of an ongoing investigation.

The stench just does not go away, does it?

The cricket world was still coming to terms with Mohammad Amir’s rehabilitation from the spot-fixing shadows when an ugly blast from the past raked up old affairs. Just a day after the first match of the second edition of the much-anticipated Pakistan Super League took place, the news broke that two Pakistani players Sharjeel Khan and Khaled Latif had been suspended as part of an investigation into an organisation attempting to “corrupt” the PSL.

The two players have provisionally been suspended and sent back to Pakistan. But there have been more developments and more arrests. Here is a play-by-play account of what has gone down so far:

The beginning

On February 10, the Pakistan Cricket Board announced that that Khan and Latif have been provisionally suspended under its Anti-Corruption Code as “part of an ongoing investigation into an international syndicate which is believed to be attempting to corrupt the Pakistan Super League which started in Dubai yesterday.”

Najam Sethi, the chairman of the PSL also said in the statement that “We will not tolerate any form of corrupt activity and as this investigation proceeds we will not hesitate to take further decisive action as appropriate.” Khan and Latif were sent back to Pakistan from the United Arab Emirates where the tournament was taking place.

Khalid Latif (left) and Sharjeel Khan (right) batting together during a Twenty20 International match against West Indies in September 2016. Image credit: Karim Sahib / AFP
Khalid Latif (left) and Sharjeel Khan (right) batting together during a Twenty20 International match against West Indies in September 2016. Image credit: Karim Sahib / AFP

‘Gone through hell’

There were reports of more players being involved. In a series of tweets on Saturday, Sethi clarified that fast bowler Mohammad Irfan, left-arm spinner Zulfiqar Babar and batsman Shahzaib Hasan had all been questioned in relation to the investigation but were free to play in the tournament.

Dean Jones, the coach of Islamabad United where both the suspended players belonged, said that his team had been “through hell”. However, he thanked the PCB and noted that he thought that they had done a good job of managing the situation. Khan had played the first match and scored one off four balls and had also taken a catch. Irfan, who also plays for Islamabad, took 2/27 in his four overs while Latif did not play the match.

Reactions started pouring in. Former Pakistan paceman Sarfraz Nawaz blamed the PCB for the scandal, opining that the incident happened because “the PCB loves to keep tainted players around”. Former Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara, who captains PSL team Karachi Kings, called the incident “unfortunate”. Imran Khan, the 1992 World Cup-winning captain and a prominent Pakistani politician, slammed Najam Sethi for the incident.

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‘They were caught red-handed’

Later on Tuesday, Sethi confirmed that the two players were sent back only after they had been caught red-handed making commitments to the spot-fixers. Sethi disclosed, “We knew what commitments they had made. Islamabad United played Sharjeel but not Khalid. But when the match was held it was confirmed Sharjeel had done what he had committed to do to the bookmakers”

Another front opened in the entire saga on the same day after Pakistani opener Nasir Jamshed became the third player to be provisionally suspended by the PCB. Earlier in the day, he, along with another man, was arrested by the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency as part of an investigation into international cricket match spot-fixing. Both the accused got bail till April 2017.

What is next? The PCB will continue their investigation and more names are more likely to come up. Considering that the UK’s National Crime Agency has also been involved, it seems that this is likely to be a scandal which resonates across the cricketing world.

The incident is also likely to raise more questions about the best way to deal with spot-fixers. Former Pakistan captain Ramiz Raja has already said that “no lessons were learnt from the Amir saga”. Without mentioning Amir, Shahid Afridi also urged the PCB to make an “example” out of the involved players.

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