Cricket star admits he <u>was</u> married

Shaoib Malik's wedding to Sania Mirza still on after he comes clean about first wife
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A bizarre and increasingly sordid saga that has gripped much of South Asia took another unexpected turn yesterday when a Pakistani cricketer poised to marry an Indian tennis star admitted he was, after all, married to another Indian woman.

In the latest instalment of a narrative probably beyond the imagination of most soap opera writers, the Pakistani all-rounder Shoaib Malik made a dramatic about-turn from previous denials and conceded he was married to Ayesha Siddique, as she claimed, after she alleged she had clothing that bore traces of the cricketer's DNA.

He formally divorced her and reportedly agreed to pay maintenance of 15,000 rupees (£220), according to sharia law. "Justice has been done," Ms Siddique's mother, Farisa, told reporters in Hyderabad. "Malik has come clean and I'm very happy and relieved that finally he gave a divorce. My daughter is relieved and happy to have got justice."

Malik, 27, a former captain of the Pakistan national side, had travelled to Hyderabad last week to finalise the arrangements for his marriage to the Indian tennis star Sania Mirza, 23, whose family also lives in the southern Indian city. There had been much celebration in Pakistan and India after it was announced the couple were to tie the knot and live in Dubai.

But things quickly turned sour after Ms Siddique, who like Malik and Mirza is a Muslim, claimed she had wed the cricketer in 2002 and that they were still officially man and wife. He dismissed her claims, saying they had merely met on the internet and had never wed. Things got grubbier as Ms Siddique made a formal complaint to police and claimed she had become pregnant by the cricketer only to suffer a miscarriage, and that he forced her to have weight-loss surgery. When that failed, he quickly lost interest. Officers took away Malik's passport and alerted all airports that he was not permitted to leave India.

By this point, Malik was rapidly emerging as nothing less than a Pakistani cad in the eyes of India's media. The negative publicity the case was receiving threatened to scupper his marriage to Mirza, scheduled for next Thursday. It appears that both women's families appealed to him to do the decent thing.

But if there was still a need for a further prod for Malik to come clean, it came in the Clintonesque allegations of a "smoking gun". Bringing to mind Monica Lewinsky's stained blue dress, Ms Siddique's family revealed that she had handed to police clothes she wore on her wedding night which, she said, still bore traces of the cricketer's DNA.

It was eventually announced yesterday that a deal had been worked out and that the two families had signed divorce papers.

SGM Qadri, a Muslim community elder who had been mediating in the dispute, said: "The issue was resolved amicably. The divorce provides an honourable exit for both sides."

Mirza, a two-time Grand Slam mixed doubles champion and who became the first Indian woman to crack the world top 40 rankings when she reached a career high of No 27 in August 2007, had also previously been engaged. In January she ended the engagement to a childhood friend Sohrab Mirza, citing incompatibility.