CRICKET: Wasim in dark on selection ban

THE PAKISTAN captain, Wasim Akram, last night denied suggestions that he and two other players would not be considered for selection for the national team until the completion of the inquiry into match-fixing allegations.

Mujeebur Rehman, the chairman of the ad hoc committee of the Pakistan Cricket Board, is reported as saying that a ban would apply to Wasim, Salim Malik and Ijaz Ahmed. "They will not be considered for selection in the coming season until the investigation as to whether they are really involved in corruption or not is completed," he said.

But yesterday Wasim, speaking from Lord's, where he has been acting as the man of the match adjudicator for the second Test, denied all knowledge of it. Due to return to Pakistan for the first time since the humiliating World Cup final defeat against Australia, he insisted: "I spoke to him [Rehman] late last night and he did not mention this to me. I am going back on Tuesday or Wednesday and I will be seeing Rehman to discuss cricketing matters."

Rehman's claim followed publication of the Pakistan board's year-old interim report into match-fixing allegations against the three players. All three deny the allegations. Wasim said: "It's the same old things. This is the report that was leaked at the Commonwealth Games last year. I never gave evidence for it. I have not done anything wrong. I am sick and bored with all this."

A government-appointed judicial commission under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Malik Mohammad Qayyum, a Pakistan High Court judge, has been investigating the charges since September last year. It had originally been due to be published in March, but Wasim revealed yesterday that publication had been put back to 17 August. "That is before the party to tour Australia is due to be picked," explained Wasim, "so by then everything will be known."

Rehman was appointed chairman of the ad hoc committee after the suspension last week by President Rafiq Tarar of the whole of the Pakistan Board in the wake of the World Cup defeat. His brother, Saif, heads the government's anti-corruption, or Ehtesab (Accountability) unit, which on Saturday made public for the first time details of allegations that Wasim tried to tamper with results [the outcome of games].

"Although the ad hoc committee has not been officially informed of the accusations by the Accountability Cell, the charges framed are serious enough to suspend the three cricketers," Rehman said. "The interim report of the PCB probe committee had also recommended the same last year. So I don't think we are doing anything new. I believe this should have been done last year."

Rehman added that five other cricketers questioned - Moin Khan, Inzamam- ul-Haq, Waqar Younis, Saqlain Mushtaq and Mushtaq Ahmed - would be available for selection, "as they have not been reported to be active in corruption. They are said to be just beneficiaries."

Wasim has taken 378 wickets in 88 Tests while in one-day internationals he has an unprecedented 387 wickets in 275 appearances. Even so, he can expect a rough homecoming - after the World Cup defeat pictures of players, including Wasim's, were burned and effigies seated on donkeys were also put to the torch. He is phlegmatic about returning to possible trouble from fans, saying: "I will be all right."

To add to the confusion, the Pakistan government's anti-corruption bureau said yesterday it had gathered evidence of "immoral" conduct by the nation's players during their ill-starred appearance at the World Cup. Saif Rehman said from Islamabad that the anti-corruption bureau had found evidence of indiscipline and "immoral" conduct by the players during the World Cup in England.

"We have concrete evidence that the players were involved in immoral and unethical activities," he said. "The report is almost finalised and will be submitted to the judicial commission."

He said a judicial commission constituted by the government last September had asked his bureau to conduct investigations. No date has been set for the submission of its much-delayed report to President Rafiq, who is in fact the patron of the Pakistan Cricket Board.

"A group of competent people closely monitored the activities of the players. A copy of the report will also be submitted to the president," Saif Rehman said.

Rehman said his bureau has also found evidence that some players were living beyond their means. "Their known source of income doesn't match with their lifestyle and assets," he added.

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