Cricket: Waugh and Warne stand firm

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The Independent Online
AUSTRALIA WERE preparing yesterday for the third Test match, which was due to start today in Adelaide, but the focus of cricket attention in the country remained on Shane Warne and Mark Waugh and their actions four years ago in Sri Lanka.

It was revealed earlier this week that the two Australian players had been fined after accepting payments from an Indian bookmaker in return for information about the state of the pitch and the weather during a tour of Sri Lanka in 1994.

Further allegations appeared in the Australian press yesterday, although the two players refused to add anything of substance to their story. In Pakistan, meanwhile, there was strong criticism of the Australian Cricket Board and the International Cricket Council for keeping the incident secret at a time when Pakistan was dealing with allegations of match-throwing by its own players.

Warne and Waugh read prepared statements at a news conference in Adelaide yesterday but would not answer questions. Waugh said that he took money from the bookmaker to provide information he considered "mundane", but that he never discussed team tactics or line-ups. Warne said he deeply regretted the contact with the bookmaker, who gave him money in return for answering routine questions about the state of the pitch and the weather.

There was a chance for reporters to tackle Waugh as he emerged for final net practice, but television pictures showed him meeting inquiries with a rejoinder which made up in straightforwardness for what it lacked in printability.

However, Mark Taylor, the Australian captain, did speak about the two players. He said they had "made a mistake" but added that the current team had all expressed their support for Warne and Waugh.

Sydney's Daily Telegraph claimed yesterday to have established that the Indian bookmaker who paid the two players was actually with them in Colombo when he paid them.

The newspaper said the mysterious "John" had flown to the Sri Lankan capital to watch the Indian team, including his friend, the all-rounder Manoj Prabakhar, play in a tournament of one-day matches against Pakistan, Australia and the host nation.

"John", the newspaper said, was able to make contact with Warne and Waugh through Prabakhar, who has never been associated with any allegations that money changed hands. The newspaper expressed puzzlement that the bookmaker did not apprise himself of the weather conditions by "looking out of his hotel window, or reading the local newspaper, the Daily News".

The Australian Cricket Board has never made any attempt to question "John", said to be from Delhi, about precisely what the payments were for.

Another unanswered question concerns the way in which intelligence about the payments to Warne and Waugh first reached the Australian Cricket Board. In his statement on Wednesday Waugh said the board had asked him "if I had ever provided information to a bookmaker and I replied I had done so" in 1994. However Alan Crompton, who chaired the board at the time, has said: "My recollection is that the players came to us."

Meanwhile Khalid Mahmood, from the Pakistan Cricket Board, said yesterday that his organisation would take up the issue with the Australian Cricket Board as well as the International Cricket Council. In particular he said it would be raised at the next ICC meeting next month in New Zealand.

Mahmood said it was distressing that Pakistan had not been informed of the incident despite the fact that Salim Malik, the former Pakistan captain, had himself been accused by Waugh and Warne of offering the two men money to play badly in a subsequent Australian tour of Pakistan. He said the belated disclosure of the confession was unfair to Pakistan players and cricket. "Our cricket board's stance is always that such a matter should not be swept under the carpet," Mahmood said.

Australia had gone on to Pakistan immediately after the Colombo tournament. Malik, who captained Pakistan in that series, and two teammates who have also been accused of match-fixing, Wasim Akram and Ijaz Ahmed, deny the allegations, which are now being considered by a judge in Lahore. Waugh's testimony is said to be a key plank of the case against them.

Malik confirmed his intention to sue the Australian pair for damages. "I have suffered so much because of these false charges," he said. "They have ruined my cricket for the past two years."

Derek Pringle, page 27