Delays damage inquiries into match-fixing

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The Independent Online

Less than a week after the International Cricket Council promised to root out corruption in the game, it has emerged that two independent and eagerly awaited inquiries into matchfixing have been subjected to delays.

In Karachi, it was revealed that the long-awaited findings of the judicial inquiry into match-fixing in Pakistan, finally due to be released today, are likely to be held up for several weeks. And in Cape Town, the South African sports minister,Ngconde Balfour, said he was unable to announce a definite venue or starting date for a hearing into the Hansie Cronje scandal. The hearing was scheduled to begin yesterday.

Last week's emergency ICC meeting was triggered by Cronje's admission that he took money from a bookmaker to provide information during a one-day series in January. Cronje has denied involvement in match-fixing.

The report from Pakistan, conducted by Judge Malik Qayyum, was due to be released at the conclusion of the first Test between Pakistan and West Indies in Georgetown, Guyana.

Judge Malik submitted the report, which recommends life bans for some players and tough penalties against others, last November. But on Sunday the Pakistan Cricket Board chairman, Tauqir Zia, said that the report would be further delayed because of an intervention by the country's president, Rafiq Tarar, who is also a patron of the PCB.

"I have been told to seek advice from legal experts," Tauqir said. "There are certain points the president wants to clarify."

Edwin King, the retired judge who will head the South African inquiry, said yesterday that he was still required to make an interim report by 20 June. "I'm afraid I can say no more than that it will start sooner rather than later," he said.

"The hearing will be held in public. I regard that as fundamental, particularly in regard to the level of public interest.

"We have a very real sense of the urgency of this matter and a very clear understanding of the public interest and the necessity to get things started and finalised as quickly as possible. But if we kick off before things are thoroughly prepared it will have exactly the opposite effect."

The inquiry was originally scheduled for Pretoria, but King has requested it be shifted to Cape Town. Balfour indicated that the request was being considered.

Pakistan's progress in the first Test at Georgetown yesterday was hindered by a tropical downpour which flooded large parts of the pitch and completely washed out the fourth day's play against the West Indies. Today's final day also appears to be in jeopardy with more rain forecast and the field increasingly waterlogged.

The third day's morning session was also lost on Sunday, when play ended one hour early because of bad light.

West Indies are 222 for 7 in their first innings, in reply to Pakistan's total of 288.