Justice Malik Mohammad Qayyum, the High Court judge who headed the inquiry into allegations of match fixing in Pakistan, has admitted that his admiration for Wasim Akram as a cricketer might have caused him to be lenient in the punishment he delivered to the former captain in 2000.
Wasim was one of several Pakistani players implicated in the match-fixing scandals that rocked cricket at the turn of the new century. But unlike fellow Pakistan team-mates Saleem Malik and Ata-ur-Rahman, who received life bans from the game, Qayyum fined Wasim and recommended that he never be allowed to captain his country again.
But he stopped short of delivering a clear verdict that the all-rounder was involved in corruption or not. In his report tabled in 2000, the now retired judge said: "This commission feels that all is not well here and that Wasim Akram is not above board. He has not co-operated with the Commission. It is only by giving Wasim Akram the benefit of the doubt after Ata-ur-Rahman changed his testimony in suspicious circumstances that he has not been found guilty of match-fixing. He cannot be said to be above suspicion."
Yet over five years after the report was released, and more than seven years after the inquiry began, Justice Qayyum said he had not wanted a "great cricketer" like Wasim to be banned.
"For Wasim I had some soft corner for him," Qayyum was quoted as saying in an interview on cricinfo.com. "He was a very great player, a very great bowler and I was his fan, and therefore that thing did weigh with me. Two things - one, I didn't want cricket deprived of his participation, and the other was that towards the end of his career... [I didn't want him] banned or something like that. My idea was not to find people guilty and then punish them. It was more a case where I had to do something to put an end to the practice in future. What had happened had happened. You couldn't turn the clock back but you had to make sure they wouldn't repeat what they were doing."
Justice Qayyum's report, which was made public in May 2000, received criticism for being too vague and, when asked whether any other players had been let off lightly, Qayyum said: "The quantum of punishment is more of one's subjective decision, and I was lenient towards one or two of them."
Qayyum also rued the fact that his investigation into questionable games at the 1999 World Cup in England was blocked. The most controversial match was between Pakistan and Bangladesh in Northampton. Wasim was Pakistan captain at the time and his side lost by 62 runs. The result helped Bangladesh gain full Test status several years ahead of when they were expected to get it. "I was asked to investigate the World Cup also but when they knew the line which I was taking, they somehow got it stopped," he said. "The subsequent inquiry that was set up is by Justice Bhandari. He exonerated all players."
Wasim, who took 414 wickets in 104 Test matches and is the highest wicket taker in one-day cricket with 502 victims, retired from international cricket at the end of the 2003 World Cup and now works for ESPN in Singapore as a commentator.
Wasim's solicitor, Naynesh Desai, responded to Qayyum's comments: "It beggars belief that he can say something like this six years after the event. He is not suggesting that Wasim lied to him, but that he had let him off because he liked him. It looks like the judge is peeved about something and he is having a pop at everyone. How can he help Saleem Malik on his appeal when he banned him from the game in the first place?"
Who was who in the Wasim Akram match-fixing allegations
On the 9 September 1998 various high-profile members of the cricketing world were called together to discuss alleged match-fixing involving the Pakistan cricket team. The main suspects were:
Ata-ur-Rehman alleged Wasim Akram paid him 100,000 rupees to bowl badly in a one-day international against New Zealand, 1994. Akram also withdrew from the 1996 World Cup quarter final against India five minutes before the start of the match claiming injury, a move which according to vice-captain Aamir Sohail was "fatal" to the outcome. Tampering with batting orders to influence the game was another accusation.
Result: Ata-ur-Rehman's statements "cannot be believed with any degree of certainty," and Akram was cleared. Rehman had withdrawn and rewritten various statements numerous times. He also claimed to be taking responsibility for the team by going into bat earlier and the injury could not be proved either way. He was cleared of both charges, but found guilty of being uncooperative with the investigation and fined £3,700. "It is only by giving Wasim Akram the benefit of the doubt after Ata-ur-Rehman changed his testimony in suspicious circumstances that he has not been found guilty of match-fixing," said Justice Malik Muhammad Qayyum.
Was paid $100,000 to lose the second match of a one-day series. He also offered Shane Warne and Tim May $200,000 to bowl badly in the first Test between Australia and Pakistan in 1994.
Result: Malik was banned for life and will never be allowed to play, coach or administrate cricket again. Fined £12,000.
Was alleged to be involved in "general match-fixing". Result: He was banned from playing international cricket indefinitely and fined twice as much as he received from Wasim Akram, around £1,200.Reuse content