Mushtaq denies bribery allegation

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The Independent Online
Mushtaq Mohammed, the former Pakistan Test batsman, yesterday identified himself as the player involved in cricket's latest allegation of bribery but insisted that it was the result of a misunderstanding of a casual conversation he had with Allan Border, the former Australian captain.

Border has claimed that he was offered £500,000 by a "former Pakistani Test player" to allow England to win the fifth Ashes Test at Edgbaston in 1993. But Mushtaq said: "I am completely innocent. People are twisting my words."

However, the International Cricket Council, the game's governing body, is to launch an investigation following Border's claim.

Mushtaq, who now works in Birmingham, said yesterday he thought Border was referring to him, but claimed the incident had been totally misinterpreted. "I bumped into Allan outside the dressing-room at Edgbaston and said that it was similar to the situation in the 1981 Headingley Test.

"I asked Allan how he would react if someone offered him a big sum of money to lose. He said he never mucked about with his cricket and that he would not do it. I told him that was fine and that I was glad we were playing clean cricket. The conversation lasted less than one minute. People who know me know I have never ever taken a bribe or offered a bribe. I would never be involved in such dealings."

Border's allegation followed the weekend report that Shane Warne and Tim May, the two Australian spinners, were each offered $50,000 (£33,000) by a prominent Pakistani cricket personality to throw the first Test in Karachi on Australia's tour late last year. Pakistan went on to win the Test by one wicket, after a last-wicket partnership of 57 runs. Dickie Bird, who umpired in the match, said it was the "greatest ever" of his 61 Tests.

In a further revelation, the former Australian batsman Dean Jones said that he had been offered a bribe by a bookmaker during the 1992 tour to Sri Lanka.

The Australian Board have refused to comment on the allegations of bribery on the tour to Pakistan, beyond saying that several Australian players had been approached. However, the ICC's chief executive, David Richards, said yesterday: "We regard the allegations of bribery very seriously. We are now contacting the Australian Cricket Board to obtain further information. It is reassuring to see that on each occasion the named players unreservedly rejected the alleged offers that were made."

Border gave his account of the Edgbaston incident yesterday. He did not name Mushtaq, but said that a former Pakistan Test player had gone to the dressing-room gate and asked for him.

Australia needed 120 to win the Test, and he was offered £500,000 to throw the match. The Pakistani said he could get odds of 7-1 on England winning. An Australian team-mate, who observed the meeting, said Border told the Pakistani to "piss off". Australia went on to win by eight wickets. "I was approached, but I did not think much of it," Border said. "I was a bit angry at the time, but I have not thought about it much until it has come up again over the last couple of days. Whether this is widespread I do not know. The right people, the authorities, know what is going on and they are the ones to sort it out."

Middlesex's John Emburey, who took three wickets and scored an unbeaten 55 and 37 in the Test, was surprised to hear of the bribe approach. "I was not aware of it at the time. There was certainly no inclination that anything was untoward before or during the match." Bookmakers William Hill noticed no unusual betting patterns.

It has also been suggested that another offer of a bribe was made to Australian players before the final Test in Lahore last year, which ended in a draw, giving Pakistan a 1-0 series victory.

The Pakistanis are currently on tour in Zimbabwe, where their manager, Intikhab Alam, yesterday denied that any players had been involved in bribery. He described the present team as "very honest", and said he did not think any cricketer would do such a thing. "The whole saga is very unfortunate, but I think now that the best thing would be for whoever brought these allegations to name the person involved to clean all this dirty air."

Javed Burki, a senior official with the Pakistan board, reacted angrily, saying that each time a country lost a series to Pakistan, there were cries of Pakistani cheating. Arif Abbasi, another senior Pakistan official, said he had protested to the ICC over what he termed the inept handling of the allegations. Abbasi said Graham Halbish, the chief executive of the Australian Board, had told him that Richards had known of the allegations for more than five months. "Richards has been sitting on this information for five and a half months," Abbasi said. "He didn't know what to do with it and this country is having to bear the brunt of his ineptitude."

New Zealand crushed, page 33