Pakistanis' `oath on Koran'

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Intikhab Alam, the Pakistan manager and coach, said in Harare yesterday that his players, currently touring Zimbabwe, were asked to swear on the Koran before leaving Pakistan in November that they were not involved in betting.

The players had agreed but Intikhab denied that the fact the players had been asked was a source of worry. "It's not worrying at all," he said. "We just wanted to make sure because there are so many ugly rumours."

Intikhab was speaking in the wake of allegations casting suspicion over the defeats of Pakistan in the one-off Test against South Africa in Johannesburg last month and the first Test against Zimbabwe 10 days ago.

The odds against Zimbabwe had been 40-1 and newspaper reports claimed that bookmakers in Bombay were refusing to pay out. However, sources in India said yesterday that it was not unknown for bookmakers in Bombay to refuse to pay on any bet where they faced a big liability. Instead, stakes were simply returned.

Intikhab, hitting out at the the latest claims, said: "This is unbelievable. I think people have gone mad. I know that we lost the first match against Zimbabwe but we played badly in that match so we picked it up and the second Test we won in less than three days.

"There is no truth in it. I will keep on saying these are all false allegations unless they come out with concrete evidence and the proof that players are involved."

Intikhab also dismissed reports that the former captain, Mushtaq Mohammed, was involved in a betting ring. Mushtaq has admitted joking with the Australian captain, Allan Border, in 1993 about the possibility of throwing a game in England, but categorically denied offering a bribe.

"I have known Mushy for a very, very long time - we were great buddies," Intikhab said. "And I don't think that he is the kind of person who would come out with something like that and I agree that it must have been [said] jokingly."

Intikhab also agreed with another former Pakistan captain, Asif Iqbal, who said on radio that people in Pakistan felt that Australia and England were jealous of their cricket team.

"I think probably he's right," Intikhab said. "Every time you see things going on in other countries, nobody says a word.''

Intikhab said the allegations had not upset Pakistan's preparations for the third Test, which begins in Harare today. "It will only affect them if they are involved," he said, "but they are not the guilty party."

Javed Burki, the committee chairman of the Board of Cricket Clubs in Pakistan, also dismissed the latest suggestions. "I am quite confident that nobody in the Pakistan team took money to deliberately perform badly. I can't see that happening," he said.

Burki said he would be discussing the current rash of allegations with the International Cricket Council chief executive, David Richards, in London next Monday. The ICC has begun an inquiry into the various allegations, but has noted that on each occasion the named players all rejected the alleged offers.

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