The Pakistani bowling attack is likely to stay without its double W (Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis) sting for some time. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is said to be of the view that it is virtually impossible for the cricketers involved in match-fixing to get out of the clutches of bookmakers, even if they want to. The mafia, it is thought, has enough evidence to blackmail them into doing its bidding.
While Wasim has so far been the victim of mere innuendo, a PCB official told Outlook : "We have strong evidence of his involvement in the betting menace during the Akai-Singer Trophy in Sharjah in December. Inquiries have revealed that just before leaving for Sharjah, Wasim instructed a group of punters from the Baghbanpura area in Lahore to place Rs 5 million on an Indian win in the Indo-Pak match."
Subsequently, these punters placed Rs 5 million on an Indian win at the rate of 1.5-1 with a local bookie who operates from the Gawalmandi area in Lahore. Interestingly, one of Wasim's brothers, Nadeem, is a bookmaker and takes bets on the outcome of international sporting events. He too operates from Gawalmandi. "Is that mere coincidence?" asks a PCB official.
The Pakistan team, however, won the match and the punters who were in constant touch with Nadeem lost about 50 paitis on this match alone. ( Paiti is Rs 100,000 in gambling parlance). The punters decided to get back at Wasim by abducting his father and collecting Rs 1.5 million as ransom.
"The incident came in the wake of con-firmed evidence with the PCB that Wasim indulged in match-fixing," says the PCB official. He adds that Wasim deliberately lost the match against England in Pakistan's last match of the Akai-Singer trophy: "In that crucial tie, the all-rounder struggled to score four runs off 19 balls at a moment when his team needed brisk strokeplay."
For his part, Wasim says the match-fixing allegations have shattered him mentally. "Match-fixing is not easy and the whole team has suffered due to this," he notes. "People blame three-four players while the whole team is required for this clandestine exercise which is impossible."
But while no one would disagree that Akram has been the most valuable all-rounder of his generation, and one of the most lethal left-arm seamers in cricketing history, there is no denying that his career now lies in tatters, apparently beyond resurrection.