SITTING in the backseat of a BMW as we drive down to Daileys bar on the Strand, former Pakistani wicketkeeper Rashid Latif flips through a dossier of evidence four inches thick that implicates some Pakistani cricket players in match fixing. He allows occasional glimpses of copies of cheques written in favour of Salim Malik by Pakistani bookiesseven bearer cheques in all, postdated a month apart and related, according to Latif, to payments for some matches in 1994.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. At the smokey pub where Latifs agent, Saeed Younus (who represents a dozen other Pakistan Test cricketers, including Wasim Akram, Saeed Anwar and Aamir Sohail) is also present, Latif reveals things about subcontinent cricket that are likely to put the entire establishment under scrutiny, which it incidentally already is.
For appetisers: "Azhar bhai, Jaddu, Raju, Sidhu and some other Indian players ... mere ghar phone kiya karte the (used to telephone me at home) to find out how the pitch was. Whether it would aid batting or bowling, how strong the teams were and what the weather was like. They had to pass on the information to other people. I used to oblige generally as it was nothing wrong on my side." Commenting on Outlook s story that Manoj Prabhakar was offered Rs 25 lakh to throw a match against Pakistan, Latif scoffs that that money is nothing: " Indian bookie bahut upar hai. One player gets between Rs 50 lakh and Rs 60 lakh for a match."
Can one player influence a match? "When Salim Malik was captain, he would bowl himself at crucial stages of the match," Latif replies. "He would set an offside field and bowl on the legside. While batting, he would also run out his colleagues. I escaped being run out by him in England last year.
The third umpire gave me out but the match referee overruled the decision. "Having said that, bookies like to have three-four players on their rolls because then they can control the outcome of a match better. For, if the result goes contrary to the bookies expectations, they suffer huge losses. "Chasing 250 in the last one-dayer against England in Nottingham last year, we needed a run rate of over seven when I came in. But I took Pakistan home. The players had to return more than Rs 2.5 crore to the bookies because this result wasnt to their (the bookies) liking."
Have you yourself been approached by bookies? "Yes, twice. An Indian approached me during a Test match in England and offered me 20,000 pounds (Rs 12 lakh) to not allow Pakistans total to cross 300. Pakistan were 290 for nine overnight. I was in with Ataur-Rehman. It was a small thing to do. But I told Wasim Akram and the manager about it. Now I think I shouldnt have told Wasim. Anyway, I was determined to cross 300. We went on and scored 350."
Is betting and fixing still going on? "Yes. It happened in a Sharjah tournament involving Pakistan and Sri Lanka. I can just see a match and say whether its fixed or not. Ultimately, I plan to write a book on the whole thing. "
Do you have anything on the Indian players? "I knew a lot of things. I have the minutes of a Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) meeting which mentions the bookies involved in the whole thingDawood Ibrahim, Mukesh (Delhi), Rahul bhai (Mumbai). "Kapil Dev was the biggest gambler of all. He loves Jaddu like a son. He built half his house. But I like Jaddu myself. I would like to protect him. "You see, Javed Miandad would also bet on matches he played but he would bet positively only on his performance. On whether he would score a 50 or a 100. And he would go out there and do it. "There is an Indian television commentator who is a big bookie. In the last World Cup, he was commentating at a match involving India. But outside the studio, he was more concerned about the outcome of a Pakistan match. An Indian player told me this." (Apparently, one of the reasons that captains are interested in a team of their choice is to have players who toe their line.) Says Rashid: "Akram now has players he wants."
What strained your relationship with Salim Malik? "In the finals of the 1995 Mandela Trophy against South Africa (in Capetown), I told Malik that we should bat first as it would be difficult chasing under lights. Malik disagreed, but then veered around to my view. I was vice-captain. Since there was a lot of talk about betting in the air, all the players decided to swear on the Koran that they would not get involved in betting. Only Malik didnt because he was out for the toss. But when he came back, he told us that he had opted to bat second. Pakistan lost the match." About the tour report that Pakistan tour manager Intikhab Alam wrote after the South African tour, a copy of which Latif possesses: "Intikhab wrote that Rashid is fighting with Malik. That he is causing unrest in the team about Maliks participation in betting. Only two-three players supported my stand on the tourBasit Ali, Aamir Sohail and Waqar Younis." According to Latif, Alam also wrote in his report that no Pakistani player was involved in matchfixing. According to Latif, thats stuff for the birds: "At one point he says no player was involved. At another, he says that Basit Ali was involved. Thats why he took his early retirement."
How much is the Pakistan Cricket Board involved in a cover-up? "Javed Burki as the ad-hoc committee chairman took the names of three-four players. Burkis report says that after the Test series ended in Sri Lanka and before the one-day Singer Cup started in Colombo, Malik met bookies in Pakistan and struck a deal. Thats why Pakistan lost all the matches. "In the incident with the Australian players, Burki said that the Australians had submitted unsigned affidavits. Thats not true. If you see the copies of the documents, you will see that they are all signed. "Also, Arif Abbassi, the then chief executive of the board, wrote to Justice Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, the judge conducting the inquiry, that he could travel anywhere in the world to conduct his investigation. But in his letter to the Australian Cricket Board and the ICC, Abbassi wrote that the players would have to come to Lahore to depose. Yeh baat galat hain na? (isnt this wrong?) "Arif Abbassi also went on to say to me that in Sharjah tournaments a bookie by the name of Raju sat in the Indian dressing room constantly and the Indian team players and management didnt have the guts to tell him to get out."
Why are you out of the team? "Javed Burki wrote in one of his reports to the BoardI have the reportthat I am a Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM) activist. The inference is obvious. That Mohajirs are not Pakistani. This is the reason Basit Ali is also out. If I had wanted, I could have raped this MQM thing a long time back but I didnt. Actually, people like Burki and Majid Khan think too much of themselves. No matter what the government, they manage to ingratiate themselves to it."
About this hot tape that you have which implicates Saeed Anwar, Malik and a whole lot of players. " Agar woh de diya to sara kissa hi khatam ho jayega (if I disclose that, then the whole issue will be scuttled). I am trying to elicit information from them. I cannot give that." Younus, the agent, intervenes: "The thing is that some of these players Rashid has played cricket with since his childhood. Basically, they are telling him to shut up, not say anything about it. Chup raho ."
A former stockbroker, Younus, 36, first met the players on Pakistans tour of England last year. "I was amazed at the raw deal the PCB was giving them and is giving them." Though the players are in different factions, they are still happy to have Younus as their agent."
Apart from these two, who are the others you have on tape? "If I tell you all that, whats left? This is just our first meeting." Younus intervenes again: "You can say he has incriminating evidence against Saeed and Salim."
What about the affidavit you have from Ata-ur-Rehman? "He didnt give it to the Pakistan board. He gave it to me. Its been attested by a magistrate. He says he was offered a bribe of Rs 1 lakh by a bowler to bowl badly. We lost the match. This was in 1994 in New Zealand in the last one-dayer." It transpires the bowler was none other than Wasim.
How much do the players get for a match? "For one match all of them combined could get Rs 3-4 crore. They take the money in cash after the result. I have seen cash being exchanged in hotels, houses. Hamne bhi chape mare hain (Even Ive conducted raids). Only, I didnt have a video camera."
What other things do you have? "Well, minutes of Arif Abbassi where he says that Wasim and Waqar were offered Rs 24 lakh to lose a match in England in 1992. Other things as well." In an earlier conversation I had with former Pakistan cricket executive Arif Abbassi, he told me that two Pakistani players were prepared to depose that some players are involved in betting. But that, according to Abbassi, didnt mean that they were involved in matchfixing. Interestingly, Abbassi went on to say that in Sharjah tournaments, a bookie called Raju was always in the Indian dressing room and the Indian contingent didnt dare tell him to leave.
Latif also has correspondence between Sarfaraz Nawaz, the former Pakistan player and sports minister, on Government of Pakistan letterheads to the President of Pakistan where he categorically says he has evidence of malpractice among players. He is prepared to give a guarantee that the documents he has are copies of original documents. Latif himself started on the road of collecting evidence after he was kicked out of the team. Its hard not to believe what he says.