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June 28, 2001

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The Rediff interview / Asif Iqbal

'The Qayyum Commission never got back; maybe, they did not want to'

The Western media made it look like match-fixing was a product of the subcontinent. The Condon report has affirmed that it is the other way round," said former Pakistan skipper Asif Iqbal, from his residence in London.

Asif Iqbal Following a story in a British newspaper, which passes the onus on to him to clear his name in the match-fixing imbroglio, Iqbal, an International Cricket Council ambassador, immediately dashed a letter to its editor clarifying his stand.

In a telephonic interview with Cricket correspondent Faisal Shariff, Iqbal defended himself and discussed the repercussions of the match-fixing scandal on the game.

The Condon report states that the ICC remove from its list those ambassadors who no longer seem compatible with the fight against corruption. What is your reaction to that?

I agree completely with the recommendation, and hope that if any of the ambassadors is found guilty, he should be brought to book. I had a one-year appointment as ambassador, during which I conducted the one-day match in Bangladesh between Asia and the Rest of the World.

But the needle of suspicion points towards you…

Malcolm Gray and Paul Condon Nowhere in the Condon report is my name mentioned. Even in the CBI report, which is the most comprehensive investigation thus far, my name does not figure amongst those who allegedly took money from the bookie. The only mention is that I happen to know a bookie -- which is not a crime. I know Christopher Cowdrey and Godfrey Evans, the owners of two well-known betting firms, is that a crime?

What about your name figuring in the News of the World story, where Salim Malik clearly states that you were the go-between the players and bookies?

What does that prove? How can a third party statement be used against me? What is the basis of the allegations? Malik reportedly made some statements to a mole from that paper. When the mole, Ghazan Iqbal from the News of the World, came to my place in London, I said that I was the wrong person he was trying to contact. Ghazan told me at that time that investors wanted quick returns, and I suggested that they get into sports promotion. Even when Malik approached me about business ideas, I suggested he work on setting up cricket academies.

One of the accusations is that you refused to cooperate with the Qayyum Commission...

The accusation is a lie. I have given all the facts, explained my position. I received a summons on March 9 asking me to be in Lahore on the 12th, just three days later. I told the commission's registrar, over phone, that I was busy with the Asian Test championship in Dhaka and offered to appear at a later date. The Qayyum Commission never got back; maybe, they did not want to. Meanwhile, the paper that carried that story about me does not have the moral courage to acknowledge my response to their article.

Asif Iqbal, Azharuddin and Moin Khan Gundappa Vishwanath has supposedly gone on record saying that you picked up the coin during the toss before it rested during the infamous India versus Pakistan Test, in Calcutta in 1979-80.

I have, in the response sent to the British newspaper, quoted Vishwanath denying that story. It is such a joke. The truth is that a photographer at the ground caught the coin with the heads sign up, with his telephoto lens.

Why did you quit your job in Sharjah with the CBFS [Cricketers' Benefit Fund Series], after being associated with them for so long?

Twenty years of work is long enough. While I was with them I gave it my all. I enjoyed being part of an offshore venue that hosted more ODI matches than any other venue. I enjoyed having those tournaments in Sharjah.

The timing of your resignation was pretty interesting. Just when the probe into the CBFS commenced, you put in your papers…

The probe had nothing to do with my resignation. I thought I had had enough, and wanted to do something else. Also, the government interference was saddening. Even, earlier, India had refused to play in Sharjah, but that was the decision of the BCCI [Board of Control for Cricket in India]. This time, the the government objected to India playing in Sharjah, and thus politicized the sport. I decided it was time for me to pack my bags.

Do you believe that the games played in Sharjah were fair? Did you ever spot anything suspicious about the way matches turned on their heads?

Never! To my mind, all the matches in Sharjah were fair and honest cricketing encounters. Also, in the Paul Condon report, of the 53 matches that are mentioned in it, only three or four involve Sharjah.

Before the Hansie Cronje episode, did you ever encounter any malpractices in cricket?

Even earlier, everyone whispered about it, but after Hansie's admission the dirt was out there for everyone to see. I had also heard these whispers, but that's about it. I think those who have fixed games should be punished severely to salvage the reputation of the game. Sir Paul Condon's recommendations can also repair a lot of the damage already done.

Statement by Asif Iqbal | Letter from Asif Iqbal


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