In August 2018, ICC launched an appeal to identify Aneel Munawar, the alleged match fixer who had claimed to have fixed Test sessions in an Al Jazeera sting operation telecasted in May. But a new documentary released on Sunday by Al Jazeera raises more troubling questions: did ICC know about the existence of Munawar as early as 2010 and do nothing about it?
There are three main threads in the new documentary titled ‘Munawar Files’, which has call recordings of Munawar phoning in details of spot-fixes in 15 international matches to a bookmaker.
The first is that ICC had knowledge about Munawar in 2010. Secondly, Munawar is heard telling an English cricketer just before the start of the 2011 World Cup that money has been transferred to his account for fixing jobs. Thirdly, the documentary claims that there were 26 spot-fixing instances in six Tests, six ODIs, and three World T20 matches between 2011 and 2012 and that England players fixed passages of plays in seven matches, Australians five matches and three by Pakistan players, and one match by players from another unnamed country.
It features a Test between India and England at Lord’s in 2011, all three Tests between England and Pakistan in UAE in 2012 and a Test between Australia and South Africa in Cape Town in 2011.
“Due to the gravity of the accusations and the prospect of criminal investigations, we are not, at present, naming the fixed sessions nor the teams perpetrating the fix because that would identify the batsmen suspected of fixing,” says the documentary. Al Jazeera claim that they have verified the conversations, which take place over 42 recordings, and say Munawar gets 25 out of 26 “fixes” correct.
It plays out recordings of calls allegedly made by Munawar to Dinesh Khambat, a subordinate to Dinesh Kalgi who was a bookmaker based out of Ahmedabad before he died in 2014.
However, England and Australia cricket boards have raised doubts over the evidence presented. Pradeep Sharma, an Indian anti-corruption officer, tells the documentary makers that Munawar has links with D Company, crime syndicate run by Dawood Ibrahim. Sharma claims that Sonu Jalan, an alleged bookmaker who was arrested recently, had confirmed Munawar’s identity.
The International Cricket Council’s anti-corruption unit confirmed it was “fully” investigating the claims. “We will again take the contents of the programme and any allegations it may make seriously and will investigate fully,” said Alex Marshall, the general manager of the global governing body’s anti-corruption unit.
England player gets money?
The documentary plays out a telephone call between Munawar and an unnamed England player just before the start of the 2011 world cup. Munwar tells the player, “Congratulations for the Ashes. The last payment is ready for going into the account. You will be credited in a week.”
The player is heard replying “lovely”; the audio is distorted to conceal the player’s identity. The film makers claim they approached the player who denied the conversation and said the call recording was “fabricated”.
ICC aware of Munawar’s role
The documentary raises the role of ICC through events that transpired in 2010 when the newspaper The Sun had informed the ICC that the third one-day international between England and Pakistan was suspected to be spot fixed. A day after the game, the ICC had released a statement.
“Following information received by the ICC from a British newspaper and its source, the ICC now believes a full investigation is warranted,” a statement from then ICC CEO Haroon Lorgat had read. Lorgat added: “A source informed The Sun newspaper that a certain scoring pattern would emerge during certain stages of the match and, broadly speaking, that information appeared to be correct. We therefore feel it is incumbent upon us to launch a full enquiry into this particular game.”
However after an enquiry, ICC had said they couldn’t find any wrong doing. Now, the Al Jazeera documentary insinuates that ICC were even aware of the role of Munawar in 2010. It quotes an unidentified researcher, said to be involved with The Sun operation in 2010, saying that he saw Alan Peacock, ICC’s chief of anti-corruption, and his lawyer at The Sun office before the game.
“Peacock, his lawyer, The Sun reporter and his lawyer were in glass-fronted room. Translation and voice transcript had arrived and all this was made clear to Peacock,” says the researcher who the documentary says wants to remain anonymous.
The person identified as researcher further says that he met Peacock in 2013 in central London. “We discussed Munawar and his match-fixing activities. Peacock was very clear who Munawar was and also his activities, which was of absolute pertinent interest to him.”
The match in question had thrown a lot of controversies even back in 2010. Ijaz Butt, the then chairman of Pakistan cricket board, had accused England’s players of being “paid enormous amount of money” to lose the third ODI. “There is loud and clear talk in the bookies circle that some English players were paid enormous amounts of money to lose the match,” Butt had said. “No wonder there was total collapse of the English side. We won the match and we are under suspicion. England lost, their players should be investigated.”
Next day, during training session, when Wahab Riaz, Pakistan’s fast bowler, walked past Jonathan Trott, England batsman, more trouble erupted as revealed in Trott’s autobiography. Trott asked Riaz, “You going to accuse us of match-fixing again?” and Riaz was supposed to have said, “Your mum knows all about match fixing.” Trott hurled his pads at Riaz and held him by the throat, and had to be separated by the batting coach Graham Gooch.
The documentary lists 14 other matches (15 in all) that is allegedly spot fixed. Some of it have come under the scanner before. Like the Australia vs Zimbabwe ODI in the 2011 World Cup.
Australia had won it but Press Trust of India had reported that ICC was looking at the slow start made by Australia after winning toss. Brad Haddin and Shane Watson, the openers, had scored only 28 in the first 10 overs and later, Haddin refuted the reports. “It’s quite a laughable story. It’s a joke. We just got off the mark a bit slowly,” Haddin had said then.