Former Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi revealed that he was aware of exchange of messages between his teammates and a bookmaker prior to the 2010-spot fixing scandal. In his autobiography titled ‘Game Changer’, the cricketer added that the then Pakistan coach Waqar Younis refused to act despite being provided with evidence.
“…the management gave a damn… typical obfuscation and delay tactics; the Pakistani management’s head was in the sand. Maybe the management was scared of the consequences. Maybe they were invested in these players as their favourites and future captains…I really can’t say,” Afridi wrote in the book.
The spot-fixing scandal happened in August 2010 during Pakistan’s tour of England and then captain Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir were banned by the ICC for their involvement.
The allrounder further revealed that he received transcripts of the text messages from Majeed and Butt’s ‘agent and manager’ who was also prosecuted, with “pure coincidence”.
“It is pure coincidence how I got hold of them. And it’s got something to do with a kid, a beach and a repairman,” said Afridi.
“When Majeed went back to England, he took his phone for repair to a mobile fix-it. The phone stayed at the shop for days. In a random coincidence, the shop owner turned out to be a friend of a friend of mine (this may sound like too much of a coincidence but the Pakistani community in England is quite closely connected). While fixing the phone, the shop-owner came across Majeed’s messages to the players of Pakistan team… it was that leak from him to my friend and a few others (whom I won’t name) that looped me in on the scam. Soon, word got around that something strange was happening with the cricket team,” he added.
Speaking on what actions he took after finding the messages, Afridi said: “When I received those messages back in Sri Lanka, I showed them to Waqar Younis, then coach of the team. Unfortunately, he didn’t escalate the matter and take it upstairs. Both Waqar and I thought it was something that would go away, something that wasn’t as bad as it looked, just a dodgy conversation between the players and Majeed, at worst. But the messages weren’t harmless banter – they were part of something larger, which the world would soon discover,” he said.
He further said that he took the matter to the management after the infamous England tour in the summer of 2010, when he again saw Majeed and his cohorts make a re-entrance, lurking around and hanging out with the soon-to-be-accused players.
“For me, it was time to sound the alarm. I decided to take up the issue officially with team manager, Yawar Saeed. I put in a formal request that Majeed should be distanced from players, physically, and that no one in the team should associate with him even on a personal level. When Saeed didn’t take action, I showed him the text messages – I’d printed them out on paper. After going through them, Saeed, taken aback, eventually came up with a dismal response: ‘What can we do about this, son? Not much’,” he wrote.
Speaking on what led to the sting operation from News of the World, Afridi said: “By now, the exchanges between Majeed and the players via text messages had leaked out to others. Those in the Pakistani and the larger cricketing community knew that something was up. This is probably the same period when the News of the World executed their sting operation.”
Afridi was captain of the Pakistan Test team in its two-match ‘home’ series against Australia in England in July 2010. Pakistan were playing there home series in England after the terrorist attack on Sri Lankan players in Lahore in 2009. Pakistan lost the first Test at Lord’s against Australia by 150 runs and Butt became captain from the second match. Butt led the side in the subsequent four-match Test series against England in August till the infamous spot-fixing scandal broke out in the fourth match at Lord’s (August 26-30).
“I came to England, I wasn’t over it, clearly. I had signalled to the boys to stay away from Majeed and the likes. I had tried to talk to coach and management. Then the first Test began. Nothing changed. I could still see them lurking around the players and being part of the dressing room too. In that first Test, at Lord’s, I started doubting the whole project. What was wrong with Pakistan cricket? What was wrong with all of us? That’s when I decided to put an end to it, in my own way. In the middle of the match, around the fourth day, I told Salman Butt that he could take over,” he added.
“I retired from Test cricket. Perhaps, prematurely. But I had lost faith in the whole setup, especially because the team management wasn’t pro-actively investigating what was happening and instead letting the entire thing slide,” he further said.
(With inputs from agencies)