LAHORE - The ghost of match-fixing is back to haunt Pakistan cricket with reports emerging that Umar Akmal was approached to fix matches during a 2012 tour of the UAE but the batsman immediately reported the matter to his team's security manager. A source aware of the incident told PTI that Umar had been called up regularly by a number from India in which the caller thrice attempted to coax him into entering a fixing racket promising him lucrative returns for his cooperation.
"Umar after being pestered by this unknown caller informed the Pakistan team's security manager who brought the matter into the notice of the ICC's ACSU immediately," the source disclosed. He said Umar's prompt action and cooperation in reporting the approach was much appreciated by the Pakistan team management and the ICC ACSU at that time. The source said the approach was made during the Pakistan and England series in the UAE in 2012.
"Umar was part of the Pakistan Test squad in that series which Pakistan won 3-0 and also of the one-day squad that Pakistan lost to England," the source stated. This is the not the first reported incident where a Pakistani player informed the team management about approaches by suspicious characters on tour.
The source said such attempts to coax players was not uncommon despite the strict security and disciplinary measures put into place by the Pakistan Cricket Board nowadays. "Most of the players prefer to just ignore such approaches but eventually the team management does come to know about them," the source added.
Meanwhile, Pakistani cricket chiefs Friday publicly disowned Sussex paceman Naveed Arif, who has been suspended by the English boad on charges of match-fixing. The head of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said they had "no relations" with Arif, who was charged on Thursday with six offences relating to a 40-over game between Sussex and Kent in August 2011.
Former New Zealand batsman, who has already admitted fixing in several countries, was charged by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) alongside Arif. Pakistan has an unenviable record for fixing and corruption in cricket, and PCB chief Najam Sethi was quick to stress Arif's estrangement.
"He is out of Pakistan for the last three years and he has no relations with Pakistan cricket," Sethi told reporters. However, Arif featured in two matches in Pakistan's domestic Twenty20 tournament for Sialkot Stallions in December 2012. He also toured Australia with Pakistan "A" team in 2009 before moving to England, where he qualified as a non-overseas player for Sussex through his wife's Danish passport.
Sethi said Pakistan have taken tough measures to crack down on cricket fixers. "We have taken some stringent steps to stop corruption and have adopted zero tolerance on such things," he said. Former Test leg-spinner Danish Kaneria is serving a life ban for spot-fixing in an English county game. Three Pakistani stars -- Salman Butt, Asif and Mohammed Aamer -- were given bans and jail time for their role in spot-fixing in the now-notorious Lord's Test against England in 2011.
A Pakistani international player who featured alongside Arif for the Stallions in 2012 said he could was amazed to hear he was involved in fixing. "He (Arif) was a very shy and unassuming guy and had always played the game for passion," the player told AFP on condition of anonymity. "Maybe, he was lured into fixing as he failed to make it to the national team in Pakistan and wasn't a regular member for the county."