'I Started, Crazy,' - Afridi-known Aware Of This Spot-Fixing Saga In Advance > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more
Cricket news - 'I started going insane' - Afridi admits being aware of spot-fixing saga beforehand
Former Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi, in his recently released autobiography 'Game Changer', reveals he knew about the 2010 spot-fixing saga even before the sting operation took place. The all-rounder talks about various incidents in the lead up to the three Pakistani players - Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif - getting accused for their roles in the scandal.
Afridi was the captain of Pakistan across all formats before handing over the Test captaincy to Salman Butt in July 2010. Before these happenings, he had led his nation in the Asia Cup in Sri Lanka and the WT20 in West Indies. In his book, Afridi details about different episodes - the text messages he was able to retrieve, Abdul Razzaq's warning, indifferent response from Waqar Younis and Yawar, team management's denial, Majeed's closeness with the players and also what led to his sudden decision of quitting from the longest format abruptly.
"See, before the Sri Lanka tour, Majeed and his family had joined the cricket team during the championship. At one of the Sri Lankan beaches, Majeed's young son dropped his father's mobile phone in the water and it stopped working. 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, who was asked to retrieve the messages, came across Majeed's messages to the players of the Pakistan team. Though he shouldn't have seen what he did, 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. It was that leak which probably tipped off the reporting team from News of the World as well. It was sheer coincidence: a Pakistani repairman in London who couldn't keep his eyes and mouth shut about a broken cellphone from Sri Lanka. But I'm not surprised: when God has to execute justice, it happens in the most unexpected ways."
Earlier when Abdul Razzaq, fellow Pakistan team-mate, had a chat and cautioned him of the troika of players' wrongdoings, Afridi had rubbished those claims. Afridi also goes onto add that, when he kept Waqar Younis (the then head coach of Pakistan) informed, the latter took it lightly.
"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.
"The rumour mill started churning. During the T20 WC that year in the West Indies, Abdul Razzaq, one of our finest players in the shorter formats of the game and an old, solid hand in the team, told me in confidence that Salman, [Mohammad] Amir and [Mohammad] Asif 'weren't up to any good'. I shrugged off his comment. I told him he was imagining things, secretly hoping that their shady behaviour was just a sign of their youth and inexperience. I never told him about the messages I'd received from London, which were all the more damning, considering that a third-party player like Razzaq with a tendency to refrain from locker-room politics was of the same opinion: something wasn't right with Salman and the lads."
Afridi furnishes more details of how despite him alerting the team manager - Yawar Saeed - regarding Majeed's presence around those three players, nothing was done on the matter.
"During that infamous England tour in the summer of 2010, before all hell broke loose with the News of the World sting of the spot-fixing scandal, I saw Mazhar 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. That's when I decided to take up the issue officially with the team manager, Yawar Saeed. I put in a formal request that Mazhar Majeed should be distanced from the players, physically, and that no one in the team should associate with him even on a personal level. I had my own reputation at stake as well - I was the captain of the T20 side - and feared that any controversy would harm the performance of my squad.
"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. Not much.' Time stood still for me as Saeed went into denial. I couldn't believe what I was hearing from such a senior official. 'Not much'? How could we do this to the team, to the country, to our millions of fans across the world? I didn't want to believe what he told me."
Afridi adds, "Disappointed, I didn't respond or protest much. But I kept the printout with me. Saeed didn't even bother asking for a copy of it. The next day, at a warm-up game in Northampton, Mazhar Majeed and his sidekicks were again hovering around the dressing room. So I approached Yawar Saeed once more and suggested that these guys shouldn't be seen anywhere near the team, as they didn't have the best of reputations."
He discloses how he had built his own case against the three to-be-tainted players and could have been resolved internally, but the team management turned the other way.
"I had done my own due diligence on Mazhar Majeed and his posse by then. Through my friends and connections in England, I'd come to know that these guys were trouble. Thus, I wasn't just making these suggestions to the management of the Pakistan team based on second-hand SMS messages, or being a paranoid conspiracy theorist. I had it on good authority that these guys, who were officially engaged in conversations with Pakistani cricketers, were indeed not up to any good. So yes, I was building a case against Salman, Amir and Asif - one that could be dealt with internally.
"However, the Pakistan team management continued to be in denial and said that nothing could be done about it. Frankly, I don't think the management gave a damn. It still was nobody's problem; that's why nobody wanted to tackle it or go to bat for it. 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. Or maybe they didn't have any respect for their country or the game. I really can't say."
Afridi elaborates how it all started. "So there I was, on that cursed tour, playing match after match, with a rough idea that something was seriously wrong, knowing that the management wasn't really interested in listening to me. I started going insane, really. We played two T20s against Australia and won both. That provided some relief,of course. Then we started the first Test, which we lost as we didn't - couldn't, wouldn't - perform.
"Doubts had started setting in a few weeks ago. I remember I was in the dressing room in Dambulla, for the Asia Cup, playing against Sri Lanka, when Salman Butt got out in the second over. Abdul Razzaq warned me at that very moment that something was up. I brushed him aside and said that we all got paid enough as match fees. He just gave me a strange look and told me to watch out. In that game, I went on to score a century and forgot about his comment."
In the series against Australia (in 2010), where England was Pakistan's new 'home', the Asian side won the T20I series 2-0 and a 2-match Test series followed it, with Afridi at the helm. The former captain talks about how he was troubled by all the stuff that was going around him and thus lost faith in the set-up, which eventually led to him quitting Test cricket in the midst of the series.
"When 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 the coach and the 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. I remember exactly when I made the decision. We were at 220 for 6. Marcus North was bowling. I swept and was taken in the deep. When the ball was in the air, I had taken my decision. I was done with all of this.
"Yes, I shouldn't have quit my team. Yes, I should have played the second Test and not gone home. Yes, I was troubled, but I was in charge and should have done more. Much more. So, I retired from Test cricket. Perhaps prematurely, but I had lost faith in the whole set-up, especially because the team management wasn't proactively investigating what was happening and instead letting the entire thing slide. I was angry and frustrated with everyone, including myself. That's why I didn't wrap up the Test series against Australia and decided to head back home to be with my family instead."
Afridi remarks, "Yes. For the record, I gave up. I quit."
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