Shahid Afridi: I had nothing to do with sting operation for spot-fixing scandal

The former Pakistan all-rounder insists he had not passed on any information to the tabloid which broke the scandalous story in 2010.

Shahid Afridi was surprised by the tepid response by the team management to the suspicious messages and quit Test captaincy in 2010.   -  AFP

Having discussed in detail about the spot-fixing scandal of 2010 in his autobiography ‘Game Changer’, Shahid Afridi on Sunday insisted he had not passed on the information or messages to the tabloid ‘News of the World’, which eventually broke the story.

“These players (Salman Butt, Mohammed Asif and Mohammed Amir) still think that Afridi blew the whistle about them to the newspaper; that is not true. It was one of my friends in England who passed on the information without informing me and even after that the newspaper carried out its own investigation and sting operation to confirm and trap the players,” Afridi said on a news channel.

Afridi said his former team-mate Abdul Razzaq had first talked about the involvement of some players with fixers when the team was playing the World T20 in West Indies in 2010.

“Razzaq kept on telling me after one match against Sri Lanka that he had doubts about Salman Butt but I did not believe him at that time. I said they are like our younger brothers. Later on, as fate would have it, a damaged mobile [phone] which went to a repair shop and whose owner knew my friend in England revealed messages that surprised me and made me suspect that these players were indeed spot-fixing matches,” he said.

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Afridi, who retired from international cricket in 2016, said he was hurt and disappointed when Butt’s involvement in the scandal was confirmed as he had liked him a lot. He also revealed that when he first saw the messages about Butt, Asif and Amir, he could not sleep for few days and did not have the courage to share it with Razzaq, who had realised something was wrong.

Asked why he had not confronted Butt and the other players about the messages, Afridi said he was let down by the reaction of the team management, including Waqar Younis and Yawar Saeed, when he first showed them the messages. “It was disappointing for me. My first job was to inform the management. I did that; they said ‘beta kya karsakta hai ab (son, what can we do now?)’. That is also why I gave up Test cricket and the captaincy and returned home.”

He conceded that the management did try to warn the players not to meet or mix up with suspicious characters like Mazhar Majeed, who was also eventually jailed for his role in the spot-fixing scandal. Afridi also revealed why he had supported the comeback of Amir to the Pakistan team after he had completed his ban.

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“When the ‘News of the World’ broke the story and I had returned to England for the limited-overs matches, I confronted the three players and told them to admit if they had done it as we could help them. Butt kept on denying and even took oath he had done nothing wrong. In contrast, the first time I confronted Amir he came to me and admitted he had made a big mistake. He also confessed in court,” Afridi said.

Interference

Afridi also repeated his comments about Javed Miandad and Waqar which he made in his book. “I still have a lot of respect for both as players. But it is not necessary that a big player can be a good coach and it applied to both. Waqar changed after becoming captain and he had a different personality for the worst after becoming coach.

Waqar Younis "used to interfere in everything" as coach, claims Afridi. Photo: AFP

 

“He used to interfere in everything and tried to dictate terms. He even used to give me pieces of paper before we went onto the field as who to bowl, when and where to set fielding. As captain, this was annoying for me.”

He also said that Waqar tried to spread rumours about him in the team and that there was a lot of back-biting. Afridi said Miandad had a habit of getting involved in tussle with players. “The reason we rate Bob Woolmer highly is he gave us space and never got involved in any tussle with the players,” Afridi said.