An alleged fixing approach to Hong Kong’s Irfan Ahmed is a “warning” for other emerging teams, the territory’s cricket chief said today.
Tim Cutler, chief executive of the Hong Kong Cricket Association, told AFP that associate, or non-Test playing, members of the International Cricket Council (ICC) were particularly vulnerable to match-fixers.
He was speaking after all-rounder Ahmed, 26, a former Hong Kong player of the year, was charged and provisionally suspended by the ICC for failing to report an alleged fixing offer.
Ahmed, who was slated for Hong Kong’s squad for the World Twenty20 championship in India in March, faces a ban of between two and five years if found guilty.
Cutler said associate cricket nations, which cannot pay their players as well as Test sides, were particularly susceptible to bribery and the “underbelly of the dark chapter of cricket”.
“Any player in associate cricket is (vulnerable) only because of the disparity between, from the money point of view, what can be offered by an unscrupulous agent of a bookie or beyond versus what the top-tier players are earning,” he said.
Cutler added: “Three years ago these guys were genuine amateurs, only ever paid allowances and reimbursed travel costs to go and compete for Hong Kong.
“It’s a warning to all up-and-coming cricketers and emerging cricket nations... it’s really a threat to the soul of our sport.”
The charge under the ICC’s anti-corruption code is the latest to arise from wide-reaching investigations into illegal bookmaking networks by the world body’s anti-corruption unit.
According to Australia’s Fairfax Media, Ahmed was approached by former Pakistani cricketer Nasem Gulzar, one of the alleged match-fixers accused of paying former New Zealand batsman Lou Vincent to deliberately underperform in county matches in England.
Kevin Egan, Ahmed’s Hong Kong-based barrister, downplayed the charge against the cricketer, who has featured in six ODIs and eight T20 internationals.
“(Gulzar) was like a father figure to him and (Ahmed) was approached with a corrupt offer which he rejected. But the only criminality alleged against him by the ICC was simply having failed to report that approach,” Egan was quoted as saying.
“At the moment we’re in negotiations with the ICC and those negotiations have not yet concluded. I expect that within the next couple of weeks we will have come to a conclusion.”