Painting testimonial pictures, oh-oh-oh-oh

One of the things on which I’ve had my eye in the past week (in the couple of hours I’ve had to spare between the MLB playoffs, RWC, and both premiership and international football) is the ongoing spot-fixing trial. I thought about writing about it at the weekend, but I’m (obviously) not a lawyer and thus the events are thus a little bit removed from what I can really analyse. And whilst the first few days had some very interesting evidence presented, it was mostly stuff that was already known, or was more speculative. Today, however, more of the video of the exchanges between Mahmood (the journalist) and Majeed was shown, in which Majeed claimed that the fixing was much deeper than no-balls and even included throwing an ODI. The video looks quite damming (as did the phone records last week), but a lot of the quotes sound like Majeed was talking out of his arse, trying to impress Mahmood. (Apparently Majeed knows just about every famous and important person in the world.) Majeed himself is not in the dock, so we’ll be denied a chance to see him use the ‘I was lying to try to get more money out of this guy’ defence, but I expect Butt and Asif will use roughly that tactic.

But what does seem to be true (since it was the thing for which Mahmood was pretending to pay the money, as opposed to an aside boast) is that the no-balls were to prove that the players would be involved in more serious fixing. The video today was of Majeed explaining about the ‘brackets’ that were allegedly fixed. If true, these would not be a few inconsequential no-balls, but would mean that the fixing was affecting the outcome of the match. (Haemorrhaging runs for a few overs, as the Majeed said they would, would let a batsman get set and possibly set him up for a big score.) If this is true (and again, that’s a bigger ‘if’ than if a skywriter started doing Kipling) then it certainly casts doubt on all the matches in which Pakistan have played in the past few years.

I’m very much looking forward to see the arguments of the defence. The evidence so far looks quite damming, but the original ICC case, after presumably hearing the same evidence and arguments, handed down surprisingly small bans. It makes me wonder if the defence won’t reveal some hole in the more serious allegations, without being able to explain away the original no-balls. (According to Cricinfo, Sky Sports statistician Benedict Bermange calculated to odds of innocently predicting those three no-balls at one in 1.5 million.) I’ll be keeping a slightly closer eye on the upcoming proceedings.

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