DHAKA: Former Bangladesh cricket captain and national hero Mohammad Ashraful yesterday admitted match-fixing, further shaking confidence in the game and deepening a betting scandal that has engulfed Asian cricket.
Ashraful was earlier suspended from the sport by Bangladesh’s cricket chiefs following allegations of fixing during international matches and a domestic Twenty20 tournament.
“I should have not done this injustice to the nation. I feel guilty,” Ashraful, who captained Bangladesh between 2007 and 2009, told the Independent TV channel.
“I would only say ‘Please all forgive me, my conduct was improper’,” he added.
The 28-year-old’s admission is the latest controversy to hit the sport, already reeling from spot-fixing and betting probes in neighboring India where three cricketers and numerous bookmakers are among those arrested.
A court Tuesday denied Indian Test paceman Shanthakumaran Sreesanth and 22 others bail after police said they now had evidence to prove the involvement of organized crime syndicates in fixing Indian Premier League (IPL) matches.
Sreesanth and two of this teammates from the Rajasthan Royals franchise were arrested last month for allegedly deliberately bowling badly during IPL matches in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars from bookmakers.
During the hearing in New Delhi, police said India’s most wanted man Dawood Ibrahim — an alleged underworld don with links to militant groups — was a ringleader in the scandal, according to the Press Trust of India.
“This organized crime syndicate besides controlling illegal betting was indulging in fixing performance of players and also the rates of betting,” a police officer told the court.
Spot-fixing, in which a specific part of the match but not the outcome is fixed, is illegal. Placing bets on the IPL is also illegal under India’s laws which ban gambling on all sports except horse-racing.
India’s powerful cricket chief has stepped aside over the scandal, which has led to the arrest of his son-in-law over illegal betting in the domestic Twenty20 competition.
A court in the southern city of Mumbai on Tuesday granted the son-in-law, Gurunath Meiyappan, bail over his alleged role along with a Bollywood actor.
In Bangladesh, Ashraful apologized for his involvement in fixing and said he had confessed all to anti-corruption officials from the International Cricket Council.
His apology came shortly after the Bangladesh Cricket Board president Nazmul Hassan announced the right-handed batsman had been suspended pending the full report of an investigation by the ICC officials.
The ICC’s Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) has been probing allegations of match-fixing during the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL), a Twenty20 competition.
Ashraful became the country’s youngest Test centurion in 2001 at the age of 17 and captained Bangladesh between 2007 and 2009.
The alleged fixing involves a match between the Dhaka Gladiators and the Chittagong Kings teams during the second edition of the BPL.
Local media have reported that 28-year-old Gladiators star Ashraful was allegedly paid about one million taka ($12,800) to lose the February 2 match.
The batsman was also allegedly involved in fixing another match 10 days later against the Barisal Burners, which his team lost by seven wickets, reports have said.
The ACSU team left Bangladesh on Monday and is expected to hand over the findings of its probe within a week, Hassan said.
During the ACSU’s probe into the BPL, the officials discovered allegations of fixing during some international matches, Hassan said, prompting a wider probe.
“This is no more limited to the BPL. The ICC itself will launch a full-fledged massive investigation into those allegations,” Hassan said, without giving details.
Hassan made the comments after he was asked about a recent newspaper report alleging Ashraful’s involvement in fixing in Twenty20 matches between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
The ICC declined to comment on whether it was launching a wider probe involving international marches.
“The ICC can confirm that the ACSU has interviewed Mohammad Ashraful who is helping us in the ongoing investigations. Due to sensitivities around these investigations, the ICC cannot share any more details at this stage,” an ICC spokesman said.
The scandals in India and Bangladesh follow the banning of Pakistani cricketers Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer for spot-fixing during a 2010 Lord’s Test against England.