Qadeer Ahmed, the UAE medium pacer, has been banned for five years by the ICC for committing six breaches of the governing body’s anti-corruption code. Ahmed’s ban will be backdated to October 16, 2019, when he was provisionally suspended by the ICC along with his colleagues Mohammad Naveed and Shaiman Anwar, both of whom have since been handed eight-year bans.
The ICC anti-corruption unit found 35-year-old Ahmed, who played 11 ODIs and ten T20Is between 2015 and 2019, guilty on counts that included failing to disclose approaches during two bilateral series the UAE played away in 2019. The first was in Zimbabwe in April, where Ahmed was offered AED 60,000-70,000 (US$ 16,000 to 19,000 approx) by the corruptors. Then, in August in Netherlands, Ahmed was again found to be in contact with corruptors, and the ACU subsequently suspended him just at the start of the 2019 World Cup qualifiers, held in Zimbabwe in October-November.
The ICC said in a media statement on Wednesday that Ahmed had failed to disclose details of the approaches from corruptors, or that he provided inside information in August 2019 to a person, who had played with club cricket with him in the UAE.
That person is understood to be Mehardeep Chhayakar, named “Mr Z” in the ACU findings, which were published by the ICC on Wednesday. Chhayakar knew Ahmed while playing domestic cricket in Ajman in the UAE.
On Wednesday, the ICC also charged Chhayakar for breaching half a dozen counts of the anti-corruption code. He was charged for “attempting to contrive to fix aspects” of games in the Zimbabwe vs UAE series in April 2019 as well as at the Global T20 Canada league in 2019. Chhayakar was also charged with trying to “induce and/or solicit” a participant involved in both the Zimbabwe-UAE series as well as at the GT20 Canada. Chhayakar, who the ICC said has refused to cooperate with the investigation, has 14 days from April 15 (the day he was charged) to respond.
Ahmed is originally from Pakistan, and has been there since leaving the UAE midway into the ACU investigation. Before that, Ahmed had attended two interviews with the ACU team, held on October 6 and 9, 2019. He would talk to the ACU team again in April 2020, before quitting midway through again.
How was Ahmed approached?
Ahmed told the ACU that Chhayakar had been a “close associate” and he had helped him get into various teams in the UAE club circuit. In early 2019, Chhayakar told Ahmed he could help him get into one of the T10 franchises in a tournament scheduled for November 2019 in the UAE. To that end, Chhayakar put Ahmed in touch with a “Mr Y”, who ESPNcricinfo understands is Dinesh Talwar, who is on the ACU’s list of corruptors.
“[Mr Z] [Chhayakar] had previously connected him with an individual named [Mr Y] [Talwar] (a known corrupter), on the basis that [Mr Y] might be able to get him into a T10 team which [Mr Y] was looking to buy into,” the ICC elaborated.
Chhayakar and Talwar then made their first approach to Ahmed just as he was preparing to leave for Zimbabwe. “About a week to 10 days before Mr Khan [Ahmed] travelled to Zimbabwe in April 2019 to participate as a member of the UAE squad in the Zimbabwe v UAE series, [Mr Z] and [Mr Y] approached him and offered him 60,000-70,000 dirhams to “do bad bowling” in the Zimbabwe v UAE series. In particular, they asked him to give away 70/80 runs while bowling.”
“His five-year period of ineligibility is a reflection of the seriousness of his breaches and the number of charges. He has accepted responsibility for his actions and expressed regret for those he has let down”
Alex Marshall, general manager of the ICC’s integrity unit
It could not be confirmed if Ahmed ended up receiving the money. Ahmed, the ACU found, continued to meet Chhayakar, who would contact him before a series or tournament. Ahmed then shared inside information, especially of bowling plans in case he was playing, from the series against the Netherlands.
“He had provided Inside Information to [Mr Z], at [Mr Z]’s request, in August 2019, namely which overs he would be bowling if he played in the Netherlands v UAE series that month.”
Ahmed agreed he was aware of the ACU rules that he had breached, as he failed to come clean about being approached, being offered money, and providing inside information to corruptors. However, the ICC said that Ahmed had questioned the timing of suspending members of the UAE team just prior to the World Cup qualifiers.
“He questioned why the ACU had acted against members of the UAE team prior to the start of the ICC World T20 Qualifiers in October 2019 because if it had not, he said that the ACU would have been able to collect a lot of information about corruption (i.e. inferring that the ACU’s action in questioning members of the UAE team had disrupted planned corruption).”
According to the ICC, Ahmed suddenly left for Pakistan on October 11, 2019 without the knowledge of either the ACU or the Emirates Cricket Board. The ACU did track Ahmed down and conducted another interview on April 18 last year. However, Ahmed “stopped the interview halfway through, stating that he had to go to work”. Subsequently, he “refused” to complete a rescheduled interview and said he would face the ICC anti-corruption tribunal instead.
Last week, on April 14, Ahmed agreed to all the ACU sanctions without facing the tribunal.
Alex Marshall, general manager of the ICC’s integrity unit, said in a statement, “He [Ahmed] has accepted he did wrong and requested an agreed sanction in place of a Tribunal. His five-year period of ineligibility is a reflection of the seriousness of his breaches and the number of charges. He has accepted responsibility for his actions and expressed regret for those he has let down.”
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Hanuma Vihari’s network of volunteers helps out during ‘unthinkable’ Covid-19 crisis
Vihari has used his Twitter handle to amplify appeals apart from creating a network of volunteers to help people
For India batter Hanuma Vihari, the biggest satisfaction these days comes from being able to arrange a hospital bed or an oxygen cylinder for Covid-19 patients through his network of friends.
While a number of premier Indian cricketers have helped out in various ways, Vihari, while playing for Warwickshire, created a team of around 100 volunteers – comprising friends and followers from across Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka – who have reached people with plasma and oxygen cylinders, while also arranging food and hospital beds for patients.
“I don’t want to glorify myself – I am doing it with the intention of helping people at the ground level, who actually need every help possible in these difficult times. It is just the start,” Vihari was quoted as saying by PTI.
Vihari left for England in early April to play in the County Championship, and is expected to join the India team directly in the UK when they reach on June 3 for the World Test Championship final against New Zealand (followed by a Test series against England).
“Yes, I am a cricketer, well known but I am able to help because of their untiring efforts to reach the distressed. Even my wife, sister and few of my Andhra team-mates are part of my volunteer team.”
“With the second wave being so strong, getting a bed became a difficulty and that is something which is unthinkable,” he said. “So, I decided to use my followers as my volunteers and help as many people as I can. My goal is to actually mainly reach out to those people who are not able to afford or arrange for plasma, beds and essential medicine. But this is not enough. I would like to do more service in the future.”
When the distress calls and messages for help started pouring in, Vihari wanted to create a network of help-givers and he found that support from common people, his own family members and Andhra team-mates like Prithviraj Yarra.
“I have around 100 people on a WhatsApp group as volunteers and it’s their hard work that we have been able to help a few people,” he explained. “Yes, I am a cricketer, well known but I am able to help because of their untiring efforts to reach the distressed. Even my wife, sister and few of my Andhra team-mates are part of my volunteer team. It’s so heartening to see their support.”
County Championship 2021 – Tom Westley seeks uplift after ‘strange’ start to Essex’s twin title defence
Halfway through the group stage of the Championship, and Essex have got it all to do. The defending champions are currently fifth in Group One – albeit only 15 points off a top-two spot – and in need of a run of good form in order to make sure of qualifying for Division One when the competition splits. If Tom Westley, Essex’s captain, had been hoping a return to Chelmsford would spark an uplift after two defeats and a draw on the road, then a washed-out first day against Derbyshire only served to dampen the mood.
Westley admits it has been a “strange start” to the season. Having scored 490 for 9 declared in their opening game, only to be held to a draw by Worcestershire, Essex then recovered from being skittled for 96 by Durham to defend their manor in the manner to which most observers have become accustomed – scrapping hard in the second innings to post a target of 168, and then defending it ruthlessly on the back of another Simon Harmer ten-for.
But defeats at Edgbaston, by seven wickets, and Trent Bridge, by an innings, either side of another stalemate away to Worcestershire have left Westley puzzling over how to get what he views as “the best team in the country” playing like they can.
“Things definitely could be going a bit better,” he tells ESPNcricinfo. “It’s been quite challenging, a bit disappointing for the standards that we set at Essex. We’re used to winning lots of games of cricket, which hasn’t been the case this year. Halfway through, still a lot of games to be played and the group is tight – if you win a couple of games all of a sudden you’re right back up there.
“It’s been quite strange, in that we’ve been bowled out for less than 100 twice, and we’ve also got 500 twice. We haven’t been able to piece the whole game together with bat and ball. Certain games we’ve batted really well and bowled not as well, and in other games we’ve bowled well and not batted well. Which is the crux of cricket, I suppose.
“It’s immensely frustrating not being able to piece it together. It’s been a reminder of how hard four-day cricket is, especially when the some of the surfaces have been either way – very flat or [doing a bit]. It’s a strange start for us.”
Nevertheless, and despite the bleak scene through the rain-spattered windows of the Scrutton Bland Premier Suite, Westley remains visibly chipper, confident that Essex’s recent history suggests they are more than capable of turning things around – before the loss to Warwickshire, they had gone two years and 21 first-class games without defeat, winning 14 of them.
“The spirits have been quite good around the place, considering how poorly we’ve started by our standards,” he said. “We have been so used to winning, sometimes you get a bit expectant of that. Many factors go into not winning, I think this is probably the first time in a few years when we’ve had more than one or two guys a little bit struggling for form – which can happen.
“But we’ve got to be mindful that when it does turn, and we start playing our best cricket, I firmly believe we are the best team in the country so there’s no reason why we can’t get on a roll. We’re a team that have shown in the past that once we do get on a roll, we can go on for a long period of time. That’s what we’re focusing on.”
Of the players who have struggled so far, perhaps of chief concern is Jamie Porter, the spearhead of the attack, who has so far managed just six wickets at an average of 65.83; meanwhile, batting stalwarts Alastair Cook and former captain Ryan ten Doeschate have managed one hundred and one fifty between them.
But while there has been some rotation of the bowlers in an attempt to manage workloads, and Essex expect to lose Dan Lawrence imminently to the England Test bubble, there is no mood to make wholesale changes. “Form is temporary, class is permanent,” Westley says. “That is the message that we say in our changing room. You don’t become a bad team overnight, you can’t forget all the hard work and success we’ve had in the last four-five years.”
Westley does admit that questions will be asked if Essex can’t hustle their way into Division One, and thereby keep alive their twin defence of the County Championship and Bob Willis Trophy. The visit of Derbyshire, winless and bottom of Group One, ought to represent a chance to burnish their credentials once again, though it may need some canny captaincy reminiscent of the Keith Fletcher era to pull off victory in the equivalent of three days (or fewer, given the weather forecasts). Just don’t tell the Chelmsford scriptwriters it can’t be done.
“It would be a huge disappointment if we don’t get into that top division, especially given the success that is expected of us at the club. But I’m an optimistic, positive person. I believe we are the sort of team that can win the next four games and then you look back and think ‘Oh, what was the issue?’ But we have to do that first. It would be bitterly disappointing but, if for whatever reason we don’t make that, it’s our own fault and we’ve got to accept that.
“It’s frustrating, losing a day to the rain isn’t ideal when you know you have games to win. And because we’ve lost the toss, it probably makes it a little bit harder to win while batting first. But I think the script that Essex generate for themselves over the last few years, you never know what’s going to happen.”
Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick
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