England’s appointment of their spin bowling coach, Mushtaq Ahmed, has come under scrutiny after the International Cricket Council confirmed it had advised the England and Wales Cricket Board against employing the former Pakistan international because he was implicated in a corruption scandal as a player.
Haroon Lorgat, the ICC chief executive, said it had warned the ECB over its recruiting of Mushtaq at the start of last year but that the England hierarchy had proceeded with the appointment of the 40-year-old.
Mushtaq was implicated in the report on match-fixing compiled in Pakistan by Justice Qayyum 10 years ago and Lorgat said the ICC had contacted the ECB about former Sussex spinner, who is not with the England squad before the forthcoming Twenty20 and one-day games against Pakistan but will rejoin them later this autumn to prepare for this winter’s Ashes series.
“We highlight anybody we’ve got on a list who has been labelled in one way or another, so I wrote to the ECB and issued them with a cautionary suggestion that they had to do due diligence on Mushtaq. But they were satisfied with the appointment,” said Lorgat. “We suggested they had to be vigilant around their own changing rooms. We at the ICC do not employ people who have been tainted in the past but the ECB are entitled to make their own decisions.”
Qayyum’s report, published in 2000, stated: “There are sufficient grounds to cast strong doubt on Mushtaq Ahmed. He has brought the name of the Pakistan team into disrepute with, inter alia, associating with gamblers. This commission therefore recommends he be censured, kept under close watch and be not given any office of responsibility [selection or captaincy] in the team or on the board.”
England have always expressed unwavering belief in Mushtaq’s fitness for office and Andy Flower, their team director, did so again yesterday. “I am very comfortable with Mushtaq. He’s been a good coach, a good example to our players and support staff, and I’m looking forward to him working with us again when he joins us in Australia. We’re very comfortable working with Mushy. He’s a lovely man and a good man for our system.”
England make their first Twenty20 appearance on Sunday since they became world champions in Barbados in May but any thoughts of a grand homecoming have long been submerged by the corruption allegations. T20 has taken hold as a game of fun, invention and youthful optimism. It will struggle to proclaim such ideals on Sunday.
If there is one additional requirement Flower expects from his England team in Cardiff as he observes a game in crisis, it is a sense of dignity, something they managed in the empty hours of the Lord’s Test after the allegations against three Pakistan players became known, and as a feverish week reaches an end, he expects such standards to be maintained.
“I thought the players held themselves very well on that last day at Lord’s,” said Flower. “They did not get into anything untoward under Andrew Strauss’s leadership and it will be the same here with Paul Collingwood. They will carry themselves in a dignified way and a way that properly represents their country.
“It is sad that it’s being played amidst all this controversy but the guys are very good at compartmentalising and getting on with the game. The way we have to approach it is certainly not to speculate what might happen this weekend but be prepared to adapt as we always have to. The players’ focus must be on being ready to start at 2.30 on Sunday.”
Judging by that, at least we can be sure that England are turning up. “That’s our stance at the moment, absolutely,” said Flower, which is as close to a commitment as any sensible man would give. One can only hope that Pakistan will feel the same way. They checked into their Cardiff hotel as expected but, if the situation is further inflamed and anger continues to rise in Pakistan political circles, the last mile to the ground could be the hardest of all.