WELLINGTON, Jan 12, (AFP): New Zealand and Pakistan both have the opportunity to vault to the top of the Twenty20 world standings over the next 10 days, according to the congested rankings released on Tuesday.
Although they start their three-match series in Auckland on Friday with Pakistan ranked sixth and New Zealand seventh, they are equal on 114 points.
But with only four points separating the top seven teams, if either side can win all three matches they will replace the West Indies at the head of the table, the International Cricket Council (ICC) said in a statement.
If the series is settled 2-1, then the winner will leapfrog South Africa to fifth position.
The New Zealand-Pakistan series features the return to international cricket of convicted Pakistani spot-fixer Mohammad Amir who has served a jail term and five-year ban from the game.
However, the New Zealanders, fresh from a 2-0 Twenty20 series win over Sri Lanka, maintained that the appearance of Amir was not an issue.
With a number of Twenty20 Internationals to be played in the lead up to the ICC World Twenty20 India in March, there is likely to be plenty of reshuffling at the top of the world rankings.
The biggest player movements in the latest list are Afghanistan’s wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Shahzad and fast bowler Dawlat Zadran who both make the Twenty20 top 10.
Shahzad has jumped 12 places to eighth on the batting list after scoring 151 runs in two matches against Zimbabwe, while Zadran claims the bowling eighth spot after claiming five wickets in the same series.
Meanwhile, an alleged fixing approach to Hong Kong’s Irfan Ahmed is a “warning” for other emerging teams, the territory’s cricket chief said Tuesday.
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.”