In a major embarrassment to the BBC, a man posing as a former Pakistani cricketer duped the broadcaster into paying him to appear as an expert on cricket shows.
The impostor, Nadeem Alam, claimed to be former Pakistan batsman Nadeem Abbasi and appeared on cricket-based discussions on BBC World News, BBC Asian Network and Radio Five Live alongside former Indian batsman Aakash Chopra and other cricketers.
Alam, who it emerged has only played for his hometown Huddersfield in west Yorkshire, also changed Abbasi’s Wikipedia entry to state that he was now a freelance journalist making regular appearances on BBC networks.
The real Abbasi, a wicket-keeper batsman who played three Tests for Pakistan in 1989, was furious and threatened to punch Alam in the face. “If I ever find Nadeem Alam, I will punch him in the face for damaging the country's (Pakistan’s) reputation. The BBC is a big institution and surely they must check?” the 46-year-old told the Sun newspaper. His only media appearance was on Pakistani television during the World Cup in 1996.
Alam told the Sun he was "no longer pretending to be Nadeem Abbasi". "I like to think I have been talking good cricket," he said.
The gaffe is the latest headache for the BBC after the furore over the suspension of Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson and the controversial documentary India’s Daughter. "We apologise to the real Mr Abbasi and we will be looking seriously into what has happened," a BBC spokesman said.
The publicly-funded news organization fell prey to a similar hoax in 2004 when one Jude Finnistera posed as a spokesman of Dow Chemical (which bought Union Carbide in 1999) and went on air on the 20th annivesary of the Bhopal gas tragedy, ‘admitting’ responsibility on behalf of the company.