Band-aids can rarely be ripped off painlessly, but when a wound inflicts a vital organ and runs deep enough to set your nervous system on fire, the sting is blinding.
Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir have been banned from the crease for 10, seven and five years respectively, and the decision has rendered part of my cricket-loving spirit comatose. The tragic ending of this saga brings one thing to light: The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and International Cricket Council (ICC) aren’t blameless, so if we are chastising those who have erred, why stop at the players?
The PCB management behaved like an intoxicated bully from the word go; their first press conference when the scandal erupted exposed their callous attitude, and their initial claims that the players are “innocent until proven guilty” were hogwash. If the board thought that the players were being maligned, it should have served a legal notice on the British tabloid that had reported on the corruption allegation. Why was this affair allowed to stretch over a period of more than six months, especially so close to the World Cup? Perhaps this is all part of a ‘we-love-surprises’ attitude, considering they didn’t select a captain till the thirteenth hour.
The ICC’s culpability lies in the violation of its very own rules. Article 8 of its anti-corruption code quite clearly states that “neither the ICC nor any National Cricket Federation shall publicly identify any Player or Player Support Personnel who has been alleged to have committed an offence under the Anti-Corruption Code until it has been determined in a hearing”. Instead of declining to comment on the news published by the News of the World, the ICC added fuel to the fire ignited by the media. Furthermore, the fact that the players have been charged with bribery, by British prosecutors, should have deterred the tribunal from making its decision public.
All said and done, the players are guilty and have been rightfully punished. As heartbreaking as it is to see a player as gifted as Amir banished for five years, his hubris was his tragic flaw. What made him wear that ‘legalise cannabis’ T-shirt before the tribunal in Doha? Why did he play that ‘practice match’ in Pindi? Ignorance of the law is never an excuse but it seems that, along with Amir, his mentors were plunged into the black abyss of oblivion.
I blame the PCB’s faithlessness and lack of will to educate and coach young players for this mess. Butt, Asif and Amir have proven to be liars and cheaters, but the PCB needs to accept some responsibility for what has happened and end the cycle of deceit that has contaminated a sport that draws undying love from Pakistanis.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 8th, 2011.
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