Spot-fixing: Not even an iota of delight
Covering cricket as a journalist snatches away the innocence and exuberance instilled into one’s life as a fan, in the days preceding the time when you don’t have to pay for tickets anymore or when the very figures you’d yearn to meet and speak to, become your friends.
You call each other by name, handshakes don’t have the same value anymore, food and drinks are shared and, perhaps a minor glitch of the job, the holiness of a player tones down to a meek normalcy, an act unimaginable when it all started.
You forget that once upon a time, in front of that TV, you would’ve killed to meet that person, only to boast about it for months in front of the less fortunate.
The moment of truth
The sentencing of the trio hit their families hard, perhaps second only to the cricketers themselves.
Their fall from grace, in the cricketing world and otherwise, was swift. As swift, in one case out of three, as the ascent itself, a rise that had threatened stardom to the core.
And for those scribing the acclivity, glossing it with their words and speech while giving the subject’s life added colours with every show in the middle, the verdict is a major blow.
The news stories, the features, the comment pieces, the video discussions, could all be rendered sham despite the cricketers’ brilliance on the field.
Useless since their performance had a speck of rottenness, their celebrations carried a hint of prevarication and in their hearts, deep down in one corner, sat a black dot that blared knavery.
Question the stance, not the mistake
It’s not the mistake that can’t be forgiven, it’s the continued stance of innocence. A stance that led the masses to believe in the crooks and a stance that stomped and burnt every ounce of trust and love of their followers — and there must have been tonnes of that.
We’ve all lied, stolen and done cruel things in life, so it’s not a matter of judging them by their early acts — but what followed.
I distinctly remember the air of appreciation for Mohammad Amir in press boxes, in press conferences and in general discussions.
I first spoke to him before their training session at Lord’s, days before he made his international debut for Pakistan in the triumphant 2009 World Twenty20 campaign.
The smile, the ebullience, and the eagerness to be a part of it all stumped me flat out.
The eve of the India-Pakistan clash at that year’s Champions Trophy, in the aftermath of the win, and hours after getting rid of Mitchell Johnson with that delivery, every time I go back to those moments, a feeling of dejection overcomes the cheerful memories and that sense of empowered knowledge.
And then he would’ve excuse himself at the sight of the team manager, citing Yawar Saeed’s dislike for players talking to journalists too much.
I’d set up a meeting the next day, with little knowledge of Amir’s texting ability between the two meetings.
The captain that aimed for the top
Speaking to Salman Butt minutes after he was appointed Test captain, his use of the word ‘boss’ and the plans he had of the team’s revival stunned me.
Where was the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) hiding this gem, I thought. He made his preferences clear, wanting the players he liked for the results the nation desired.
He seemed in a rush that morning – an endorsement deal was scheduled – as he satisfied our appetite for quotes and headed out, posing for photos with Mazhar Majeed right outside the hotel.
Butt was eager to hog the limelight, with due justification.
His words flowed in a similar manner to the cover drives he would unleash when not many were watching, lauding the work of the coaches and the players’ attitude towards the game.
We smelt long-term success – maybe not in terms of the results but in the direction the team had taken and was heading – unaware of the stench that was brewing behind the scenes.
The time spent was good. But now with the sentences delivered, I wonder whether to applaud the next century or a five-wicket haul, or even spend time chasing up interviews.
No matter what the ill-informed former English captain says, there exists not an iota of delight in the outcome.