The cricket that brought respite to millions of Pakistanis — from the suicide bombs, the floods and the atrocities within — has now left them distraught. The expression, the ebullience and the sweet smell of determination and audacity that belied his age — 18, as reported by the officials — now reeked of betrayal. An act menial, but with repercussions grand.
Mohammad Aamir is a smart cricketer. Too smart for his age. He talks of his bowling with a doctorate in his hand, knowing precisely how to act his trade with the accuracy, ability and the arm. At 15 he was prodigy-turned-casualty courtesy dengue fever, stress fracture and the stern demands of international cricket. Three years on, he was Pakistan cricket's biggest thing, still just a teenager from a small village.
Bigger than that then, perhaps, was the temptation.
Over-stepping is a norm in cricket. Umar Gul has mastered the art. Suraj Randiv enacted it with perfection in Sri Lanka barely days ago. So why would a slight stretch — a vociferous extension in this case — be met with a raised eyebrow or question one's conscientiousness. Because it negated all the preceding effort, the haul of wickets, the prize money, the heroics and the wide beam of a child gaining recognition, fame and applaud. And the trust of a nation, of its mad fans.
Money is no foreigner to Pakistan cricket. Allegations are, and have been, omnipresent. Verdicts, decisions, recommendations have been passed. Bans have been placed. Worlds have been shattered as a result. So the tangibility of the scenario was never in question. It was the innocence of those blamed, especially Aamir.
Last time Pakistan visited England they forfeited a Test match after ball-tampering accusations and subsequent on-field penalty. This year, following the thrashing — the absolute battering — it has received intermittently, it has been forced to forfeit its self-respect and dignity. And because of reasons that lay beyond the results.
It's premature to pass a verdict while the investigations are ongoing, especially considering the U-turn following Bob Woolmer's death and the guilt cloud that was floated over the Pakistan team. However, the dropped heads, the visible capitulation and the management's failure to defend the individuals after Pakistan's on-field disaster at Lord's, have effectively told us what the verdict will be. A massive shock and a swift fold of events that not only dampened England's almost-miraculous fightback from the depths of despair but also sunk Pakistan cricket further in the doldrums, an inconceivable thought given the tumultuous year that it has had so far.
In an interview last year, Aamir told me he wanted to “have a bit in my wallet”. Perhaps, a better lifestyle to what he had witnessed up till then was what he meant. But the words still come back to haunt.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 31st, 2010.