Deeper and deeper

Published: August 31, 2010

In the murky world of cricket corruption, rarely do you get a case so clear-cut. The British tabloid The News of the World’s sting operation against Mazhar Majeed, the alleged middleman between bookmakers and seven Pakistani cricketers, shows that cheating and dishonour have once again become the defining characteristics of our most highly-paid and feted sportsmen. Investigations will have to run their course before punishments can be handed out but if, as seems likely, the verdict is guilty, nothing short of life bans will suffice for the players involved.  Those who stand accused include captain Salman Butt, vice-captain Kamran Akmal and premier fast bowlers Mohammed Aamir and Mohammed Asif. The evidence provided by the newspaper, known for going after controversy and for its right-wing slant, is quite compelling. Their undercover reporter paid off Majeed and, in return, received information that Aamir and Asif would bowl no-balls at certain pre-designated points of the match. Events on the field unfolded exactly as Majeed said they would. Aamir and Asif not only bowled the no-balls, they overstepped the line by such a margin it left the unaware commentators aghast.

Pakistan cricket has been through many periods of shame but this may be the most humiliating. The only option is to cast aside all the bad eggs and start from scratch. The majority of the team stands exposed and this time it should have no defenders blaming the accusations on racism, colonialism or any other imagined prejudice. For too long, the corruption that is endemic to Pakistani cricket has been excused, justified and swept under the carpet. All through the 1990s, our cricketers were embroiled in one match-fixing controversy after the other and yet the only people who paid the price with their careers were Rashid Latif and Basit Ali, the two whistleblowers who brought match-fixing allegations to the public’s notice. Why does the Pakistan team which so frequently land up in trouble? Has the culture of corruption in our country filtered down to its sportsmen? Is the relative lack of awareness and financial insecurity of teenagers such as Aamir taken advantage of? Do they simply yearn for material riches and willingly abandon all morality to attain them? These are all factors. They reflect the kind of society we have become. But other nations – India, South Africa and Australia – have also faced match-fixing scandals. The willingness to impose bans, to address the matter head on may have saved them from the kind of ignominy we face now.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), which has had to deal with numerous scandals in the last few years, including drugs charges and player rebellions, has a formula to make it seem as if it is holding players accountable without actually taking any meaningful action. An inquiry is held, long bans are handed out and then, when the furore dies down a bit, the bans are quietly overturned. Of course, all this does not mean that the PCB be let off the hook. Given the variety of disasters that have taken place under Chairman Ijaz Butt’s watch, it would be a travesty if he remains in the post. Only President Asif Ali Zardari has the authority to remove the PCB chairman. He needs to exercise that authority immediately.

Players who have a shady past need to be permanently excluded from positions of authority and officials against whom allegations have been made should not be included in squads. When the coaching staff includes Waqar Younis and Ijaz Ahmed, cricketers who featured prominently in the match-fixing scandals of the ’90s, younger players will get the impression that cheating will go unpunished. There may be some, including the players, who argue that spot-fixing is not as major a crime as match-fixing. These kinds of justifications are pointless because the game has to be played in a competitive spirit and that any attempt to compromise that – for even a ball – means that the players are playing not to represent their nation but to make some extra money. And that is why those who indulge in this are called cheats.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 31st, 2010.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • Noor Nabi
    Aug 31, 2010 - 2:00AM

    The Cricket team, after all, comes from the same stock from which we harvest our politicians, our military, our judges, our civil servants and, last but not least, our parliamentarians. Why this surprise?Recommend

  • Anonymous
    Aug 31, 2010 - 2:33AM

    I just remembered Bob Woolmer- the guy who met an awful end in the hotel where the whole team was staying.

    An honest guy like him couldn’t fit in with these under-ground gangsters, so he was conveniently disposed of. Nobody even talks about him. For God’s sake, he was the coach of the Cricket Team and his case has just been so conveniently forgotten.

    We see Javed Miandad’s son getting married with the “Don of Dons”-Dawood Ibrahim’s daughter…! No eyebrows raised?

    Seems as if nothing goes right in this land of “Impure”.Recommend

  • Aug 31, 2010 - 5:52AM

    Good editorial. Why have you forgotten the role of Asst Manager Shafqat Rana, who was accused in writing by a player of demanding bribe for selecting him. Kindly also remember that Miandad is related to Daud Ibrahim, the man who is the top honcho of Cricket Betting Mafia. Match Fixing like other white collar crimes are very difficult to prove. In this case the sting operation by the News of the World proves that 7 of our players were game to spot fixing. If they can do this, they surely would be involved in match fixing. Can somebody explain how these cricketers, all coming from humble backgrounds, manage to buy expensives properties and villas in Dubai, UK and Pakistan. All their match fee and sponsorship earnings put together do not add up to justify their assets. I dont mind increaing their match fee by double, if that is required. The issue is why have we accepted and adopted this culture of tolerance for corruption. I think we have had enough of this. It must end now. This can only happen if severe examplary punishments are awarded to all those involved in corrupt practices. Recommend

  • Ashraf Khan
    Aug 31, 2010 - 10:26AM

    these guys just reflect our true national character. all those who are making this hype about the alleged shenanigans of the test cricketers of pakistan, themselves have tainted reputations. hypocricy is the staple food on which we thrive these days, the pot is calling the kettle black.the powerful corrupt think that “ours is ours, you will be hanged if you got your hand in the till”.
    @ “”The only option is to cast aside all the bad eggs and start from scratch.””
    even if we do this, six months down the lane, the same sitution will again be staring us in the face because “all of us come from the same stock as everybody else”.* quoted from a reader’s comments*.

    Only casting aside everything past, cutting on the hypocritical propaganda about ‘we are the best’ and trying to give an ethical secular outlook to our youngsters will ameliortae our plight.Recommend

  • Asma
    Aug 31, 2010 - 10:41AM

    Its disgusting. But then we have gone way beyond for it to be stated. The PCB chairman SHOULD resign and lifetime bans should be meted out to all involved.

    I do hope we Pakistanis never forget this and non- violently (I repeat non-violently) never let the players forget this. Many of us are emotionally invested in the Pakistan cricket team and we SHOULD hold them accountable to this.

    I wish every fan stands at airports when they enter and boo them, put boards outside their houses which says ‘here lives a Pakistani cricketer who degraded a country’s image and intentionally crushed the hopes of millions at a time when we needed them most -for money.”

    That every newspaper dedicates a column on their sports page with a pic of each player everyday with the title TRAITOR. So no one forgets this. Recommend

  • Sharif Lone
    Aug 31, 2010 - 1:25PM

    I condemn those involved, but i do not believe in quick justice, like the one in Sialkot. So I say if it is proved beyond any doubt of the irregularities, these people must be banned for life.Recommend

  • Fayaz Hussain
    Sep 3, 2010 - 12:01AM

    I will disagree here only on point as the writer said that all the players against allegations were leveled should be punished in a way that they should be banned for any official position. the point is levelling allegaion against any one is so simple because that does not require any physical hardship or cost a dime. as such, no action must be taken against the allegations only untill and unless the conviction.
    Why we should not give chance to our STARS in managing team i.e. coach, officials, etc. after their retirement as long they are not convicted. We should be proud of having world famous starts within us and we must be proud on their acceptance on any position after their retirement from the playRecommend

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