It ain’t just cricket

Published: November 13, 2010
The writer is head of the BBC Urdu Service

The writer is head of the BBC Urdu Service

When something is not fair, we say it just ain’t cricket. In the case of Pakistan, though, shall we say it ain’t just cricket? Give it a think.

There are nine Test-playing nations in the world. Even if we restrict ourselves to just 11 players per team and not count the choices and backups, we are talking about 99 Test-level players. And if you analyse the performance of these players, at least one-third of them could rank as potential match-winners.

How come it is always a bunch of Pakistanis that find themselves at the sharp end of the global betting mafia?

Maybe our track record in punishing offenders, or more widely, our attitude towards crime is to be blamed. Here are a few examples.

A military leader revolts against an elected government, a crime punishable by death in the country’s constitution. What happens? Not only does he manage to rule the country for nearly a decade, he then makes a clean exit, sets up base in one of the most expensive cities in the world and is now threatening to take up politics full-time.

A banker is brought into Pakistan by a military leader and made the country’s prime minister. For the next few years, he presides over every imaginable scandal from the as yet unexplained stock market crash to chronic shortages of food stuff to questionable transactions involving national assets. What happens to him? Nothing. In fact, we don’t even know where he is anymore.

A military dictator uses the national air force to assassinate a political figure from the country’s poorest province. What happens? The former dictator proudly says that given another go, he would do the same again.

Thousands of people, mostly from Balochistan, simply disappear. Everyone including the country’s Supreme Court blames national intelligence agencies for their disappearance. What happens? Please ask the relatives of the victims.

The country’s most popular political leader is assassinated. Before she is taken out, she names four people who could be plotting against her. The case is investigated by no less an agency than the UN. What happens? Almost three years down the road, we don’t even know the four names.

Police actively assists a band of bloodthirsty lunatics in publicly lynching two brothers, every moment of their dastardly act recorded and broadcasted thousands of times locally and internationally. What happens? Nothing so far, as far as we know.

The outrage from several Pakistani officials at Zulqarnain Haider’s decision to drop everything and run would have been laughable had it not been so sad. He is a 24-year-old boy with his whole life including at least a decade of international cricket ahead of him.

But he had to forget everything and run for his life simply because his torturers know that when it comes to Pakistan, you can get away with murder, literally.

When criticising him for being a ‘coward’, do we honestly expect him to forget that even a formal judicial commission could not bring the match fixers in Pakistan cricket to heel? Do we really expect him to ignore the fact that Pakistan is least interested in concluding the tragic saga of Amir, Asif and Butt — suspended by the ICC from international cricket since Pakistan’s recent tour of England?

Since Pakistan’s fateful tour of India in 1979, there has always been an odd individual brave, or foolish enough to bring to light problems with Pakistan cricket. And it has always been this maverick who has suffered, never the offenders.

Haider has done what any sensible person would have done in his situation.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 14th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (12)

  • Nov 14, 2010 - 12:06AM

    Perhaps the disappointment with Z. Haider is because people expected much more from him? Or they are frustrated that another public figure has disappointed them? Recommend

  • parvez
    Nov 14, 2010 - 1:14AM

    Your article sounded powerful and you have passed judgement on Zulqarnain – aquitting and praising him. You are so right this ain’t just cricket, its a lot more. Lets hope the media sticks with this case and provides a credible ending.Recommend

  • Syed Rizvi
    Nov 14, 2010 - 12:21PM

    Mr Khan .. sitting overseas with every comfort around you doesn’t let you realize how cruel and corrupt these democratic governments have been. In the absence of moral and ethical values this nation of pure land has also become like their leaders. Unfortunately these political leaders are behaving since the independence and khakies have been taking full advantage of their weaknesses and inabilities. To many Pakistanis like me and its extremely unfortunate that army rules were always better and productive except Zia’s period. And I request people like you sitting abroad and who have absolutely no idea what exactly going here for a common man who doesn’t have food to eat and drink, no job, no security of his life, home and belongings, total absence of justice, and no hope in the near future for any improvement. Please dont support democracy until we are wise and mature enough to elect right people to lead us for any betterment. By the way give me any muslim country which is being run by democracy. There are dictators of every kind and our islamic history is full of dynasties and khilafat even Khulfa e Rashdin. We need DANDACRACY and believe you me everything will be fine. Recommend

  • Kamran
    Nov 14, 2010 - 12:24PM

    Agreed, criminals more often than not get away with it in Pakistan, especially if they are politically connected. But glaringly you seem very fond of the phrase “a military leader” as if the military is to blame for all the moral decay of our society at large. I submit that it’s the other way round. Have there been military dictators who have usurped power and stifled the growth of democratic institutions in our country ? The answer will be a resounding “yes”. But if the military dictators were the only ones who used their position of power to pursue their selfish agendas, we as a nation will perhaps come together with a shared sense of oppression and it might have translated into a shared sense of purpose, a realization of the true value of our civil freedoms/rights, an appreciation of our democratic institutions and all this would have manifested itself in a sense of civic responsibility and respect for the rule of law, but that didn’t happen did it, even after four army dictators. The real blame for our evolution as an apathetic and indifferent people lies with our so called “democratically elected” office holders. They are the ones that made us, as a society, discard the notion of collective well being. Their unending greed and hypocrisy taught us that no social ideals are worth more than personal gain. Why else is there no action taken by the “patron in chief” of the PCB. It does not take a genius to see that the real reason for all these scandals that surround our cricket is the complacent and incompetent if not complicit people who are in charge of the PCB. But when you have an illogical system where a person who has no working knowledge of and no real interest in the national passtime ends up appointing the head of the PCB as a political favor or more appropriately a gift to someone associated with a political ally of his, with no regard for what an incompetent and corrupt appointee can do to what little repute we as a sporting nation have left, then the present situation is precisely what you get and deserve. What’s stopping the President from saying, enough is enough. Why can’t he remove these people and appoint someone known for his integrity and expertise as the PCB chairman? I’ll tell you why, he’s busy frying bigger fish, who knows how long he may have before the next “military leader” comes along. So he is doing what the democratic leadership has been doing in this country every time they’ve had a chance, they are getting their’s. So yes i agree with you, the historical lack of accountability may have disillusioned us and convinced Zulqernain to ask for asylum in England, but it is not the “military leaders” who transformed us into the cynical and corrupt lot we are today, because it is understandable when a dictator sets aside social ideals and rights to achieve his goals for that is the nature of the beast. But the real lesson in wickedness was and is being taught by our so called democratic leaders. Recommend

  • Mujtaba H
    Nov 14, 2010 - 1:15PM

    People are just confused why a good wicketkeeper who recOently replaced a horrid one, Kamran akmal, has vanished giving yet another chance to Kamran. Only a few months back Zulqernain was sent back from England for injury that did not occur and was once again replaced by Kamran Akmal. Is Kamran Akmal the Ijaz Butt of the team. He has dropped innumerable catches, plotted against Yunus Khan, his brother blackmailed the board that he would not perform if Kamran wasn’t reinstated and he has delibrately underperformed. There is something sinister about Pakistan’s wicketkeeping scandals!Recommend

  • Nov 14, 2010 - 2:42PM

    yeah you are right my dear till some extent but i’d ask u the same question if u’d have been standing at his position and same questio is imposed on u!
    he has done the right thing but otin a gud way…he could hv called the pakistan interior ministry officials to gv protection 2 his family as our former crickters did in the past \1
    its not a way that u r escaping urself by leaving the name of the nation in mud saying that i dont know whosoever will be the next keeper ,i only intend to save my own life! he must hv thought of nother 11 rikters,they night had beeen threatened but they sutained n continued 2 if he really intended 2 do this,he must have informed the officials before.AHRecommend

  • Nov 14, 2010 - 6:45PM

    Like in most cases, some of us would agree with the author (any author) and of of us won’t. Its understandable and it is good.

    My title for this piece would be……Wicket Bad (playing on the phrase “wicked good”).

    The Zulqarnain fiasco coming at the heels of the match mixing scandal in England involving captain Salman Butt, Asif and young lad Aamir, though unfortunate, gives us a clearer idea if what is really going on behind the scenes, when the players are out there in the field.

    Here is something to think about. Our politicians, engineers, doctors, bankers, soldiers are all cut from the same fabric. Why would we expected our cricketers to be exceptions and angelic? They come from the same breed and live the same space.

    Isn’t it a paradox that Haider has sought refuge in the very same country where not long ago three of his team-mates were marched out from international cricket!

    The gentleman’s game of cricket in white flannels has become one of the seediest and sleaziest games in the world today. We seem to have forgotten that Pakistan cricket coach Bob Woolmer himself died in mysterious circumstances in the middle of a series, not very long ago and top captains like Azharuddin and Hanse Cronje have had to quit from the cricket arena in matters of minutes. There are still unanswered question’s on Cronje’s death by air-crash.

    Back to Haider, its a case of killing the messenger. Would anybody want to start making a list of Pakistani cricketers who had to quit international cricket for reasons other than performance? Poor souls like Haider fall in the category of loose cannons and are potential risks to all parties, even to those who may be supporting him. I hate to to sound pessimistic, but I think this may be the end of the road for this young man.

    The Kamran Akmal theory (and now the third Akmal in the team) is worth a closer look. Kamran was also the fourth person under suspicion in the England match-fixing. Somehow he slipped out from the backdoor and the other three were nailed.

    And as for PCB Chairman Ijaz Butt, the less said the better.Recommend

  • Ibrahim Kumbhar
    Nov 14, 2010 - 7:06PM

    agreed,there is no option for him in todays Pakistan. so you said well,great Amir sahib Recommend

  • Indian
    Nov 14, 2010 - 9:06PM

    What you want to prove? Pakistan players are corrupt? What about SA, Indian, English, Ozs? Are they saint? Still Indian team has at least two tainted players, though not in final eleven. What about Shane Warne, the so called legend? What about Ashes? I mean about 850 betting shops in England and you are maligning Pakistan. Why Haider escaped to England, where a couple of players of pakistan origin were recently attacked by bookies? Look we are all trying to remove the menace of betting. ICC is trying its best. Pakistan is in right direction. Let us support Pakistan at this juncture.Recommend

  • Anonymous
    Nov 16, 2010 - 12:52AM

    Why was the indian tour of 1979 fateful?Recommend

  • Abdul Rasool
    Nov 16, 2010 - 8:42AM

    The PCB is neither incompetent or unsympathetic. The PCB is doing a “great job”, they are doing the job that is required of them to meet the demands of their masters. Any player or official who does not tow the line is publically humiliated and thrown out of the team.


  • Indian
    Nov 16, 2010 - 11:30AM

    I will tell you the truth. I strongly feel Zulqarnain was involved with the bookies, and he had been given certain tasks by the bookies(probably English bookies, as most of cricket betting takes place in England; there are more than 850 legal betting shops in England; you can well imagine the extent of illegal betting in England). Now we all know ICC came with a declaration form and made the players to sign it. Zulqarnain probably panicked after finding out the strong punishments in UAE and Dubai. ICC also has plans of undercover agents and Anti-corruption unit. Death sentence is still applicable in Dubai; so he thought it best to run back to heaven of betting; i.e. England.Recommend

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