A cricketing sham(e)

A new scandal has rocked the world of cricket. The News of the World, a British tabloid, carried out a sting operation against a fixer, Mazhar Majeed, who has alleged that seven players from the Pakistan cricket team currently on a tour in England are “in his pocket”. Captain Salman Butt, wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal, and two bowlers – Muhammad Asif and Muhammad Amir – have been named by the fixer for allegedly being involved in spot fixing, a new trend in the betting world, whereby a player performs according to something that has been pre-arranged. This new form of cheating is different from match fixing where a complete match is thrown away in return for money.

Pakistan cricket team is no stranger to controversies. From ball-biting incidents to ball tampering accusations, from imposing lifetime bans on players to reversing the bans within a few months, from changing captains like one changes clothes to accusations of match fixing, our cricketers have been in the soup for quite some time now. The latest episode is based on circumstantial evidence, with indications that some of the players were up to no good. Scotland Yard has questioned Pakistan team’s manager, Yawar Saeed, captain Salman Butt and two other players. Pakistan has finished the Test series against England but still has to play the limited overs series. International Cricket Council (ICC) chief Sharad Pawar has said that the “series will go on. We cannot take any action till we get the prima facie report”. President Zardari has taken strict notice of the scandal and a Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) team is being sent to England to investigate the incident.

In the last 20 years of cricket’s history, allegations of match fixing have recurred from time to time. The allegations have not been limited to Pakistani players; South Africa’s Hansie Cronje, India’s Mohammad Azharuddin, Ajay Jadeja were also involved in this criminal activity, to name a few. The problem with Pakistan cricket is that the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has given mixed signals as far as imposing a ban on players accused of such shady deals are concerned. More than a decade ago, Justice Qayyum’s report should have been heeded in letter and spirit, but it was not. Some of the players named in the report now have important positions in the team management. A firm line has to be drawn now if the allegations against our players are proved. In the meanwhile, those players who have been accused of spot fixing should be suspended from the team and should not be allowed to play the rest of the series until the truth is established. In any case, they would not be in a fit mental state to play. Replacements should be sent immediately and Shahid Afridi must be part of that reinforcement process. If justice is to be done, the present tour management must also be changed. The buck stops with the PCB, whose chairman, Ijaz Butt, has proved to be a disaster and must step down or be sacked immediately. The bungling of Mr Butt and his Board officials is no secret. The future of cricket is now at stake. If proved guilty, we have to impose lifetime bans on the guilty players and if need be, rebuild from scratch.

Pakistanis worship the game of cricket and this latest episode has broken the heart of our nation, but we have to understand what this implies for the country’s integrity and the spirit of cricket. Due to the terrorist attack on Sri Lanka in March 2009, international cricket ended in the country. If the charges are proved against our cricketers now, the future of Pakistan cricket will be further in the doldrums.

The malaise is deeper and more generalised than our cricket affairs represent. The fish rots from the head, be it the civilian or military set up in politics or our cricket team and management. If anybody thinks that they can wax morally indignant against these errant cricketers and ignore the foundation of moral rot in our society as a whole, then they are being dishonest. Corruption has trickled down into the entrails of our society and no area is clean. But enough is enough. We must not compromise anymore, neither in cricket nor in any other field. Justice must be served.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

Comments

SalmanZ said…
Nice Article! By keeping eyes on past it seems very difficult that justice will be prevail. We can just hope for the best. In Pakistan we have very limited options to enjoy or be happy in our life. I believe, TV is only option available to masses in Pakistan for enjoyment and entertainment. Most news channels reports all negative around us... I think its their duty to tell people what wrong going around them and there is no news on whats right going on.

For most of us, Cricket is a sports which make us happy and at-least for sometime keeps us away from harsh realities of daily life which contain lot of pain, hardships and injustice.

In my point of view about this incident overall, it will be a big blow to Common Pakistani.. and for some people like me the only reason to watch TV is also vanishing... :(

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