Cricket: tainted by corruption

The latest corruption scandal in cricket, much to our chagrin and shame, continues to swirl around the Pakistan cricket team. The International Cricket Council (ICC) has charged Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir “with various offences under Article 2 of the ICC Anti-Corruption Code for Players and Player Support Personnel relating to alleged irregular behaviour during, and in relation to, the fourth Test between England and Pakistan at Lord’s last month”. The ICC has realised that its own credibility is at stake if it does not take action. The allegations against the three players are based on circumstantial evidence but the matter is murky, as all betting allegations tend to be. Therefore, in the interest of the credibility of the remainder of Pakistan cricket team’s tour, these players have been suspended by the ICC. Fans were threatening to stay away from the limited overs series, but now perhaps the tour has been salvaged to a certain extent by removing the taint of suspicion. Haroon Lorgat, ICC’s chief executive, said: “We do not pre-judge the guilt of these three players. That is for the independent tribunal alone to decide.”

But the problem does not stop there. Matches would continue to be fixed, whether spot or total. We now have to think beyond nationalism and not get into the conspiracy theories floating around that Pakistanis have been ‘framed’ to soil our reputation. It must be understood once and for all that our players are representing Pakistan, therefore they need to be clean and credible. The reason for our low credibility is because of the PCB’s ambiguous stand on handing down exemplary punishments to players accused of match fixing in the past. If the honours roll of players accused of betting or collaborating with bookies over the past two decades is kept in mind, the majority would be Pakistani. What sort of spectacle do we present to the world when our Augean stables are not cleansed properly? Had the evil been scotched at birth, it would not have grown into the monster it has become today.

The tentacles of corruption are rife in every sphere of our lives, be it politics, the bureaucracy, the military or the judicial system. The corrupt cannot root out corruption, only the honest can. With a few exceptions, virtually no cricketing nation can swear to have not been approached by bookies, but whether or not they gave in to greed is another matter. There is a big international mafia of bookies out there, especially in South Asia, who are considered top of the line. Despite the advent of big money in cricket for players, the temptation to give in to the betting mafia still exists. Pakistan cricket as a whole needs a surgical clean up, otherwise corruption will continue to reproduce itself. Our cricketers, past and present, should be investigated thoroughly and so should the management. We also need good corporate governance in the PCB. First of all, the PCB chairman’s nomination by the patron, i.e. the president of Pakistan, needs to go and the new PCB constitution under discussion forever finalised sooner rather than later. The Board must be elected transparently, including the PCB chairman. There has been too much of nepotism, patronage and corruption scandals in Pakistan cricket to be ignored any more. From now onwards, the PCB officials’ performances must be audited. The current lot must go. The people of Pakistan deserve some reprieve in their lives what with terrorism, the floods, law and order. Cricket used to be one of the few things the country could still look forward to. Time to restore its lost lustre and glory.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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