Cricket saga: What a tangled web we weave
The statements are getting increasingly ludicrous, the denials more strident, the twists and turns more and more dizzying, as the precarious house of cards, built on the foundation of mismanagement, nepotism and toadying, by the Pakistan Cricket Board, lurches and collapses around it’s ears.
It’s beginning to look like a circus. As the major players jump trapeze-like from one ring to another, attempting to somehow escape unscathed from the bubbling cauldron of corruption and sleaze awaiting them below.
The 50,000 pounds sterling unearthed by police in Salman Butt’s room was said to be for his sister’s dowry. Fair enough. But then why were the notes the same that the tabloid News Of The World had secretly marked and given to the bookie? The explanation tossed out is that since the bookie is Salman’s agent, he had given him the money for sponsorship deals. Of course, our three lambs had no idea that the agent/bookie was engaged in any nefarious activities, despite the fact that he had accompanied them on several tours, as testified to by Shahid Afridi. In fact, our garrulous bookie has even claimed that he acted as the twelfth man in many matches. Now the team management has been directed to keep all the players away from strangers and keep a vigilant eye on them. Why lock the stable door after the horses have bolted?
While PCB was going blue in the face denying any wrong doing on the part of the players, our one day skipper Shahid Afridi apologised for the scandal. “On behalf of these boys, I want to say sorry to all cricket lovers and all the cricketing nations.” But aren’t the boys claiming they are innocent? It should be noted that Afridi had recently brought the match fixing to the PCB’s notice that the players were engaged in match fixing, but no action was taken by the august body.
Instead of suspending the players involved pending an enquiry, the PCB dug in it’s heels and insisted that no player accused of wrongdoing would be dropped from the squad in London. The removal of Amir, Asif and Salman Butt from the touring party would not have been an admission of guilt, rather it would have indicated to the cricketing world that the PCB has zero tolerance for such shady activities. Instead, the PCB chose to behave like an ostrich. Thus, the ICC was left with no choice other than to suspend the three players since the PCB was turning cartwheels in order to avoid taking any remedial action.
A two hour meeting with the cricketers was all Pakistan’s representative in London needed to conclude that the players were innocent and claim that in suspending the players, “the ICC is just playing to the public gallery.” But after Yasir Hameed’s video was released by NOTW as well as the hotel’s CCTV’s footage which clearly showed that the bookie’s infamous video where he’s shown scooping up the cash, was made before the match, our desi Sherlock Holmes quickly backtracked. In a steely tone, he claimed that the three players would face a “most draconian penalty” if they were found guilty of spot-fixing.
To add insult to injury, conspiracy theories are being tossed around with abandon, with RAW playing an important role in this narrative. Apparently, the fact that reporter Mazhar Mehmood’s sister is married to an Indian national and the bookie, Mazhar Majeed, also happens to be married to an Indian girl is of great significance. It is a shame to see prominent TV anchors also subscribing to these ridiculous theories instead of admitting that the fault lies within us. Since when did it become patriotic to shield our cricketing miscreants? In this heightened atmosphere of machismo and overweening patriotism, anyone who dares to question this conspiracy mindset is automatically branded unpatriotic and anti-Pakistani.
Instead of blaming our neighbour, why don’t we take a leaf out of their cricketing book? During the Hansie Cronje match fixing affair, two of India’s leading players Mohammad Azharuddin and Manoj Prabhakar were among those found guilty. Neither of these brilliant players were convicted in court, but they did not play for India again. Nor did Ajay Jadeja, even though his ban was quashed in 2003. Contrast this with our lily liver’d PCB who appointed Saleem Malik as National Cricket Head Coach. The same Saleem Malik who was convicted of match fixing and whose life ban was later conveniently overturned by the Lahore High Court. What does PCB’s contrary action demonstrate to cricket watchers? Indulge in corruption to your heart’s content, because there is no accountability? Our 1992 World Cup winning captain Imran Khan has disclosed that as far back as 1993, the PCB had found evidence of widespread match fixing, but was afraid of removing the team’s “star” players. If PCB had taken decisive action then against the guilty players, we would not be seeing this day today. Perhaps the most tragic part of this sordid saga is the entrapment of 18 year old Aamir in this web of corruption. Aamir was our new star on the horizon and was destined to go places. Aamir’s predicament reduced former West Indian great fast bowler Michael Holding to tears on British TV, amid calls from British commentators and former players not to treat him harshly. Former England captain Michael Atherton added his plea on Aamir’s behalf:
Pakistan have produced some of the most exciting, beguiling and brilliant cricketers the world has ever seen.It is also a country swamped by floods, war and terrorism, that is in need of help not punishment.
The general feeling is that Aamir has been led astray by his seniors, specifically his captain Salman and fellow fast bowler Asif. ICC chief Haroon Lorgat has also confirmed that Aamir’s age might save him from a life ban.
If the players are found to be guilty of spot fixing, PCB needs to put it’s heavy foot down to stamp out this menace once and for all. But that begs the question – will PCB be able to discipline the players? Unguided missile Ejaz Butt’s only qualification for the lofty job of President PCB is that he is the brother in law of our Defence Minister. Hence, it’s fairly obvious that he will not be replaced, come what may. The inept team manager, Yawar Saeed, happens to be prominent politician Raza Rabbani’s father in law. The events of the last few days may well have caused Mr Saeed to stumble while alighting from the team bus in Cardiff and be taken to hospital for facial cuts, but it certainly is not enough to dislodge him from his seat either. If wishes were horses, beggars would ride…but what we need is either the President or Prime Minister to intervene and make some major changes in PCB, and our team. We need to have someone in charge of our cricketing affairs who knows the game inside out like the legendary Noor Khan or the dynamic Arif Ali Abbasi who will have the authority to keep wayward players in line.
The argument that corruption is rife in Pakistan and it’s institutions are weak is also trotted out with increasing regularity to excuse the cricketers’ actions. How does this logic excuse the indiscretions of our cricketers or indeed of anyone who chooses to be unscrupulous? In the final analysis, aren’t we are all responsible for our actions, good or bad? The truth is that the cricketing world became ensnared in the web of dishonesty and greed a long time ago. We chose to look the other way, despite increasing evidence that our players were also involved in in illegal activities. Anybody who chose not to be part of this cartel of deceit and easy money either had to leave or were weeded out. Rashid Latif, Aamir Sohail, Basit Ali and Ramiz Raja were all denied entry into the team after they refused to play ball.
Isn’t it high time then that we stopped living in this cocoon of denial and admit that there are serious problems facing our talented team and the inert PCB? It may hurt to grasp the nettle of corruption and sleaze in our beloved national sport, but there is no other way out of this morass. Reality check, anyone?
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.