Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Dark Clouds Over Pakistani Cricket

The cricket spot fixing scandal has created a deep sense of despondency amongst supporters of Pakistani cricket at home and abroad. That it comes in the midst of one of the worst natural disasters in Pakistan’s history compounds the sense of national betrayal. It is indeed fair to ask that all allegations need to be fully investigated and any guilt firmly established before any disciplinary steps are contemplated. However, most fair observers have seen enough early evidence in the “News of the World” videos and the subsequent predicted no-balls bowled by the fast bowlers to conclude that something is rotten with Pakistani cricket. This is not the first instance where Pakistan’s cricket has come under the cloud of match fixing. After the initial anger and feelings of betrayal virtually everyone is asking the question of what should be done. No observer of Pakistani cricket can have an iota of faith in PCB and its current leadership to deal with this issue in the sage and firm manner that it requires. In fact, one cannot even be sure that members of management are not themselves tainted. Nothing less than the future of Pakistan cricket is at stake.

I strongly believe that the rest of the tour should be suspended and Pakistan should voluntarily put a temporary moratorium on itself from playing international cricket until it sorts out the mess. The current PCB should be disbanded and a fully empowered investigation commission should be appointed to work through this episode expeditiously and without interference. My candidates would be respected jurists like Justice Saeed-u-Zaman Siddiqui, Fakhruddin G Ebrahim etc. along with former cricketers like Majid Khan and Zaheer Abbas. This commission should first and foremost establish facts by examining all evidence and interviewing players, coaches and management in collaboration with ACSU and ICC. It should then clearly lay out the facts in a public report as soon as possible. The report should be accompanied with clear recommendations of lifetime bans for anyone found to have involvement in spot or match fixing.

If Pakistan does not tackle this seriously and establish undiluted integrity to its cricket this cancer will never go away. For too long in Pakistani cricket all inconvenient facts have been swept under the rug, the best performers shielded from the consequences of their actions (Wasim Akram, Saeed Anwar, Waqar Younis) and even diluted Qayyum report recommendations not implemented. The result has been an ever spiraling institutional rot and rampant corruption and indiscipline. The current state of affairs is particularly terrible for those players who have resisted what seem to be ever present illegal temptations. To have any chance that players, present and future, would not have their integrity in perpetual doubt is for Pakistan’s cricket to clean the stables ruthlessly. Half-hearted measures will ensure that Pakistan cricket will always remain suspect, even if allowed into the international fold. There will be no no-ball, wide, dropped catch and loss that will escape the suspicion of corruption. Like almost everybody I feel the most sympathy for the 18-year old Mohammad Amir and I think the strongest case exists for him to get a mitigated sentence but we should remember that these are exactly the excuses that were made for Mohammad Asif in the past. We were told that he was “young, poor and uneducated” but he has demonstrated even before this episode his non-stop penchant for making mischief.

Additionally, some people have argued that spot fixing is a lesser evil than match fixing but this statement completely misunderstands the tremendous destructive effect of any illegal activity. Firstly, if there are players who have gone down the route of taking money to alter the game in a small way there is no reason for them not to keep pushing the boundary by increments if the pay-off is larger. Secondly, the distorting lens of corruption affects every decision you make as a player. If you are inside the corrupt mafia you will systematically punish people outside the circle or more likely try to exclude them from the team entirely (Rashid Latif and Basit Ali in the past, perhaps Mohammad Yousuf recently who Salman Butt did not want back in the team). You will also potentially rebel against a clean captain including underperforming to get him out (like what seems to have happened to Younis Khan in New Zealand). These are only examples. The entire behavior pattern is affected by the dynamic of illegality.

As a passionate Pakistan cricket fan, I will not be following the rest of the series if it goes ahead. I will not watch Pakistan play cricket again until I have some assurance that I am watching a clean contest. I will be waiting on the sidelines with a heavy heart until there is reasonable belief that justice has been done to those players who upheld their integrity and that the crooks have been permanently thrown out of the game.


Zakintosh said...

Great piece, Fawad. Although I agree with most of your anger and take, I don't think that every one of the Pak team is involved (maybe 2 or 3 are unaffected). We shouldn add new members to the team - using your Board suggestion - and see that they are strictly followed at every step. We'll lose. But we'll get better in time.

I don't see why the rest of the country should suffer because there are 'bad' members doing this. The game MUST continue.

Also, how about the Parliament, as your next line of attack. There are very clear-cut measures about who is doing what there? Any suggestions?

Fawad Zakariya said...

Zak, I agree with your point. I am not supportive of Pakistan's exclusion from world cricket but a temporary moratorium and a firm indication that the PCB is at least interested in punishing the guilty would demonstrate some seriousness. Instead, it is already clear that the bungling, idiotic managers are making things even worse. I almost can't bear to look at Ijaz Butt's face.

To your "parliament" point, I think the reality of the matter demonstrated by the cricket microcosm is the dilapidated and rapidly deteriorating state of society. It is a cliche but people make a nation and the under-investment in people over 63 years now means that PK may be in an inevitably downward spiral as there is nothing on the horizon that will change that fundamental reality. There are still good, well-meaning, capable people but not nearly enough to make a difference at the macro level.

nonpareil said...

I am so glad I found your blog. It may take me some time before I read some of your posts. I am hoping that it will be more than just engaging.
Keep blogging.

Fawad Zakariya said...

Welcome, nonpareil. Always nice to see a new reader and visitor even though my additions to this blog are becoming alrmingly infrequent.