Showing posts with label Cricket. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cricket. Show all posts

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.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

And, now, for something completely different -- Pakistani Women Cricketers

Even as I follow the twists and turns of the political and security situation in Pakistan with grave concern, observe the myopia of the country's governing leadership and witness its hapless citizens experience the steady erosion of state institutions, I have chosen not to write much about it on this blog. Instead I have stayed engaged in that ever evolving discussion on a separate online political forum so as not to inundate this blog with minutiae of Pakistani politics.

However, I was disappointed but not surprised that amongst all the political hullabaloo a wonderful Pakistani story went under-reported. The ICC Women's Cricket World Cup is currently being played in Australia and the Pakistan Women's team is not only ably representing their under-siege country but has performed significantly better than expectations. On March 9th, they beat Sri Lanka Women by 57 runs in Canberra to win their first ever World Cup match after six previous losses. This was also the team's first ever win against Sri Lanka in 19 ODIs. The team lost their next two matches against India and the favorites, England. However, the victory against Sri Lanka allowed the Pakistanis to move into the Super Six round where they were ranked at the bottom. Even as they were always unlikely to make the semi-finals they demonstrated some fighting spirit once again by defeating the West Indies Women by four wickets in the Super Six round match on March 14th in Sydney. They now face Australia on March 16th and New Zealand on March 19th for their final two Super Six games in Sydney.

The star performers with the bat have been the captain Urooj Mumtaz, the opener Nain Abdi and Armaan Khan, who in partnership with Urooj led the successful fight back in the chase against the West Indies. The fast bowler Qanita Jalil has been the main strike bowler but has been assisted strongly by the allrounder Sana Mir and the captain herself. Sana's steady performances both with the bat and the ball have been the critical contributors to the team's success.

This World Cup seems to be a turning point for the team as they will gain tremendous confidence from their victories on foreign soil and against better fancied opposition. If only they got some steady support from the Cricket Board and the people of Pakistan, perhaps one day these women would win Pakistan the World Cup that the men have not been able to win since 1992. The courage of these young women to play competitive sport in a culture that hardly encourages it and their heroic performance without much support from any corner deserves rich tributes and is particularly poignant in the wake of the Talibanization of parts of the country and the dastardly terrorist attack on the visiting Sri Lankan national team in Lahore. I hope that Pakistanis will make an effort to recognize and reward the marvellous contributions of this band of pioneering cricketers.

Photos: 1) Urooj Mumtaz lifted up in celebration 2) Naila Nazir, Qanita Jalil & Urooj Mumtaz; 3) Nain Abdi playing a square cut 4) Qanita Jalil running in to bowl 5) Sana Mir playing an off drive (Courtesy Cricinfo)