Mohammad Amir (bottom R) and agent Mazhar Majeed arriving for their sentencing at Southwark Crown court in London.—Reuters Photo
Mohammad Amir (bottom R) and agent Mazhar Majeed arriving for their sentencing at Southwark Crown court in London.—Reuters Photo

KARACHI: When Pakistan's leg-spinner Danish Kaneria was banned for life for fixing, many were baffled as to why Pakistanis were so talented at cricket yet so susceptible to the lure of corruption.

It was another jolt with the country still reeling from the devastating 2010 spot-fixing scandal at Lords, which ended in lengthy bans and jail terms for then Test captain Salman Butt, and pacemen Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir.

Corruption is rife in Pakistan. Businessmen consider it a necessary evil and last month the prime minister lost his job after being convicted of contempt for refusing to reopen corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

In a country with an ineffective government, disastrous power cuts, Taliban violence, al Qaeda strongholds and an economy at risk of defaulting, cricket is the most popular if not the only form of entertainment.

“Corruption cases against our politicians are common, but the corruption of 19-year-old Amir was hard to swallow,” said Tauseef Khan, head of mass communication at the Federal Urdu University in Karachi.

“It reflects the lack of role models and unabated corruption in our society.”

For those talented enough, cricket offers an escape from the hardship of low-income and poverty-stricken homes such as those where Amir grew up just outside the capital Islamabad.

The commercialisation of the game in the late 1970s enabled cricketers to earn tens of thousands of dollars a year, but also gave rise to corruption.

“The majority of cricketers in Pakistan come from poor families and when they see so much money floating around, sadly temptation gets the better of them,” said former captain Mushtaq Mohammad.

Many also blame the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for being unable to stop the rot after life bans on Salim Malik and Ata-ur Rehman, and fines for Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Inzamam-ul Haq, Saeed Anwar and Mushtaq Ahmed in 2000.

Commentator and former captain Ramiz Raja, who played with all these stars, blamed the lack of structure.

“I don't think the system moulds players into an ambassadorial role for the game,” Raja told AFP.

“It's a mix of so many factors: lack of education which could help to weigh good and bad options, social breakdown as we increasingly see villains ruling the roost, lack of sound upbringing and lack of role models, especially in cricket.”

Cricketers are lionised to such an extent that fans refuse to believe their idols are ever capable of crime and corruption, further emboldening offenders.

So there was little surprise when Butt was warmly welcomed home last month—in contrast to the apathy felt over former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's conviction for contempt last April.

“The power of denial is a safety rope that breaks a fall. There have been examples in which cricket crime has gone unpunished because of such an approach,” said Raja.

“Hard core evidence is difficult to get and the crooked know how to drown out the sane voices by playing on the emotions of the nation's simplicity and giving it a conspiracy spin,” he added.

He even believes that the fiercely loyal family culture in Pakistan, where parents are ready to fight even for children at fault, is also to blame.

“Of course, parenting plays a key role in making kids into noble citizens of the society.”

The 2010 scandal put Pakistan cricket at a crossroads. There were even calls for Pakistan to be thrown out of the World Cup the following year.

Since then, the PCB has sought to implement strict measures to purge the game of fixers and malpractice.

But if the daily newspaper headlines about corruption in the corridors of power are anything to go by, it seems unlikely that the country's future breed of cricketers will avert the pitfalls of temptation.

Updated Jul 04, 2012 05:54am

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Comments (14) (Closed)


omar
Jul 04, 2012 05:28pm
Why the corrupt haunt Pakistan cricket ? Short answer we as (I am part of it) a society are corrupt , from top to bottom whoever gets a chance cheats from steeling to taking or giving bribes. There are exceptions, recent example is the police inspector who returned a bag full of money to the owner.
Asif
Jul 04, 2012 06:51pm
what we saw in cricket is only a reflection of our society.
Mahmood - London UK
Jul 16, 2012 12:20am
Please do not bring Hindu - Muslim conflict into this it does not help and frankly Amit we have moved . If it helps to explain this ugly episode - the three Pakistan players were part of a Pakistan side touring England, whilst Mr Kaneria was playing for the county of Essex and was not part of a Touring Pakistani side
mashood qadri
Jul 04, 2012 03:48pm
I agree with most of the content; but, I have a big frustration here with our media. Our social media has shown hippocracy in exposing different evils of the society. On one end, the media exposes corrupt politicians with their acts on the streets.
Jean Verlander
Jul 04, 2012 07:07am
I know a lot of Pakistanis thought the punishment of the 3 cricketers was harsh, especially for the 19 year old but you must get tougher in the Pakistan Courts, these guys were guilty. They even had the nerve to do in in London. How can Pakistan possibly clean up a corrupt society. a massive job I fear.
Azhar Chaudhry
Jul 04, 2012 10:16am
The road to recovery : Corrupt politicians should be barred from contesting National and Provincial Assemblies elections. They must not be allowed to become government officials and those already in position should be asked to vacate the positions with immediate effect and all their assets should be ceased to recover the looted money. Tax evaders should be punished equally and those involve in stealing electricity should be heavily punished in terms of heavy penalties. The only way to bring the economy back on its feet is to hold all defaulters liable.
Agha Ata
Jul 04, 2012 03:40pm
Corruption is like Leukemia (Blood cancer) in Pakistan, it runs in the blood, and it needs a kind of dialysis for the treatment; but I have no clue what kind! :(
m usman
Jul 05, 2012 11:19am
I hope Pakistan will change by removing the corrupt people......IN SHA ALLAH....Hope for the best......
Amit-Atlanta-USA
Jul 09, 2012 03:26pm
A simple question.......... even as the other Muslim players were banned for jst 1-3 years from Pakistan cricket, why was a Hindu like Danesh Kaneria banned for life? Even if the ban was initiated by the ICC, why didn't the PCB not appeal the ruling as they did for the other Muslim players? BTW, I am no supporter of Mr.Kaneria or anybody else. They all deserve to be punished.
Merchant
Jul 09, 2012 10:48am
I think we should get rid of the players in our team who are grouping for their vested interest in the team and not playing for Pakistan.Captain should be respected and hold accountable for the team performance.Nobody should interfer in his handling of players. Each team official should be held accountable for his assignment.Capable and honest players should be encourage and contract of players should be according to their performance in the year.
gary
Jul 05, 2012 07:05am
Pakistanis are always in a denial mode,what else would you expect.
True Pakistani
Jul 05, 2012 08:57am
- without corruption pakistan will not exist. corruption is the life blood of this country.
Mohammed Yahya USA
Jul 06, 2012 06:36am
Excellent comments, in Pakistan there is no corruption it is only in our minds, surprised? don't be ask any politician, ask a police officer, ask any departmental head & if you can not reach them then ask any peon or any one who works under them every one of them will have one answer that they r honest. Unfortunately all of us r responsible because to get our work done faster we pay thinking we r doing the right thing.
Shadu
Jul 15, 2012 03:09pm
Well said. Just look at the very top and then start downward. Stop when you come across one honest man. Ah... One does not and slides all the way down to the very bottom.