2010 will be remembered as the year Pakistan cricket finally got it right in all the wrong ways.
After years, if not decades, of relentlessly striving to reach the pinnacle of ignominy, everything awful finally came together perfectly in 2010 as the Pakistan team and its administration put on a near flawless showcase of chaos. This achievement is no mean feat for a team and administration constantly at the forefront of controversy and regularly setting the bar for public disgrace. Indeed, in the recent past we have promised and delivered years of such dizzying depths that we were at risk of becoming complacent in our own brand of, uh, excellence. After years of ball-tampering charges, embarrassing World Cup exits (http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/cricket/6457689.stm), abrupt changes in leadership, dressing-room spats, terrorist attacks, Nasim Ashraf, drugs, bans, warts, death and more drugs, one would assume that Pakistan cricket could not possibly outdo itself any further.
How wrong we were.
In 12 months of what can only be considered a veritable tour-de-force of opprobrium, the Pakistan team and its administration put their heads together and assembled a year of such startlingly original lows that a mere fixing or doping scandal can now only be referred to as “the good old days”.
For your benefit I have sifted through the various scandals to afflict our country this past year to present you with the Top Five Scandals of 2010. Sure, there was inevitably some glory this year. We beat Australia and England overseas and mustered a few good ODIs. But why not focus on what we did best, which is to make utter spectacles of ourselves.
5. Shoaib Malik and Kamran Akmal investigated by the PCB
Coming in at last place is the on-going saga of Malik and Kamran. It speaks volumes of the quality of the top four scandals when you consider that Malik and Kamran only make it to no.5 despite their multiple misdemeanors through the course of the year. Various quarters have implicated Malik as the source of intrigue and dissension in the dressing-room, many times in concert with Kamran, and both players are considered harbingers of indiscipline. These guys are in so much trouble off the field that one tends to forget how bad they are on it, which is pretty damn bad. However that doesn’t seem to have stopped them from somehow making tons of money off their positions, a scam that the PCB seems to have belatedly picked up on.
4. Shoaib Malik’s love triangle
Say what you will about Shoaib Akhtar but, as far as we know, at least the poor guy doesn’t treat women the same way as Malik. The former skipper was apparently married to Ayesha Siddiqui, until she alarmingly discovered that he was the prince of Sania Mirza’s dreams. Apparently if you’re Hyderabadi, Malik is quite the catch and amidst much publicity, fanfare and socio-political critique a large chunk of mid-2010 was absorbed by Malik’s courtship of, and eventual nuptials with, Ms. Mirza. Their romance featured the hallmarks of all traditional love affairs – the confiscation of the paramour’s passport; the revelation of a pre-existing marriage certificate; the melodic vitriol of a right-wing nationalist political party. Truly, Romeo and Juliet ain’t got nothing on these star-crossed lovers.
3. The Lord's No-Ball Debacle
WHAT?! No.3 you say! I must be out of my mind. There is no denying that in terms of impact, prominence and system-wide repercussions, the Lord's spot-fixing scandal was off the charts. It dominated every local and international headline and will forever change the way we look at our players. But it’s precisely because of that saturation coverage that I’m relegating the scandal to mid-level stature. Frankly, I’m bored with it. In fact, the best part of the entire drama was when Veena Malik injected some life into it by accusing Asif of being a money-grubbing cad while she herself occupied the lofty position of being engaged to a US passport holder.
2. Now you see Zulqarnain, now you don’t
And just like that, poof, he was gone. The entire Zulqarnain episode was almost genius in its absurdity. Believing his life to be in mortal peril, Zulqarnain hotfooted it to England, taking the time out to succinctly explain his motivations through his facebook status: “Leaving Pakistan cricket because get bad msg fr 1 man fr lose the match in last game”. Then, safe inside a London hotel, he expressed concern over the wellbeing of his family. Wow. And here we thought Shoaib Malik was insensitive. However, Zulqarnain would never have made it to second place on this list without the support of the PCB since it’s precisely that lack of support and trust fostered by our governing body that lead to Haider resorting to his own short-sighted methods.
1. Ijaz Butt implodes
2010 was Ijaz Butt’s masterpiece. Unbeknownst to the rest of us, Butt has carefully been plotting his ascension to full-on dementia for some time now. He sowed the seeds as early as last year when he attacked Chris Broad for criticizing the PCB’s security measures just days after the venerable ICC match referee was the target of sustained gunfire. At the time we dismissed this as nationalistic posturing. Then, earlier this year, he announced a string of bans and penalties which were promptly overturned over the course of the following months. At that point the realization began to dawn on us that all may not be quite right with the old geezer. Yet nothing prepared us for Butt’s piece de resistance when he countered the various match-fixing allegations rightly leveled against our players by suggesting that it was the English team, rather, who were guilty of deliberately underperforming for financial gain. Apparently the last time Butt was chilling in bookie circles he overheard someone mention that it was the English players who were up to no good. Clearly this was sufficient basis to launch a public outburst and demand an inquiry. For this remarkable tactical foresight Butt finds himself at the top of this list. And I’m not even taking his battle of egos with Younis Khan into account which, by the way, Younis won.
So there you have it. You cannot help but be in awe of the creativity involved in delivering a year of non-stop, must-see, cry-in-shame depravity. Truly, our boys and management were misfiring on all cylinders this year. Will 2011 have any chance of matching up? Remember, that was what we feared before 2010. You underestimate this team at your own peril. Here’s to another banner year.
Happy New Year everybody.
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