Shaharyar Khan in his book ‘Cricket Cauldron’ raises a thought-provoking question which requires great introspection.
He asks if it is the tainted trio that failed us, or our society, full of corrupt practices, that encouraged them to commit the disgraceful crime?
It has been almost a year since Mohammad Amir was allowed back into cricket after ICC amended the rules, permitting banned players to feature in domestic cricket prior to the expiry of their bans.
Pakistanis warmly welcomed the player’s subsequent return to competitive cricket. Eventually, his ban was curtailed this September and he was allowed to feature in international cricket series as well.
As expected, the young left-arm pacer took no time to impress at Grade-II level. His phenomenal bowling landed him a contract with Sui Southern Gas Company.
The 23-year old’s excellent performance and several wickets in the qualifying round of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy made a genuine case for his return to International cricket. He has not made it to the national team thus far, but the Bangladesh Premier League has signed him up.
Current national cricketers, however, expressed concerns over his comeback from the very first day.
Last month, reports circulated about Mohammad Hafeez’s refusal to face Amir in nets at the National Cricket Academy. Reportedly, Pakistan’s flamboyant opener Ahmed Shehzad also raised concerns over the bowler's presence at the Academy.
In an unprecedented move, Pakistan’s star batsman, Hafeez, also explicitly refused to play with Amir when he turned down a Bangladesh Premier League contract. He later professed (Chittagong Vikings denied having made an offer to Hafeez) that he did not wish to share the dressing room with the person responsible for bringing disgrace to Pakistan.
The fire had not yet cooled when just 24-hours after Hafeez’s blunt refusal, English middle-order batsman Kevin Pietersen stated that Amir must not be welcomed back to international cricket because of his ignominious actions.
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Going back to Khan’s question; the responsibility falls on the shoulders of both the tainted trio, and society.
The '90s saw Pakistan’s integrity being poured down the drain. The giants of Pakistani cricket were found guilty of corruption according to Justice Malik Qayyum’s report in 2000.
However, because of their stature and prowess, these corrupt cricketers were only given some fines and a few match-bans.
Justice Qayyum himself confessed that his ‘soft corner’ for Wasim Akram influenced his judgement.
In this case, it was Pakistan’s ‘soft corner’ for Amir and the others that influenced their decision after they were lured into the crime by agent Mazhar Majeed. The trio knew they would get away just as their childhood idols did.
All three were on the peak of their careers during the summer of 2010. They had played a crucial role in the Twenty20 whitewash against Australia and in Pakistan’s first Test win over them in more than two decades.
Amir, in particular, had become the heartthrob of every cricket fan. He was adored, not only in Pakistan, but everywhere cricket is known.
Had Pakistan’s cricket board or the courts taken stern action at the start of the century, the country would not have faced this disgrace. But the controversy was not the outcome of their inaction solely.
Many national cricketers were approached by bookmakers prior to the outbreak of the spot-fixing controversy. In fact, scores of them were approached by Indian bookmakers during the Sri Lankan tour in 2009. But they refused to indulge in the misconduct.
Also read: Bookies held during Pakistan-Sri Lanka match
It is generally accepted that Amir has completed his term and is eligible to play again by law. But national interests demand unconventional measures.
The country’s long-term cricketing interests require Amir to be deprived of international cricket permanently. This will set an example for aspiring cricketers. Amir committed the crime, because there were no precedents set for him.
Our cricketing history is sullied by match and spot-fixing controversies. It is high time to act and save Pakistan from further disgrace.