So, then, Mohammad Amir is back in the team. Like it or not, he is. What state his game is in will be tested a bit later, but he has crossed a few barriers with his selection for the New Zealand trip. The spotlight, however, is not on his cricketing skills, but on the moral baggage that he carries with him. Seen against the backdrop of happenings in the last quarter of a century, all the holier-than-thou posturing leaves one in a bit of a tizzy.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) has cleared the path for Amir. New Zealand Cricket (NZC) chief David White has said he was comfortable with Amir’s selection. New Zealand Captain Brendon McCullum has voiced support for the player. But it is within Pakistan that the opinion seems to be seriously divided, and it is within the team that the resentment got its most vociferous expression. For sure, we love to take the moral high ground whenever we can, especially when it involves shooting ourselves in the foot.
The arguments are too obvious to merit a detailed enumeration, but for the naysayer more interested in finding some kind of a moral pedestal, they mean nothing. That Amir did the wrong thing is beyond doubt or debate. There can be no excuse and, indeed, there was no excuse. But, for God’s sake, he has been penalised in line with the demand of justice. He has served his term. And he has done his penance.
While the world seems to be ready to welcome Amir back in the international fold, a holier-than-thou approach is dividing the opinion at home
To say that since he has been convicted he should be kept away from the game on moral grounds is to say that no convict shall ever be given any chance to reintegrate into the social fabric. That rehabilitation post-conviction is a fraud. That once convicted you stand condemned for life. That there is no second chance in life. Some powerful arguments, these are … as powerful as the Titanic that appeared gigantic but went down at the first available opportunity.
What about the large number of organisations around the world that target facilitation of convicts’ re-entry into routine life? What about the moral embarrassment a society faces when it fails to allow calculated reintegration of convicts? Hmmmm! The Titanic already seems to be in choppy waters.
But away from the rather academic and intellectual counter-arguments, let’s get into some relevant pieces of cricketing history to help this Titanic of a supposedly moral argument rest in peace.
Shane Warne and Mark Waugh crossed the line in 1994 when they worked alongside bookies on the team’s tour of Sri Lanka. They were charged by the Australian Cricket Board (ACB) a year later. They confessed and paid the fine. The disclosure was made only four years later in 1998.
After match-fixing had grabbed international spotlight in the wake of the Hansie Cronje incident in the year 2000, the ACB appointed an independent investigator to examine allegations of match-fixing and bribery within its domain, but — and it’s a massive ‘but’ — ruled out any review of the case involving Warne and Waugh, who remain and will always remain two of the finest cricketers who graced the game with their presence. Life certainly gave a second chance to the two Aussies.
Let’s move to Herschelle Gibbs who confessed having accepted an offer from his former captain to make less than 20 runs in a one-day match in India in 2000 in exchange for $15,000. He was banned till the end of that year, returned to the international fold, refused to travel to India as part of the South African team for that would have potentially involved criminal proceedings, and was yet considered an integral part of the South African side for another decade. By the looks of it, life did give a second chance to the South African as well.
Even Hansie Cronje, the biggest name among the fallen, had his reprieve when the inquiry commission offered him immunity from criminal prosecution in South Africa if he made a full disclosure about his role in match-fixing. In the end all he faced was a life ban. Marlon Samuels of the West Indies served a two-year ban when he was found guilty of “receiving money, or benefit or other reward that could bring him or the game of cricket into disrepute.” Simply put, he was caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He returned after having served the ban and is still a part of the West Indian setup. In essence, Samuels is enjoying the second chance that he has got in life.
And how convenient it is for us to forget the Qayyum Commission and the players it slapped a fine on. Inzamamul Haq, the man who was blamed for being less than truthful and whose “partial amnesia was distressing”, went on to captain the national side. Didn’t he?
Waqar Younis has been the national coach more than once and is still in business. Mushtaq Ahmed, who was fined heavily and for whom it was recommended that he be given no “future appointment to a position of responsibility”, has been not just with the national team, but has also been hired by England as the bowling coach.
Wasim Akram, the prime accused who was fined and barred from ever being the national captain, has had a successful career as commentator and is known to have used the façade to help left-armers across the border. Today, he is the brand ambassador for Pakistan Super League (PSL).
No second chances? Hypocrisy, perhaps.
All these are random examples from among the more known of the faces. There is no dearth of lesser mortals who have had the luxury of a second chance in life. We, in Pakistan — the land of the pure that it is — seem to have higher moral standards and a code of ethics that is all our own. More than anything, we are selective in terms of both memory and reasoning. We want to make examples for future generations. No second chance for the fallen. Perched on the moral high ground with pomp and pageantry, we speak from the pedestal. Oh, we love that. Don’t we?
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, January 10th, 2016