PAKISTAN cricket has yet again come under a cloud. The PSL spot-fixing scandal that has unfolded over the past two weeks has seen five players being charge-sheeted or suspended over their alleged links to bookies and this figure is likely to swell. Following the initial crackdown of the PCB’s anti-corruption unit against openers Sharjeel Khan, Khalid Lateef and Nasir Jamshed in the UAE in February, the suspension of giant pacer Mohammad Irfan and opener Shazaib Hasan this week have prompted fears that the scam could well be just the tip of the iceberg. And with the FIA now in the picture and the interior minister calling it a national disgrace, the PSL scandal has snowballed into a major crisis. However, despite the anti-corruption unit’s claims of catching the players red-handed, no substantial proof of their actually throwing the games in the league have been brought forward. Both Sharjeel and Khalid, despite confessing to meeting bookies in the UAE, have denied allegations of indulging in any foul play during the league matches. Lengthy interrogations of the two players by the authorities have also proved futile. A three-man tribunal to further investigate the charges has been set up.
In view of the PCB’s poor track record in dealing with cases of fixing, critics and ex-players are reluctant to take the latest accusations at face value. They have rightly been asking the board to either produce concrete evidence against the suspected players and impose life bans, or let them go with warnings and fines. There has also been talk of jailing the culprits if found guilty — something that largely depends on the degree of a player’s involvement and the circumstances. And, it is necessary to have indisputable evidence before the authorities embark on such a strict course of action. Meanwhile, this menace needs to be nipped in the bud by keeping a strict watch over domestic games and weeding out the corrupt elements besides, of course, ensuring proper grooming of the players.
Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2017