Yesterday I was preparing to write about the shame of our feeble capitulation in both innings of the fourth test.
Tonight, I would give anything if that were the only form of embarrassment we had to suffer at the hands of our team - but it isn’t. An abject defeat would be too easy a let-off. Our team couldn’t resist dragging a country’s reputation through the mud as the icing on the cake.
As the whole world knows by now, a British tabloid broke a story implicating several Pakistan cricket players in a “spot-fixing” scam. The video evidence is damning, showing Mazhar Majeed, the mastermind behind the operation, assuring an undercover reporter that no-balls would be bowled at specific points in the match in exchange for cash. Sure enough, the said deliveries were duly bowled.
Anyone that saw the match live must remember being astounded at the extent of Amir’s overstepping. It seemed too exaggerated to be genuine. It wasn’t. I don’t think the evidence against Hansie Cronje was ever as conclusive as the video taken showing Wahab Riaz and Umar Amin, ostensibly acting as gophers for the likes of Salman Butt and Kamran Akmal, meeting with Majeed and accepting a coat carrying possibly upwards of £10,000. Officials reportedly later found around £25,000 in a Pakistani player’s room.
I’ve watched this clip disbelievingly over and over again, probably out of some masochistic impulse. It’s difficult not to feel a little sick as Majeed silently, calmly flips through a wad of bills, computing the value of the honour of our players as if it’s an item on the shelf of a supermarket. In a seedy hotel room, our players were bought and sold.
In the interests of fairness, let’s establish what Asif and Amir did not do. As far as I’m aware, they did not under-perform. Money was accepted to perform certain, seemingly trivial, actions on the field of play. No catches were dropped. No wickets were gifted while we batted. In fact, the no-balls in question were bowled while we were in the ascendancy and our grip over the match was absolute. So far, there is no evidence to suggest that we deliberately let England off the hook after having them at 47-5.
It’s debatable whether it is fair to punish the accused with life bans for something relatively minor. Would Amir have hesitated to take the cash if it required him to ensure that Pakistan lost the game? Maybe not. Maybe Asif and him just figured: “It’s only a measly no-ball. What does it matter in the broader scheme of things?”
It does matter guys.
This is not a question of degrees. Going by that logic, there shouldn’t be a death penalty for killing a homeless, destitute man because he “doesn’t matter” as much as you or I. Where does one draw the line at what an acceptable form of bribery is and what’s not? That’s a rhetorical question because there is no line. Once you start attaching notional levels of reprobation to an offence, you immediately diminish the gravity of that offence as a whole. I don’t want young kids thinking that bowling an inconsequential no-ball for some cash is relatively harmless. I want them thinking that accepting money for doing something you otherwise wouldn’t do on the field is a serious crime.
To make matters worse, the scene of the crime was the home of cricket. Say what you want about the English, but they have done a lot for us since Pakistan was deprived of international cricket, going as far as to host a “home series” for us against Australia. It’s ironic how the title of the series was meant to represent the sincerity of the gesture: “Spirit of Cricket”. Talk about not doing justice to those ideals. If any team right now can be accused of disgracing the spirit of cricket, it’s ours. Our team literally walked into someone else’s home who gave them room and board, made themselves comfortable, and then proceeded to defecate all over it.
Let me address a few reasons why some may find these crimes excusable.
Majeed himself mentions that some players are forced into this situation because they earn peanuts from the PCB. Not true. All the players involved in the scandal are on a central contract, which guarantees them a better life than they’re used to. Add match fees and substantial product endorsements and you have enough income to live comfortably. So don’t dismiss this because our players don’t make enough to make ends meet. Condemn it because they want more than they deserve. It’s greed - plain and simple.
A more compelling argument is that of education. Amir, Asif, Kamran and many others are propelled into international stardom devoid of any scholastic fine-tuning. Schooling is not a priority for our players, and if one is bereft of the principles and disciple that comes with education it becomes harder to develop a moral compass. Furthermore, it doesn’t help when the PCB compounds the problem through an inconsistent and whimsical application of its own rules and penalties. From bans to exoneration, the PCB has cultivated a culture of misplaced benevolence. Pariah one day, savior the next. Our players simply are not taught accountability by the management.
And now they are going to have to learn it the hard way.
In my last blog, I called this the best bowling attack in the world because I truly believe that. I also mentioned that our bowlers portray to the world the best that Pakistan has to offer. Sadly there is a dichotomy inherent in that boast as the same players can also exhibit the worst qualities of our country.
We don’t need that kind of exposure right now. We have millions of people displaced by floods who don’t have access to aid and resources because donations have been conspicuously low. Donors and charities are unsure of the sincerity of a notoriously corrupt government and fearful of their donations being redirected into selfish hands.
This scandal has the capacity to vindicate those fears. If the mainstream cricketers are crooks, what does it say about the institutions that sponsor them?
Thanks a lot, guys. Hope those bribes were worth it.
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