There are many things wrong with Pakistan at the moment including the cricket “spot fixing” scandal. However, in comparison to (a) the impact of the floods that have ravaged the country, (b) a 10%-regime, (c) random and uncontrolled terrorist attacks and (d) geo-political instability, the spot-fixing scandal — and a potential link to a larger and more exhaustive and consuming match-fixing scandal — perhaps registers a mere blip on the trouble-scale. The many other dangers and calamities might make this latest scandal insignificant in terms of its impact on the larger issues of public governance, social security, peace, self-confidence and plight of her people.
However, every scandal, whatever its magnitude, is a reflection of a nations’ pride, a mirror to a nations’ moral fabric and a pointer to a nations’ collective conscience. A few crooks, thugs and hoons do not a nation make. I agree. However, a repeat offence by the same offender who had been “let off” earlier seems to suggest a governance body that is tolerant of cheats, or a problem that is endemic and systemic, or a vacuum in societal leadership, or a punctured national integrity or an intelligentsia that has a permanent sore throat and brain freeze! Or, more frighteningly, ALL of the above!
Where are the voices of reason emanating out of that land? Who are they? Who are the role models for young lads with sometimes-errant-behaviour to follow?
As the Pakistani daily, The NEWS, writes yesterday, “The evidence appears conclusive and we are exposed to the world as cheats and frauds once again.” The key phrase in that sentence is “once again”. The missing phrase in that sentence is “and by the same sports people who ought to have faced stiff punishment earlier”.
The problem, however, is that for every voice like the above, we have The Daily Express that screams, “The match-fixing scandal is an Indian conspiracy against the Pakistan team.”
Aaah! The “foreign hand” conspiracy theory that doubles as a convenient denial-blanket! I can only sigh in utter despair!
We can’t be smug in India. There is endemic corruption in all walks of life here. But there is an intelligentsia that will ensure that checks-and-balances exist. These voices may sometimes be ineffective and public accountability often suffers. Witness the (Un)Common Wealth Games (Shames) and the many other political scandals, for example. But there is a societal voice. There is societal leadership. And if all else fails, there are sane voices of people like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble!
For many years now, I have watched Pakistan cricket implode at key moments. Cricket fans have often put it down to the mercurial nature of her players and their unpredictability. Often this unpredictability was the charm that Pakistan cricket brought to the table. I loved seeing Shahid Afridi score 100 of 50 balls one day and 5 the very next day, out to a wild swing off a full-toss. I salivated over the prospect of watching Mohammed Aamer grow into a Wasim Akram and looked forward to the youngsters’ skill and prowess being admired for long, just as I had admired Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis before him. I was amazed that this land threw up another sensation in Wahab Riaz just a few matches later!
But no more.
I have had enough.
Yes, the allegations are yet unproven and they are mere allegations at this stage. However, I have seen enough evidence to assure me that I was a fool to be as excited as I was to see Michael Hussey and Peter Siddle claw their way to a strong position in the Sydney Test. They were in a cruel play that was being enacted which involved a few honest sportsmen, a few crooks and millions of innocent fans. As a Team India fan and an ardent fan of Pakistan crickets’ flamboyance and Australian crickets’ grit, I was glued to that Test Match as it unfolded. The drama was compelling. But I was wrong. I was cheated by the thugs that took a few thousand dollars to drop catches and miss run-outs deliberately!
The thugs had manipulated us.
I am switching off all things Pakistan UNLESS I am convinced that her people are shamed by this; unless concrete action is taken.
In the future, I believe that the ICC should have licensed agents and only they can have access to players, sign contracts and make endorsement deals. Player contracts should specify that players” incomes should be declared and be open to scrutiny. There are other mechanisms and instruments that cricket should borrow from soccer.
This is a rude wake-up call and a clarion call for the cleansing of cricket and its inappropriate under-belly.
Cricket is in a “fix” and a “spot” of bother!