Originally published in Dawn
“Not Pakistanis again? It’s always bloody Pakistanis”
I suspect these are the first thoughts had by many a casual cricket fan upon hearing about the latest PSL scandal.
That most weren’t surprised about the nationality of the cheats should be no surprise. Because, despite whatever notions we have that players from all countries are fallible, it is the Pakistani cricketer who has the most form.
Or so I thought.
A quick scan of Google shows that there have been nine banned Pakistanis in international, domestic T20 and First Class cricket for corruption.
But there have been fourteen Indians.
Perhaps we are being unfair on the Green Shirts?
The ICC have long bellowed that corruption in any form must be stamped out. It’s not a hard message to give. Every rational cricket fan is of the same opinion.
The ICC Anti Corruption Unit sends personel to be present at all international games. They have banned mobile phones in change rooms during play.
But how serious are the ICC really about this stuff?
There are only seven anti corruption officers worldwide.
If you have information on corruption, the ICC website directs you to a central number that is only manned during office hours in Dubai. Outside of these hours, it welcomes you to “please leave a message”.
” Ummm Hi. It’s Dennis Freedman here. I have information about player XXX dining with a bookie. Please call me on 555-5555. This is anonymous right? “
It becomes even more interesting when we discuss domestic T20 tournaments. The ICC don’t patrol these. It is up to the home Board.
As seen with the BCCI investigating corruption in the IPL, there may be occurrences under weaker leadership where face saving becomes more important than the truth. I doubt whether Ravi Shastri will ever again be used as an investigator into these type of matters.
This week I have spoke directly to players, agents and team officials involved in the PSL.
One such official at Islamabad United said “….. the sense if betrayal I have right now will take years to wash off. If it was up to me, and they were found guilty I wouldn’t even mind capital punishment on them”.
This is some serious sentiment.
Chris Green, Qalandar player, told me on Australian radio during the week that he believes match fixers should be banned for life. He singled out Mohammad Amir as someone he “won’t go out of his way to say hello to“.
Some will argue that there is a difference between match fixing and spot fixing. But this is a illogical stance. Both are the wrong side of accepting payment to under-perform or change the natural course of a match. there should be no distinction.
In any event, we can be certain that Green isn’t the only player who feels so strongly about these people. The cuts are deep.
Many of those whose livelihood depends on the game feel gutted. The greed of a simple few ruining it for the masses.
Mohammad Hafeez once threatened to quit the Pakistani team should a certain match fixer return. That match fixer did return. Hafeez didn’t quit. But only after the intervention of the best salesmen from the PCB.
Unfortunately at this time, it is only Pakistan that is wrestling with the morality of having cheats return to the fray. Amir is back. Salman and Asif on form probably should be too. No other team currently burdened with these type of decisions.
But why is it a burden? Shouldn’t it be a simple call to “just say no”?
Are we as a collective fan base comfortable with this message? If a life ban was imposed for all match fixers, would we have the issues we have now?
Sarfaraz Nawaz doesn’t believe so. This folk hero who once took 7/1 at the MCG is vocal that having tainted players involved in the game only welcomes more problems.
He has previously singled out everyone named in the Qayyum report. He added players like Dean Jones for extra spice.
His punt gun is spraying accusations randomly at everyone and everything. The Pakistani Supreme Court has threatened him with contempt if he continues.
But if you strip out the names, is his message wrong? Should convicted cheats players be allowed back into the system? What are the positives for the game allowing them back?
One can easily understand why some can’t stand the thought of a Salman Butt return.
But for consistency, then Mark Waugh should not be an Australian selector. Shane Warne should not be a Channel Nine commentator. Wasim Akram should not be a coach at Islamabad United. For all of these men are tainted. All three were punished for doing the wrong thing in that regard.
Removing these people from cricket is a stance I am entirely comfortable with.
The UK police have arrested Nasir Jamshed and released him on bail. Two arsehats have been sent home from Dubai in disgrace.
One offers to tell all in return for immunity.
The PCB says no. They believe they have more than enough evidence to put these guys away.
Are these the first signs that cricket is about to get serious about match fixers once and for all? Previous PCB administrations would surely have accepted the immunity offer. But not this time.
Now it is time to make a stand.
And for this, cricket says thank you.