With a tremendous figure of 6-47, Mohammad Amir became the youngest player to reach the Lord’s Honours Board on August 27, 2010. In less than 24 hours that passed, headlines took a more sinister turn, making this 18-year-old kid also the youngest player to have been involved in a match-fixing scandal.
The boy, with the world at his feet, probably will be the worst hit if he is found guilty of doing something that not only shamed world cricket, but as one my colleagues puts it, also destroyed the faith of millions of cricket lovers. At a time when everybody was thinking that cricket has finally exorcised the ghost of match-fixing, the latest scandal puts the game’s reputation in danger again.
A highly talented fast bowler - a rare commodity in cricket - Amir now runs the risk of joining the same disgraced club of Hansie Cronje, Salim Malik and Mohd Azharuddin, who corrupted the gentleman’s game with their greed and lust for money. They cheated entire generations of cricket lovers who looked up to them as role models.
Everybody hopes that the guilty will be brought to book and will probably be banned from playing cricket further in their lives like Cronje, Malik or Azhar. But what guarantees we have, that after ten years, another Hansie won’t resurface? More than the punishment meted out to them, this is the biggest question that haunts cricket fraternity today.
It is very easy to punish the guilty, but it is far more difficult to create a culture that won’t produce criminals again. Hansie was punished ten years back, but we failed terribly to root out the cancer of match-fixing from cricket. Had we addressed the issues properly then, we might not have seen the latest low in cricket. Had ICC or PCB been a little more proactive in eradicating the menace from cricket, these sins would not have touched the game again.
In a society that has failed to create any democratic institution after 60 years of its independence, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is generally run by corrupt politicians or military rulers whose only motive is to remain in power by any means. Like other institutions in Pakistan, the PCB has never seriously tried to ensure corruption free culture in cricket.
Justice Qayyum had named almost all the senior players for their involvement in match-fixing in early 2000 after Hansiegate rocked cricket for the first time. But action was taken against either those, who had little chance of playing for the country in future or less talented players like Ata-ur-Rahman. Exemplary punishment was not given to any superstars. It was natural that power-hungry Pakistan cricket authorities of that time never had the guts to punish the big fishes which ultimately paved way for the crime to be repeated in future. Perhaps some members of the cricket board were involved by proxy in the betting mafia as was claimed by a bookie recently.
Being an apex body, the ICC too, took no corrective measure to root out corruption completely. No one was eager to listen to the allegations made by former Pakistan skipper Rashid Latif from the last one decade. He had warned the ICC of spot fixing-seven years back. Nobody took notice of his allegations seriously.
Take the case of Kamran Akmal. He has been linked with the match-fixing from the past two years. His performance has been questioned by several of his colleagues and coaches. But he is still playing for his country.
As a whole, the PCB has performed very poorly on disciplinary grounds. Mohd Asif can get away after having failed to clear dope tests. Akhtar can make a millions comebacks after hitting his coach and his teammates or breaking the code of conduct.
To save their posts, the corrupt authorities always encourage player revolts that see a captain like Younus Khan losing his post. The message is loud and clear, you can get away even after committing crime after another.
Was not the ICC aware of the situation in Pakistan cricket that breeds corruption? What are the steps the highest governing body has taken to prevent such acts? What is the anti-corruption unit of the ICC doing? Have the cricket authorities ever thought of educating youngsters like Amir, whose humble background along with his tender age makes him an easy prey to the betting mafia. Hang Amir if he is found guilty. But can anyone give me a guarantee that there won’t be another Amir in the future?