Ban Pakistan, save the faith!

Chayan Rastogi

When the match-fixing news story involving Pakistan captain Salman Butt and his fellow players being involved in taking money for bowling three blatant no-balls at “crucial times” against England broke, it came across more as ‘depressing’ rather than ‘shocking’ for the people who follow Pakistan cricket closely.

Pakistan have had a turbulent cricket history and the allegations of ‘throwing’ wickets, underperforming, faking injuries for money have been a regular feature in Pakistan cricket.

It is said that you need to be an archaeologist to find out the primitive trace of this problem in Pakistan and it is due to these fixing allegations-counter allegations from Pak cricketers that this has become the single greatest threat to its sporting ethics.

From the year 2000, when the ghost of match-fixing first came to haunt the cricketing world, the number of blames, accusations and allegations of ‘fixing’ followed by setting up of judicial commissions to find out the ‘truth’ has lost count.

The upsetting ‘truth’ however is that Pakistan is the only nation which has not managed to shake off the ghost of match-fixing since its inception. The ‘truth’ is that the Pakistan Cricket Board have never set any exemplary punishment which can serve as a stern warning to the new generation of cricketers. The ‘truth’ is that dummy judicial commissions set up for probes have never been able to clear the whispers of ‘greedy cricketers’ around their team.

The only thing that the board has succeeded so far is providing the ‘cover-up’ for these cricketers and in process, the silent nod for continuing with this malice.

From small to big and old to new; the names of ‘clean’ Pak cricketers have been few!

The tainted list of Pakistani cricketers or at least the ones who have been alleged of underperforming in past includes Salim Malik, Ata-ur-Rehman, Mushtaq Ahmed and even the likes of Wasim Akram.

But blame it on the utterly shambolic nature of PCB, Pakistan has never managed to make a clean break with match-fixing, merely cleaning the old and unwanted from the scene and leaving the deep-rooted problem unanswered!

Before these spot-fixing allegations in England, Pakistan cricket team was rocked by fixing and indiscipline allegations during Australian tour under captain Mohammad Yousuf.

While the Pakistan’s terrible collapse during the fourth innings chase reeked of match-fixing, the indiscipline followed by an impotent cricket board’s cover-up was out there for everyone to see.

Indiscipline loomed so large across Pakistan’s dressing room that Akmal brothers openly challenged the touring management with Kamran even insisting that he would play in the final Test in Hobart despite the board having released a statement saying he would be dropped. Not only that, it was alleged that Umar Akmal feigned an injury and refused to play in next Test if his brother was dropped.

A finger was raised on Shoaib Malik too as it was also reported that he has consistently been at the centre of accusations of intrigue and factionalism within the team since he was removed as leader in 2009.

The allegations were probed and PCB enquiry saw Mohammad Yousuf and Younus Khan being banned indefinitely, Shoaib Malik and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan for a year and Shahid Afridi and the Akmal brothers, Umar and Kamran, fined and placed on probation for six months.

But what happened next was a classic example of PCB’s tendency of brushing dirt under the carpet.

After all the players- barring Mohammad Yousuf -appealed against their bans and fines, the charges were revoked!

It looked as if Shoaib Malik was given the ‘award’ to marry Indian tennis player Saina Mirza and after poor show from Pakistan in the England tour, even Mohammad Yousuf, who was earlier termed as ‘leader of the mess’, was recalled.

Now, with the same Sydney Test coming under the scanner of also being ‘fixed’, the question which arises today is if we can trust what we see on the field.

Cricket has always been termed as the game of uncertainties but with these shameless practices of ‘fixing’ floating around, every unusual error or action on the sporting field, be it a no-ball, a dropped catch, slow scoring rate, or conceded penalty, will raise eyebrows for uglier reasons than lack of ability!

After being dogged by corruption claims for years, there is no sympathy if any of their players are now found guilty of fixing results.

Nothing can be more disturbing for fans than allegations that the faith for the ‘Gentleman’s Game’ has been sold.

Ban Pakistan from all games of cricket, if that provides the solution to the epidemic. When South Africa, arguably the strongest team of the world during 70s, can be banned for 21 years of International cricket from 1970-91 for ‘apartheid’ and racial segregation, then why not Pakistan- who has bluntly refused to take any initiative for years to stop the practice of bringing regular shame to the game!

The loyalty of fans just cannot be taken for granted and that should be the final word!