By Asif Iqbal
Pakistan suffered its heaviest ever defeat at the hands of England in the fourth and final Test which ended at Lords on Sunday when they lost the match by the overwhelming margin of an innings and 225 runs. But embarrassing as the margin of defeat was, it was no where near the embarrassment that was caused by the events surrounding the defeat.
The sting operation conducted by a British newspaper 'The News of the World' and what it unearthed are now the subject of discussion virtually all around the globe by every media station on the planet. Basically, a reporter from the paper posing as a member of a betting syndicate offered money to a middleman who claimed to have close connections with the Pakistan team. To prove his credentials, the middleman is alleged to have taken a payment of £10,000 in return for which he would show what he thought was a member of a betting syndicate certain preplanned events during the Lords Test to prove his credentials as a genuine fixer. This included three no balls to be bowled at previously stated points in the game. It is alleged that the no balls were bowled at precisely the forecast moments, two by Mohammad Amir and one by Mohammad Asif. The two bowled by Amir were such outrageously big no balls that they appear to create grave doubts whether they could have been bowled in the normal course of the game.
Another £140,000 was allegedly paid for 'joining the syndicate' and it has been reported that a sum of £50,000 in cash was recovered from the hotel room of one of the players.
It has to be said that these are all allegations at the moment and that nothing stands proved. But the weight of the evidence is heavy and therefore the accusations have to be taken very seriously. There are some sections of the media in Pakistan that are trying to expound a conspiracy theory based on what is seen as The News of the World's 'established' anti-Pakistan bias but this sense of patriotism is entirely misplaced and they are not doing either Pakistan or Pakistan cricket any favours. True that all the allegations await a final decision but creating an environment that suggests a cover up is absolutely the last thing that Pakistan cricket needs at the moment. It is a guaranteed option for eradicating what little credibility
Pakistan has left in western eyes. Any suggestion of a conspiracy would per force mean the involvement of Scotland Yard and the British judicial system for the police would have obtained a search warrant from a magistrate before searching the rooms of some of the Pakistani players. Any such suggestion would be miles over the top.
The PCB had taken the view that action against the Pakistani players will have to wait till their guilt is proved. Presumably this meant a charge following the current police investigation against them as that could at least be taken as a prima facie evidence of guilt. It may have been feared that any action against the players prior to that may create legal problems and counter charges of prejudicing the ongoing police investigation. However, there is a time frame to all this in that the limited overs series of two T20 matches to be followed by five ODIs is supposed to commence on Sunday, and given the volume to comment that media coverage of the issue has raised, it was becoming increasingly inconceivable that the players whose names feature prominently in this scandal should be allowed to continue as part of the squad through the T20 and ODI series. The announcement therefore by the ICC's chief executive Haroon Lorgat that he expects disciplinary action against the players found to be guilty of involvement in this matter to be taken by Thursday forces the hand of the PCB. It would now appear to be the case that sitting back and waiting for the British police authorities to complete their inquiry before initiating any action is not an option and it would perhaps be reasonable to conclude that if for some reason action is not taken by Thursday, the limited overs series could well be in danger; in fact the ramifications of any perceived reluctance by the Pakistani authorities to proceed on anything less than full steam ahead could be disastrous for the future of Pakistan cricket, a future which in any case looks considerably less than bright at the moment. It would have been infinitely better if the PCB had already initiated such action and set its own time frame well before the limited overs series or had at least persuaded the players whose names have featured prominently to voluntarily step down. Now it is forced to rush through an inquiry at a pace set by the ICC.
I would think it is also important that this tragedy that has befallen Pakistan cricket is not used for political ends. There are a lot of people in Pakistan who would perhaps see in this an opportunity to drive forward their own political agendas and the prime agenda would be to get rid of the PCB chairman Ijaz Butt by all those who fancy their chances of taking his seat. I have in the past often criticised Ijaz Butt for a whole list of things that have happened under his watch which should not have happened. However, in this instance, it would, I feel, be less than fair to blame the management for this scandal. One cannot think of any practical security regime that makes it physically impossible for anyone to take the route that some Pakistani players are alleged to have taken, for no matter what the measures and no matter how strictly they are enforced, players who are bent upon resorting to such measures will find a way. One cannot mount guards inside toilets or eavesdrop on conversations between players and wives or family members. There is a limit to the amount of intrusion that can be put into practise. The only way is to give out exemplary punishment to those involved so that at least for the foreseeable future any youngster will think many times over before he decides to take this path.
In tackling the matter of spot betting and match fixing, the ICC has also to find a way of persuading the governments of the south Asian subcontinent to do something to control the huge illegal betting cartels that have mushroomed in major cities and who do business worth billions of dollars. An illegal industry which works underground will perforce attract those who find the underground to be their natural environment and unless this industry is either eradicated or controlled and regulated, the lure for young players to commit seemingly minor acts which by themselves are unlikely to have any effect on the outcome of a match, for astronomical sums of money, will be almost irresistible. The ICC does not have the powers to proceed against the cartels but governments do. South Asian governments have a particular responsibility in this area for it affects the sport which is so big a part of the lives of the people in the region.
The writer is the former captain of Pakistan and Kent email@example.com
Lord's -- the double jeopardy!
By Aamir Bilal
Sports are a true reflection of a nation's character. The shameful incident of match-fixing allegations at Lord's with substantial evidence against the Pakistan cricket team has its roots encored deep into the ugly incidence of the Sialkot brutality, where two brothers were murdered mercilessly over a feud that started over a cricket match.
It is a known fact that the so called 'talent' of Pakistan sport in general and cricket in particular emanates from streets and not education institutions, where tape-ball matches are fixed and teammates are murdered ruthlessly over minor incidents.
We as a nation are at the brink of losing our moral fibre, thanks primarily to General Zia-ul-Haq who with his fogged and flawed vision threw this nation in a dark alee of terrorism, religious extremism, materialism and unending corruption of different forms and styles. It was the mighty General who separated sports from education and gave a confused roadmap of education and sports in the country with unending implications.
Winning and losing is part of the game and even cricket novices at home understand that Pakistan are a young and inexperienced team. It was certainly not an innings and 225-run defeat in Lord's that made all Pakistanis look like thieves and thugs, but the involvement of the 'three indispensable stars' under the watchful eyes of 'over-experienced team management' that knocked out the entire nation with a single blow of match or spot-fixing.
This was indeed a double jeopardy for Pakistan cricket who not only lost the Test by a huge margin but also compromised national honour and integrity.
Match-fixing allegations though, are not new for Pakistan cricket. They started surfacing in 1979 from the famous toss episode of Asif Iqbal. The justice Qayyum report unveils the entire story of Pakistani playersí involvement in match and spot-fixing, but how unfortunate it is that the recommendations of this report were not put into practice in true letter and spirit. It is beyond comprehension why PCB agreed to send Ijaz Ahmed as assistant coach of the team, while charges were still pending against him in a local police station of Lahore.
Though the rat was already smelled and indicated in the article 'Dangerous Liaisons' published in 'The News' on 19th July 2009, it fell on deaf and old ears of decision makers who have other priorities to settle. The inevitable was likely to happen when the two notorious players of Malik Qayyum 1994 report, namely Waqar Younis and Mushtaq Ahmed were coaching or assisting Pakistan and England in the same series.
Pakistani ambassador Wajid Shams-ul-Hassan and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is busy with its damage control measures. Those with vested interest in the media are trying to give a spin to the story and yet another transparent enquiry has been issued. Some other incidents may be used as scapegoats and the blue-eyed boys will once again escape in the name of the cricketing and national interest of the country.
The PCB high-ups must remember that no one is indispensable and no player is bigger than the game itself. Cricket experts in Pakistan advocate that it may be impossible to eradicate match-fixing completely. I endorse the statement however numerous corrective measures can be taken to minimise this evil practice. Charity begins at home and PCB before looking into players' affairs must put its own house in order first.
Duncan Hill, a leading sport journalist in Canada, has followed stories regarding match-fixing in different sports and he believes that cricket offers an ideal format for both match-fixing as well as spot-fixing and players all over cricketing world have made millions on both winning and losing matches in the recent past.
To address all complicated issues including match-fixing allegations on the country, there is an urgent need to bring democracy in the ranks of PCB. The PCB Chairman should be an elected individual. The process of appointing board members, executive councils and different committees needs to be transparent. The players and management must file their tax returns and the assets of the entire staff should be scrutinised on yearly basis.
While the match-fixing clouds hover in the skies, it is needless to say that you will only get from the tap what is there in the reservoir.
Leaving the match-fixing episode aside, Imran Farhat must now know that even though in-laws can put one in the team, but they can't score runs for you. Salman Butt should understand the repercussions of meeting Azhar and Mazhar Majeed in England. Akmal brothers should understand that achieving success is far easier than sustaining it, and the same goes for pride and prestige.
The time has come for us to understand that raw talent, like that of Mohammad Amir, alone is not enough to fight out the hidden pressures of international sport. Cricketing history proves that there were a few Vivian Richards and Sachin Tendulkars but more Hanif Mohammad's, Ricky Ponting's and Sunil Gavaskar's -- players who werent't the most talented and gifted but were great because of their vision and commitment.
The Lord's test is a nightmare for everyone. The Test series have once again exposed the mental, physical, technical, managerial, character and leadership fault-lines of Pakistan cricket.
Pakistan cricket is at the apex of its mental, intellectual and moral bankruptcy and cricket is no more a gentleman's game in the country. It is no more the pride of national flag that the team plays for, it is now the green buck that has the priority over every thing else.
While 30 percent of the country has been devastated by the recent floods, infrastructure would now have to be reconstructed when water recedes. However, credibility once swept away, takes ages to rebuild. Alas, Pakistan cricket has lost its credibility!
I am sure that disciplinary action will be taken against the culprits if proven guilty and exemplary punishments may also be awarded. However, this will not address the issue permanently as it needs in-depth analysis and visionary steps to revamp the entire Cricketing system in the country.
Irrespective of the outcome of the ugly match-fixing allegations against the team, it is suggested that a committee comprising of cricketers with impeccable reputation and international experts on sport management should be convened forthwith to prepare a detailed roadmap for the development of cricket in Pakistan.
Aamir Bilal is a trained coach firstname.lastname@example.org