‘Corruptions of Cricket’ by Tariq Ali for the Guardian, August 30, 2010
Whether in cricket or in politics, corrupt leaders—bar notable exceptions—are often all Pakistan has …
Poor Pakistan. Floods of biblical proportions; millions homeless; a president who pretends to be shocked by cricket’s latest betting scandal when his own persona is the embodiment of corruption. A prime minister shedding crocodile tears because of the cricketing “shame” rather than tending to allegations that flood-relief money has gone missing. And now a sleep-walking cricket captain attempting to deny the ugly truth, but without real conviction, hoping against hope that he will ride out the crisis like others before him and that his bosses in Pakistan’s cricket establishment will cast a veil over this one as well.
Even if guilty, Salman Butt and his vice-captain Kamran Akmal will try to give the appearance of having no idea of the seriousness of the allegations and will try to talk their way back, hoping, as in the past, that after a few gentle raps on the knuckles they can revert to business as usual. That would be a real tragedy, a green light to semi-legalise match fixing, and not just in Pakistan.
The Pakistan Cricket Board is a long-standing joke, its chairmen replaced with every change of government. The current boss, Ijaz Butt, is the brother-in-law of Pakistan’s defence minister, a crony of President Zardari. The International Cricket Council and the England and Wales Cricket Board—somewhat pathetic bodies dominated by political and financial interests respectively—should not fudge this one. Whether Pakistan batting collapses were psychological or based on material interests we still do not know. But the moral collapse of this team stares all cricket-lovers in the face. Any perpetrators should be on the next plane home and the ringleaders given life bans. If guilty, the teenage bowling sensation Mohammad Amir should be banned for some years. His idol, Wasim Akram, is not the best role model on this front.
Some of the media comments on this affair are interesting, but irrelevant. Yes, WG Grace was a cheat on and off the field. Yes, captains of other teams—India and South Africa—have engaged in similar practices. Yes, the betting syndicates are a major part of the problem. So what? Since when has one crime justified another? How many times have I heard apologists for corrupt Pakistani politicians justifying their pillage by arguing that Europe and America also have corrupt politicians. The problem is that in Pakistan that’s all we have, with few exceptions—one of whom is Imran Khan, who was also Pakistan’s finest and most incorruptible captain. read more