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20th March 2017, 14:51 #1
The PCB needs to deal with the spot-fixing saga decisively
The 5th of March, 2017 appeared to herald a new beginning for the topsy-turvy world of Pakistan cricket. This was the day which saw the long-awaited arrival of the Pakistan Super League to its natural home in Pakistan. The final of the high-profile Twenty20 tournament, played with much fan-fare and extraordinary security, was also made special by the participation of foreign players such as Darren Sammy, Chris Jordan, Marlon Samuels and Dawid Malan.
Although this was not an international game by any stretch of the imagination, the impact of such an event was felt almost immediately. The positive statements regarding the possible visit to Pakistan of an International XI in September of this year as well as some very bullish assessments of the economic uplift were well received in the country starved for international cricket since the horrific events of Lahore in 2009.
As is customary in these parts of the world, the Pakistan Super League management and the ruling Government were quick to pat themselves on the backs for this achievement. For a few days after the last ball was bowled in Lahore and Peshawar Zalmi walked away with the spectacular trophy, the country celebrated like it had not done for years. It would have been easy to be swept away with the mass euphoria of a nation which craves for good news, but behind the scenes the sinister menace of corruption which had reared its ugly head during the early days of the tournament refused to go away.
The news that two of Pakistan’s cricketers had been withdrawn from the 2017 edition of the PSL on the just second day of the tournament had been a tough one to digest for many. The fact that it was the stringent internal processes that had helped uncover possible corruption was the only saving grace for a tournament which is fast gaining stature in an otherwise packed Twenty20 League calendar.
As expected, parallels were drawn to the events of 2010 in England where Pakistan’s three prominent cricketers were caught in a sting organised by a newspaper which exposed their role in a spot-fixing scandal. It was said at that time, that Pakistan cricket would take years to recover from the reputational damage caused by the misdemeanours of Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir. And it did take a few good years before normalcy returned in the state of affairs for Pakistan cricket. It was, also said that the darkest days of Pakistan cricket were now a chapter in history and lessons had been learnt.
Lightning it seems did strike twice at the same place. Whilst the initial shock of the suspension of two players in the PSL, Sharjeel Khan and Khalid Latif both of whom have represented Pakistan recently, was mitigated in some measure by the progress of the high-octane Twenty20 tournament, it has since then become clear that the discovery of some more evidence of corruption is now pointing to the much-feared ‘tip of the iceberg’ type scenario.
As the case against the two Islamabad United players started to gather momentum with the appointment of a three-man committee to make a judgement, it was also revealed that the 7 foot 1" Pakistan fast-bowler Mohammad Irfan had been placed under investigation for a similar charge. The situation then progressed to a more serious level when the bowler admitted to being in touch with a bookie and was suspended from all cricket pending further investigations.
And when there is one, there is two and three and so on. News reports emanating in Pakistan in recent times have also named more players who could be involved in this scandal. Two players from the losing finalists in both PSL tournaments, Quetta Gladiators have also been named as being summoned by the Pakistan Cricket Board for questioning and investigations. In addition Shahzaib Hasan who was part of the Pakistan 2009 World Twenty20 winning squad has been summoned for further investigations. It would appear that Pakistan cricket is now heading for another crisis period which is tragic given the recent extent of goodwill generated from a largely successful PSL.
To have even suggested a situation like this in the aftermath of the 2010 fiasco would have been ludicrous given that the PCB and the ICC had fallen over each other in efforts to wipe out this menace from the game. The punishments meted out to the three Pakistan players who were lucky to have been spared life-bans should have proved to be enough deterrents for anyone entertaining such thoughts. And it was not just the fear of punishment, but proactive measures such as workshops and lectures delivered in native languages of players to counter any chances of corruption were put in place by the PCB.
Stringent guidelines along with security officers attached to teams were also measure to stop Pakistan cricket from facing further embarrassment. Yet, suspicious approaches were made to these players with what appears to be some degree of regularity and success.
It is clear that the propensity to commit corrupt acts for some players seems to have not diminished due to any of the measures taken by the authorities which is a worrying sign. In countries where the shelf-life of a cricket player can be a matter of a few international matches, the attraction of making a quick buck must be very strong and frankly speaking, there isn’t much any well-meaning law or guideline can do to stop it.
Add to the melee, the lure of the Dollar when it comes to today’s lucrative Twenty20 leagues. Whilst some players can earn a healthy living playing the game fair and square, there are others who feel that they can do much better by taking on instructions from outside sources who can easily play on a players’ own insecurities in terms of future contracts.
The PSL due to its recent success is now being touted as heading towards huge financials gains in the coming years so the stakes will consistently get higher for its administrators to keep it clean but, worryingly, there may also be a bigger temptation to brush issues under the carpet. It is in this context that the PSL’s and PCB’s very public intent to see the matter of corruption through to closure is commendable. Only time will tell if that resolve remains with every passing year of the tournament. Regardless, whether the vigilance of the administrators will result as a credible deterrent to weak-willed players from crossing that line is moot but given the presence of temptations in and around cricket grounds, this remains an uphill battle for all that are concerned about the integrity of the game across the globe.
The world keeps hearing that corruption at the PSL was just the tip of the iceberg. However with each passing day this iceberg seems to be getting bigger and bigger with more and more names being mentioned. One only hopes that this issue is dealt with firmly and swiftly by the authorities before it's too late.
Last edited by Abdullah719; 20th March 2017 at 15:10.
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