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Cricket's Greatest Betrayal

by achettup

Dramatic, no? But allow me to make my case for how accurate that title is.

There were so many, simply unbelievably so many people who made this tour of England possible. And they all did it for one thing: they love cricket and they know how much cricket needs Pakistan. And you wouldn't be too far off the mark if you said Pakistan needs cricket just as much.

People are often quick to point out how many times Australia have refused to tour Pakistan. What they fail to also add is that, in years when Pakistan have hardly had any international cricket, they've played a lot against Australia, and plenty of those matches have been at neutral venues. Whether that was in the scorching, unforgiving heat in the UAE (both tests and ODIs), the oppressive humidity on slow pitches in Sri Lanka or in the most conducive of swing bowling conditions in England, Australia have not eschewed a responsibility to playing against Pakistan. And Pakistan needed those games, one might argue more than Australia did.

England gave Pakistan the opportunity to host matches on their turf against Australia, giving them the opportunity to entertain thousands of passionate fans in the British Isles while helping the PCB in the midst of their sternest financial crisis to date. The MCC went so far as to christen the two series as "The Spirit of Cricket", cognizant of the fact that Pakistan's tours of England in the past were marked by unsavory incidents and that the best way to help ensure this series went smoothly and benefited one and all, and particularly Pakistan, was to make the cricketers believe they had a greater responsibility to fair play. How utterly ironic and misplaced that theme was in the light of what has transpired.

The Pakistani people, starved of competitive international test cricket at home, facing hardship after hardship whether man-made or natural, willed their team on. They took heart, comfort and strength from the performances of gifted young men who were never expected to win too much, but excelled and excited everyone who loves the game. That delivery bowled by Amir to dismiss Mitchell Johnson was easily the best bowled this year. And despite the ragged and often comical fielding, the inadequate and inexperienced batting, the team won. And not once, but twice, written off before each match. For a nation of proud cricket crazy fans, there could have been fewer things that kept them going in such tough times.

All of these people were betrayed by those who gave in to temptation for a few dollars more. You might even say the ICC was betrayed since they also played a heavy role in facilitating this series, but as Straight Point argues, they are also culpable since their Anti-Corruption Unit seemed oblivious to what was going on when they should have been on high alert- young cricketers playing under a weak corrupt board, unsure of what might happen next to them, their careers, their families and their country were always going to be easy targets and the ACU had a responsibility to ensure they were given little opportunity to stray.

The players had a responsibility, they should have understood how dire the consequences of their actions were. The team, like the country, was in ruins and the future of the side was at stake. Already several veterans have been dismissed for their erratic and irrational behavior over the last couple of years. It seems like the team has been rebuilding since forever. And now everything that might have been achieved has been ruined. The game's future in the country is in doubt. People will lose faith.

The circus that is about to follow is so predictable that it would be hilarious if it were not so sad. There will be a commission created to find out what has gone wrong, there will be calls for blood and reform, there will be promises made that things will change and unscrupulous politicians will try to gain as much mileages as they can from these events. The media and ex-cricketers will demand someone who is distinguished and who has integrity take charge, but will they find such a candidate, one who is willing to work in an environment where at any moment a politician can demand and overrule any decision made? There will be some scapegoats made to ensure the best and most talented are allowed to continue, they will be painted as the scheming villains who fooled innocent and naive youngsters into bringing the game into disrepute for their (the scapegoats') sole benefit.

Perhaps ultimately it will be that these cricketers have betrayed themselves. Promising world class talents who should have rewritten record books will either end up not playing and achieving their potential or having to live with the taint of fixing and getting away with it. The game was betrayed this weekend, and betrayal brings anger. But if people are to emerge from this better than when they went into it, then anger needs to be pushed to the backseat and sensible decisions must be taken with just one aim, securing the future of the game. For we love cricket and we know how much cricket needs Pakistan. But things must not be allowed to continue as they have in the past. And if Pakistan can't change and cannot free itself from this corruption, then cricket must not change for it. We must keep trying to support Pakistani cricket and give them opportunities, but at the same time we must demand that they are willing to help themselves.


Sujan Rao said...

Rest In Peace, Pakistan Cricket!

Bhaskar Khaund said...

Great write and spot on , achettup - its truly sad. as i have been saying though i really hope Aamer gets a second chance - not to condone what has been done but that kind of talent deserves a second chance ... Anyway , looks like a long drawn tu tu main main ahead now ..