Kolkata: It’s unfortunate to read stories about spot-fixing in Pakistani cricket. According to media reports, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has suspended opening batsman Shahzaib Hasan on charges of spot-fixing in the recently concluded Pakistan Super League (PSL). He is the fifth cricketer to be punished after Nasir Jamshed, Sharjeel Khan, Khalid Latif and Mohammad Irfan. At a time, when Pakistan is trying hard to get international cricket back on its soil after the successful hosting of the PSL final in Lahore, the nuisance once again haunts Pakistan cricket. But why is Pakistan unable to curb corruption in cricket? Is it time to set a trend by serving extreme punishments to cricketers who are caught fixing matches?
Well, former Pakistan captain Javed Miandad wants death penalties for those involved in match-fixing, reports The Express Tribune. Well, that could sound a bit of an exaggeration as of now, but Miandad’s opinion cannot be swept under the carpet as well. Time and again, fixing has returned to haunt Pakistan cricket which has damaged its reputation in the cricketing world, but the PCB has been inept at tackling the menace.
The problem lies within. The Justice Qayyum report on match-fixing in 2000 was soft on Wasim Akram and he was let off with a fine and a ruling that he should never captain Pakistan again. On the contrary, Saleem Malik and Ata-ur-Rehman were banned for life. And to make matters worse, the same judge in an interview to Cricinfo later, admitted that it was his soft corner for Akram which urged him not to ban him. Can you imagine a responsible judge making such a casual statement on a matter of grave concern? “For Wasim I had some soft corner for him. He was a very great player, a very great bowler and I was his fan, and therefore that thing did weigh with me. Two things – one, I didn’t want that the cricket should be deprived of his participation, and the other was that I didn’t want that towards the end of his career… he should be banned or something like that,” he said and adding that he was lenient with some other players as well.
And Qayyum’s report which specifically stressed on a cancer called match-fixing, hasn’t really worked big time to clean cricket in Pakistan. When a judge himself admits that he was not strict enough, one wonders whether Pakistan cricket can get rid of this rancour. The problem lies with the casualness of the officials in fighting corruption. What can you say of a country, the Prime Minister of which is facing corruption charges in the Supreme Court? Miandad’s call will surely fall on deaf ears because the powers that be may not want to take a bold stance anticipating the cat can be out of the bag. Corruption is a big issue in Pakistan perhaps more than in India, but not too many exemplary actions have been taken against the guilty. Mr. Ten Percent, Asif Ali Zardari becomes the President of the country despite his corrupt practices. When the political establishment is so corrupt in a country, it is quite unlikely that the PCB could go the whole hog.
It’s not that players have not been punished. Apart from Malik and Rehman, we have had Salman Butt, Mohammad Aamir and Mohammad Asif who were banned. The PCB forgave Aamir and he was later inducted into the national team. But it certainly was not the right step because you cannot afford to get away for an act of betrayal with the country and the sentiment of the fans. And as a result, match-fixing hasn’t been shown the exit door despite the PCB claiming to take harsher steps in the future.
If we look at India, the careers of S Sreesanth, Mohammad Azharuddin, Manoj Prabhakar, Ajay Sharma and Ajay Jadeja were finished owing to their involvement in fixing. Despite a court acquittal in Sreesanth’s case, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is in no mood to allow him to resume his career. Azhar on the other hand, was disqualified from contesting in the elections of the Hyderabad Cricket Association (HCA) since the BCCI had not lifted the ban on the former Indian cricketer. The BCCI did revoke the life ban on Sharma in 2014, but his career was over by then. Jadeja’s ban was overturned by the Delhi High Court, but he could never win back the trust of the BCCI and his efforts to make an international comeback came a cropper.
If we look at Pakistan, Akram is moving around with a smile despite a stain on his image. Even Waqar Younis and Inzamam-ul-Haq enjoy their share of popularity with the PCB despite their names coming up in match-fixing. And guess what, Rehman’s ban too was lifted later. Now, the question is unless the court steps in why would a cricket board revoke bans on cricketers guilty of a sin? It certainly is not a pardonable offence? To ask the question again: Why was Aamir allowed to play for the country again? If you set such unacceptable examples, then it becomes an arduous task to fight corruption.
Legendary Pakistani spinner Abdul Qadir on a TV show pointed out that had the biggies been hanged, then the future generation wouldn’t have shown the guts to fix matches. “Had you hanged Wasim Akram, Inzamam, Mushtaq Ahmed — there’s an entire list — instead of giving them a slap on the wrist, what’s happening now would’ve never happened. Ata-ur-Rehman and Salim Malik were made the scapegoats, and even they would’ve escaped if they carried cricketing value or were in their prime. The way of our country is to nab the smaller culprit and let the bigger one go,” Qadir said on the show.
Well, we are not talking about capital punishment here, but there is no denying that authorities in Pakistan have not really taken exemplary measures to weed out match-fixing from the mindset of players. And Pakistan is paying a heavy price for it. Miandad and Qadir may have asked for the harshest of punishments, but the PCB, the judiciary and the government need to introspect why talented cricketers are getting distracted by the lure of money. If the Supreme Court in India can intervene in the functioning of the cricket board, so can the apex court across the border.