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No Balls

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The mood in Pakistan is bitter, angry and vengeful. Effigies of Salman Butt have been burned, his name has been painted on donkeys and the no-ball bowlers are being violently abused all over the country. Demands that the corrupt cricketers be hanged in public are gaining ground. Among younger members of the elite there is shock that Butt (educated at a posh school) has let the side down. Mohammad Amir they could understand since he’s from a poor family. The blindness of this cocooned layer of young Pakistanis is hardly a surprise, but popular anger should not be underestimated. The no-ballers and their captain will need round-the-clock security when they return. Much better to take a long holiday abroad (surely they can afford it) and let tempers cool. There is enough evidence already for them to be suspended, if not by the neck.

Meanwhile the pusillanimous Pakistan Cricket Board, whose chairman is the defence minister’s brother-in-law, should immediately rebrand itself the No-Balls Cricket Board. The coach, Waqar Younis, was once a brilliant bowler but was also involved in match-fixing, named and shamed ten years ago in the report of the Qayyum Commission, the last of three quasi-judicial enquiries in Pakistan. Javed Miandad, among others, testified that ‘during his captaincy he had been informed by Idress Cadbury, who is the brother of alleged bookie Hanif Cadbury, that Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and another player whose name he could not remember was on his brother’s books.’ The two stars were reprimanded and fined, but let off the hook. Hanif Cadbury was punished by the supreme command of the betting mafias, tracked down and murdered in South Africa – enough to deter other whistleblowers ever since.

If matches were being fixed on Younis’s watch I find it difficult to believe that he would not be aware of what was going on. The assistant coach, Ijaz Ahmed, was also accused during the Qayyum Inquiry of betting and match-fixing, though it concluded, ‘in lieu of evidence to the contrary’, that he was not guilty. He was arrested for fraud last year in relation to a land scam in Lahore. His brother-in-law is the former Pakistan captain, Salim Malik, banned from cricket for life after his corruption was exposed in the late 1990s.

The rot goes deep and new players like Amir must find it difficult to resist the demands of the betting mafia when their requests are relayed by authority figures in the dressing-room. Equally disturbing is the sight of other young players, barely in the squad, looking on admiringly as the bookie displays his ill-gotten gains.

That the president of the No-Balls Cricket Board is still in denial is bad enough. That the ICC and ECB are delaying the decision that needs to be taken is even more disturbing. Nobody who has followed cricket in Pakistan over the last three or four decades can have been surprised by the revelations in the News of the World. Cricket in Pakistan has long been institutionally corrupt. This was symbolised not so long ago when Javed Miandad’s son married the daughter of the Bombay crime king Dawood Ibrahim, the most wanted man in India.

What is to be done? For starters life bans should be imposed on all concerned apart from Amir, who should be punished for a limited term provided he speaks the truth. The Pakistan cricketing management should be sent to staff the brothels of Lahore and Karachi. A new structure independent of the government on every level needs to be created and there are former cricketers (Imran Khan, Rameez Raja, Aamer Sohail, Rashid Latif) and incorruptible administrators available who should constitute a Cricket Trust of Pakistan, to control and clean the sport over the next five years and appoint their successors.

An annual fixture between a corrupt team chosen by the No-Balls Board and a non-corrupt eleven chosen by the Trust should commence forthwith. In a few years the Trust might win the matches. Meanwhile the website of The News (Pakistan’s largest daily) was earlier this week misspelling Taunton as Tainton. Could this be deliberate?

Comments on “No Balls”

  1. Geoff Roberts says:

    There was a lot of chat in the Guardian about the number of dropped catches in one test, but no hard facts, which are hard to come by anyway. I also read that the team was going to give their match fee to a relief fund – did they also donate their share of the winnings, I wonder?

  2. Martin says:

    Surely people must also understand that Amir did it (allegedly) not only because he is poor but also because he is impressionable. I am disappointed that the international game won’t see such a fine bowler as Asif again, but I hope that Amir, who has remarkable talent, will be given a second chance. He is not even 18 yet. Rather punish him and at the same time give him some (trendy) ‘life skills coaching’.

    The Pakistan board should follow the example of the South African cricket board when they dealt with Herschelle Gibbs. After he was caught smoking marijuana on tour in the West Indies in 2001 (having already been involved in match-fixing courtesy of Captain Hansie in India), he was sent off for life skills coaching. It did him wonders – since then he has been divorced after one year’s marriage, been convicted of drunk driving and been sent for rehabilitation after admitting to having alcohol problems. But Amir looks like a bright lad, unlike Gibbs who unashamedly boasts he has not read a book since leaving school and that facing the Indian attack in Eden Gardens on debut was easier than writing his finals. Gibbs also failed spectacularly to underperform as requested by Cronje. The deal was that he make fewer than 20 runs to be paid $15000. Instead he got carried away and hit a merry 70 or so. Most people doubt this was because of an attack of conscience. It was simply Gibbs being Gibbs.

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