I am a massive fan of cricket. Despite being pretty poor at playing the game at school, I still love it as a spectator. I was originally planning writing a blog on the last day of the summer’s test series reflecting on the positives and negatives of the England team, the opposition and generally on the state of the game prior to the winter tour of Australia. But the game was brought into disrepute with the allegations of betting rigging surrounding the Pakistani team.
A little background here – Pakistan has produced some of the best cricketers the World has seen over the last 30 years or so. However, Pakistani cricket is in turmoil at the best of times and is frequently rocked by one scandal or another. They are unable to play home matches in their own country currently for security reasons following the shooting of the Sri Lankan side on the way to a match last year, several senior players have lifetime bans (some of which had been revoked during the current series) and so they toured England this year with a crop of young players, all against the backdrop of the horrendous flooding in their homeland, some of the players families must have been affected due to the scale of the tragedy. After the first test match, the new Captain resigned saying he no longer had the appetite for the test format and a new captain was selected, Salman Butt. In his first match in charge of the side they beat the Australians and drew their series 1-1. They have discovered an opening bowling attack capable of beating anyone, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif, Amir particularly impressive as he is only 18 years old and bowled well above his age. Could this be the start of a new settled phase for Pakistani cricket? Well, against England they bowled very well but the batting and catching was woeful. One of the senior players with a life ban, Mohammad Yousuf was recalled to sure up the batting after two tests and with his calming presence in the middle order Pakistan won the third test and the series was finely balanced. So it was to Lord’s, The Home of Cricket, for the final test with both sides having everything to play for.
Let’s be clear about this – the Pakistanis didn’t throw the match and the result was not fixed in any way shape or form. What happened was that a bowler bowled a no ball (over stepping the line on delivery) on precisely the ball determined by the “fixer” that was exposed by the News Of The World. In The Far East, there are bets placed on the outcome of every delivery and if someone can “fix” with the team what is going to happen on a ball then they stand to make a great deal of money. The practise is referred to as “Spot Fixing” and it is this action that has brought Pakistani cricket and indeed the game in general into so much disrepute.
I had started this draft as the story broke a few days ago and events have moved on since then with the liklihood of further allegations appearing in the News Of The World again this week. There have been rumours of players’ fathers being kidnapped and released upon the delivery of a no ball, further police questionning of key players and promised inquirys from both the ICC (a toothless organisation who sweep matters under the carpet according to one respected cricket commentator) and what appears to be the Pakistani equivalent of MI6 getting involved. It is hard to put into words what I feel about all this, of course there are considerably more serious events going on in the world not least in Pakistan itself. However, the Pakistani people revere their cricketers and in such troubled times they need a little hope and something to cheer – if I feel sick at all this as a cricket fan I cannot imagine how betrayed the millions of people feel in their home country that the beautiful game has been tarnished.