A sad day for cricket? Quite the opposite.
Damning allegations that Pakistan players took money to fix matches and play poorly could be great for the sport if they can be proved. That's because match-fixing, shady people and shady money in cricket are boils that have long needed lancing.
This could be the time.
If just a fraction of the extremely serious claims by British tabloid News of the World holds up to police scrutiny, cricket authorities will, one hopes, be forced to clean up.
Pakistan captain Salman Butt said his players gave only their very best against England. We will believe that only if and when someone in a police uniform says there was a legitimate and legal reason why News of the World apparently filmed businessman Mazhar Majeed taking piles of cash and promising in return that bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir would deliver no-balls — an illegal throw like a balk in a baseball — at precise moments against England.
If the subterfuge was as bad as it looks, then Pakistan — the whole team, not just some players — must be banned from international cricket. That is nothing personal against Pakistan as a country, but its players and cricket officials have used up their nine lives. If the latest allegations are proved, then only when Pakistan demonstrates genuine and concrete measures to stamp out corruption should it be welcomed back.
Bleeding hearts will argue, rightly, that Pakistan cricket and its passionate fans will suffer and that youngsters on dusty pitches in Islamabad and elsewhere will forsake the sport if the team is collectively punished. Banishment would also look cruel in the wake of the mammoth deadly floods washing through Pakistan, akin to kicking a nation when it is down.
But not being resolute and not taking harsh punitive action would condemn Pakistan players and cricket administrators to making the same mistakes repeatedly.
"Administrators have ignored the truth," he wrote. "In 1994, I was on a tour to Sri Lanka when there was a lot of match-fixing going on and did not play a single match. That was because I was not in on the scheme. The manager, Intikhab Alam, told me so afterwards. He sent a report to the Pakistan Cricket Board but nothing happened. The board was frightened of dealing with the big names involved and because of that, match-fixing never died. The problem was not uprooted and we are seeing the results."
This should not be seen as Pakistan's problem alone. Match-fixing allegations are symptomatic of the wider way in which cricket has gone giddy over money. It lives on the moth-bitten old notion that it is a gentleman's game when the truth is that it's no different from other sports that have also sold some or all of their soul for piles of cash.
Promoter Allen Stanford, now accused of massive fraud, was allowed to show off a clear plastic chest of the stuff — bricks of $10,000 in $50 bills — in 2008 at Lord's, the London home of cricket. Claims of corruption and financial irregularities have cast a stink over the rich Indian Premier League, too.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that players are getting greedy and that some are willing to take sordid short cuts to get their hands on the loot.
Suspicions of match-fixing are one thing. Hard, solid evidence is quite another. It is rare for fixers to be captured on video, as News of the World claims happened. If the tabloid's surreptitiously shot footage is everything it appears to be, we should rejoice that apparent crooks acting in cahoots with gambling syndicates appear to have been caught red-handed.
But we should also worry why tabloid reporters, not cricket's guardians, exposed this alleged scam. The international governing body of cricket, the ICC, has had an anti-corruption unit in place since 2000, when the sport's reputation was in tatters over match-fixing. What has the unit been up to?
This sting makes the ICC's investigators look like they have been asleep on the job.
Source: AP News