The spot/match fixing scandal has taken the world by storm. The most grievous effect of this tragic episode, which has not concluded by any means, is the trust deficit that cricket fans now feel is between them and the PCB/players. Majeed the fixer has links with 7 players, it was reported. To consider how many possible matches may have been fixed over the years, is a frightening thought.There have countless occasions when Pakistan has been on the course of victory but has lost from a match winning position. Could that be due to spot/match fixing?
In Pakistan the Sports Ministry has always governed affairs related to the cricket board. It is common knowledge that ministers and the machinery of government in Pakistan is imbued with corruption. Pakistan is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Every government and most non government related departments, agencies, organisations etc work on the
basis of bribes, favouritism, nepotism, regionalism- any type of corruption.
The fans of Pakistan cricket have perhaps been living under a hoax for decades. Pakistan is the most unpredictable team in the world. On a good day, it can surprise the most able teams. This cover of unpredictability is the perfect platform for betting/fixing to thrive. Surely, if Pakistan’s performance graph was steady, or explicable by indicators that easily explain the performance of other teams, then any deviation would be noticed, and questioned by the passionate, astute Pakistani fans. But what if the performance graph is always haphazard, unsteady? This leaves a void in the mind of the fan.
This leads one to question how long this menace of corruption has existed in Pakistan cricket. Rumours surface of corruption existing as far back as the days of Asif Iqbal. Also, many people claim that fixing started around the same time has the rise of the Mumbai Underworld. It is not difficult to imagine how crooks can make millions by running an empire based on betting, bribing and fixing matches, more so since details of such activities have emerged from the NOTW video of Mazhar Majeed.
The question is often asked why cricketers, who can make millions by playing honestly, are tempted into indulging in these nefarious activities- especially when they are at the risk of being caught and exposed by the media? The
answer submitted here, will be an explanation, not a defence (indeed this blog has condemned all forms of corruption in the harshest manner possible). Nowadays, most Pakistani cricketers do not hail from Karachi and Lahore. Although the Punjabi cricketers reside in Lahore, most of them have actually seen very little of city life. The typical mindset of a villager is that he wants to obtain as many riches in as little time as possible. Whereas this blog is sympathetic to people hailing from impoverished, backward or underdeveloped regions, a person who has spent all his life in a village has a tremendous propensity to become a corrupt deviant when he is exposed to wealth, women and wine – the glamour that comes with sporting success.
However, the surprise here is that Salman Butt, reportedly the ringleader of fixing, is not from a small town or village, but from the cultural capital of Pakistan, Lahore. Butt hails from a well-to-do family and he claims to have attended Beaconhouse School. Reportedly Wasim Akram, Salim Malik, Ijaz Ahmed and a few others were also originally from Lahore.
Unfortunately, all of the above has a deep and inextricable link with politics. The President of Pakastan, Asaf Zardari is known as “Mr Ten Percent” due to his past involvement in obtaining 10% of funds that were circulated in government contracts. Further, reportedly Zardari has also been accused of fraud, embezzlement, extortion and related crimes. He is amongst the five richest people in Pakistan and according to one global survey he was in the top 100 richest people in the world. It is highly dubious this wealth could have been generated solely through legitimate workings of Zardari’s sugar mills and industries. One of the senior ministers in Zardari’s party, Choudhary Mukhtar, is the brother in law of Ijaz Butt.
Another senior minister of PPP is called Mian Raza Rabbani, and Yawar Saeed, the controversial team manager, is his father in law. Rumour has it that
Yawar Saeed is himself involved in match fixing. This is partly because, it is now believed that Saeed must have known about the players’ suspicious links with fixers. Yawar Saeed is a highly controversial figure and his name has been associated with scandals in Pakistan cricket.
Another controversial example of nepotism is that of Ijaz Ahmed, the fielding coach who is the brother in law of Salim Malik. Both men are rumoured to have links with match fixers. Not long ago Ijaz Ahmed was arrested on a fraud
Shafqat Rana, the Associate Manager, was reported to have accepted Rs 15 Lakh from Wahab Riaz for Riaz to be included in the Pakistan squad. Waqar Younis, Mushtaq Ahmed, Saqlain and Inzamam were also considered to be involved in match fixing.
Hence, the above indicates that even if corruption is not rampant in the PCB, it has a dangerous propensity to be so. One must question how the institution of PCB can function with honesty and accountability when it is run by controversial figures and employs coaches and managers whose integrity and intentions have been under a scanner for a long time?
The victim in all of this is the innocent fan, who loves and supports the team. It is important to win, but more important is to play honestly, patriotically and in good spirit. Unfortunately the current players neither win most of the times, nor (it is now considered) are their intentions patriotic and genuine. How many of these matches containing moments of joy, shock, heroism, intrepidness, woe etc that have been experienced by fans, have been unethically predetermined by these dark actors?
The Pakistan Cricket Board should be disbanded- its accounts must be verified by some international accountants. All employees in positions of responsibility must be sacked. All of the contracts the PCB has been involved in must be suspended and verified. Land, bank accounts, assets belonging to every PCB employee must be frozen and scrutinised. Until this has ceased, a new temporary Board must take function with an independent, educated Chairman.
Only a revolutionary course of action can save cricket from dying in Pakistan. Unless a drastic stem is not taken, fans will quickly stop watching cricket. PCB should be known as “Politics & Corruption Board” until a new, clean Board is formed.