August 31, 2010

Betting/Corruption

A plea for clemency

Nitin Sundar

If ever the players who have given statements to police are found guilty in court or by cricket authorities, I hope that the following is taken into account in the case of Mohammad Amir. Only 18, and from an impoverished background, Amir would appear as much victim as perpetrator, a teenager whose head was easily turned, writes Derek Pringle in the Telegraph.

Surely his seniors should have been assuring him that his talent is a thousand times greater than any loathsome parasite who grooms players for a role in a murky trade. Instead, it might turn out, if indeed the allegations are proved, that they merely allowed him to be exploited as grotesquely as if he were a serf chained to a medieval overlord.

Mohammad Amir's monthly retainer from the Pakistan board is less than half of what Ishant Sharma earns for a single delivery he bowls in the IPL, a tournament that is out of bounds for Pakistan's cricketers. Lawrence Booth, writing in the Mail Online brings out the vast income differential that exists within international cricket.

The £4,000 cheque that Mohammad Amir picked up at Lord’s on Sunday as Pakistan’s player of the series underlined his country’s status as the poor relations of world cricket. It would be small change for most international cricketers, but is more than three times the £1,300 he earns a month from his Pakistan Cricket Board contract. Although the Pakistanis are thought to pick up around £3,000 per Test, that is still half as much as the English and Australian players.

Stuart Broad, England's hero in the Lord's Test that has come under the scanner, writes in the same paper that even if the allegations are proved, they will not take away the sheen from the home team's come-from-behind win. He hopes the ODI series will go on, and says irrespective of who represents Pakistan, England will be giving their all and "we trust the opposition will be, too".

This was the biggest achievement in my Test career so far, even bigger than my bowling spell at The Oval when we won the Ashes last year, and nothing can take that away from me. Believe me, the bowling was of a very high standard against us at Lord's. Ask our batsmen, who were out cheaply as we slipped to 47 for five, whether or not that was full-blooded Test cricket out there and they will tell you that it was extremely tough going.

ECB chief Giles Clarke's disdain while handing out the series award to Amir left no one in doubt about his opinion of the seamer. James Lawton writes in the Independent that such a reaction was uncalled for from the man who welcomed Allen Stanford's dodgy millions with a smile and open arms, for Amir, like Clarke in the Stanford saga, has "put his trust in someone who soon enough was proved utterly unworthy of it".

This is wrong not because Amir is innocent, and can reasonably hope to escape without some punishment for his misdeeds. It is just too judgemental, too easy, and does not begin to recognise the fact that cricket did nothing to protect arguably its brightest star. Where were the leaders of cricket when the dynamics of the boy's downfall were being put in place? Universally, it seems they were on other business, some of it fawning on crooks with bags of gold.

Tariq Ali writes in the Guardian that the malaise surrounding the Pakistan team is symptomatic of the corruption in the country's politics and its past match-fixing shenanigans that were papered over as opposed to weeded out.

The rotten core of Pakistani cricket long predates the emergence of Zardari and the present bunch of rogue politicians. There have been three semi-judicial inquiries since the 80s, the last of which, presided over by Justice Qayyum in 2000, suggested that allegations of match-fixing in Pakistan began when Asif Iqbal was captain (1979-80). He was said to have lost the toss against India, simply informing his surprised counterpart that he'd won – somethign Asif has denied.

Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Keywords: Corruption

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