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September 19, 2010

2010: Summer of Pakistan

Hopeless at Lord's

Kamran Abbasi
Ijaz Butt, the PCB chairman, at a press conference in Lahore, September 9, 2010
No more political posturing; it is time to clean up Pakistan cricket  © AFP
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Omar Kurieshi, Pakistan's great writer and broadcaster, once sent me on a mission. It was in my early days of cricket writing, and he had recruited me for Sportsweek, his new publication. I was sent to talk to Wasim Akram, possibly the greatest left-arm pacemen of them all and a man besieged by match-fixing allegations. Kurieshi wanted to help him, rescue Pakistan's champion from the baying hounds with the smell of blood in their nostrils. I met Wasim, looked him in the eye, and asked him whether the allegations were true or not. The master of reverse swing was quick to reassure me of his innocence.

The point of this anecdote is not to question Wasim's integrity, it is to highlight a human trait that is not peculiarly Pakistani but has become a common feature of Pakistan's response to match-fixing or spot-fixing allegations. It is simply this: each allegation is seen as a conspiracy or attack on Pakistan, an attack that has to be repulsed at all costs, instead of a red alert about corruption.

These posturings are wearisome but they have now turned outrageous with Ijaz Butt's misfiring accusations against England's cricketers. I don't know which players from which teams are involved in fixing performances and results; only the players and the bookmakers know for sure. I do know that serious match-fixing allegations have surrounded international cricket for many decades.

But the strongest evidence I have ever come across was unearthed by the Indian authorities when they caught Hansie Cronje and others. The most shocking information I have ever seen about Pakistan cricket was released in the recent sting by the News of the World. It had taken a decade to restore much of the faith in the integrity of cricket that was lost last time around, only for it to be shattered by a few minutes of Internet video. I worry about transcripts, recordings, and marked notes but I care little for idle conjecture about slow-scoring, accelerations and decelerations at will; wins and losses at a whim.

I want resolution. I want corruption out of cricket more than I want to save the career of any corrupt cricketer; an attitude that anybody who cares for this great sport must share. I don't want the head of Pakistan's cricket board to put political posturing before establishing the truth surrounding these allegations. I don't want him to accuse another country's cricketers of throwing matches, especially a country that has lent a dime in a summer of need. Instead, I want him to clean up Pakistan cricket.

I want resolution from ICC too. I want the game's ruling body to be a worthy custodian, championing the best in this sport and eradicating corruption. I don't want the ICC to lie dormant until it is roused by media scoops, second to every scandal. I don't want the ICC to pretend that corruption is only skin deep and confined to a single country. I want the ICC to be an organisation that uses power with responsibility and creates a thriving sport full of integrity.

I know these are false hopes in desperate times. The last few days have seen two calamitous acts. First is the inexcusable announcement by ICC that the ODI at The Oval is under investigation, an announcement that left both cricket boards uninformed and 22 players under suspicion. Second is the unfitting attack by Butt on other players and cricket organisations. These harmful instances suggest that the ICC and the PCB have lost control of the crisis and are about to embark on a calamitous confrontation.

I know in my heart that it is probably best for this dread tour to finish now and save us further pain. Yet I also know that I will wend my way to Lord's in the hope that I might see a final stand from Pakistan cricket to defy its critics and to prove its honesty. I will contemplate the value of commenting on performances that may or may not be genuine. I will think back to the boy who once believed that cricket was a proud battle of skill, will, and bravery. I will imagine a time when cricket is again free of the obscenity of corruption. I will watch Shahid Afridi's men perform at the home of cricket, every cricketer's dream, and imagine what Pakistan cricket might have been.

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Posted by Tahir masood Sandhu on (November 17, 2010, 8:50 GMT)

I read a lot on your blog. I have been an avid supporter of all sorts of sports all my life. The history of Pakistan cricket is rife with incidents of Deliberate under performing. Just follow the patterns after appointment of Burki as Pakistan captain. The performance of our team against Sri Lanka,in Pakistan, when Ramiz was pakistan's Skipper, before the world cup of 1996. We lost the series 2-1, after having hander lankans an innings defeat. Amazing Indeed. And guess what happened as a consequence.. Ramiz Lost his place in the team and the speedster became Pakistan's captain. Sharjah also became a hub of match fixing... which continues unabated till today. Who can forget the match we lost to Bangla Desh, and allegedly the whole team, the PCB management of the time and the business family of Raiwind was fully involved. And the series we lost in Sri Lanka, New Zealand, and australia. Winning positions were thrown Away... Amazing Indeed.

Posted by Atif Yousaf on (September 22, 2010, 7:34 GMT)

I am extremely sad and disappointed in writers like Mr. Kamran Abbasi for not including my comments to this article written earlier just because I criticized the ICC and the british media being bias...... Mr. Kamran Abbasi should respect everyone's view as there should be freedom of speeech.... A gud journalist is always a neutral professional....he does not take any sides but for some reason this article shows clearly that the piece written by Mr. Abbasi and the baseless allegations of british media are on the same page.....

Posted by umair on (September 21, 2010, 23:44 GMT)

Kamran you and Osman have surely disappointed pakistani fans by taking the side of your employers,that was the first good thing Ijaz Butt ever did, he tried to call a spade a spade and tried to expose this sinister conspiracy against pakistani cricket.

You are not doing any service to pakistani cricket either.

Posted by mahmood on (September 21, 2010, 11:08 GMT)

I am extremely dissappointed by writers like Kamran who have joined the westren gutter press in critizing Pak cricket. Ijaz Butt may be the biggest Goof around but in this case its Haroon Logatt who has been accusing, charging and penalizing Pak players without proof. Further English and australian players has issued very damaging statements without any punishment or check. The root cause of corruption in cricket is the illegal betting and gambling setup in India. The bookies are based in Duabi and as in Mazhar Majeed's case also in UK. We have a british national claiming to be a bookie and fixing matches. He is married to an indian national. He claims to have been fixing matches based out of UK. What has ICC and ECB done about that? : nothing except accuse and punish Pak players. Was he arrested? no. Was he charged? No.

Posted by Nadia on (September 21, 2010, 11:04 GMT)

Your piece struck a bitter sweet chord with every cricket lover. When you are so passionate about something, especially a sport which is an ongoing relationship, your emotions run on the extreme ends. One day you hate everything about it and the next day you are willing to give up every thing pressing in your life to spend a day watching it. It seems like a relationship gone bad. And as with any true love you can never really hate it enough to part with it. You are bound to come back and perhaps this time with more intensity and feeling than before. It reminds me of Nick Hornby's 'Fever Pitch'. We are an emotional, irrational bunch, aren't we?

Posted by Muhamamd Sohaib on (September 21, 2010, 7:36 GMT)

The comments of Mr. Butt were immature , yet were expected after even more immature act on part of ICC. The comment of Mr. Butt reflectd what the BOOKIES THOUGHT ABOUT CRICKET ENGLAND IN THE MATCH AT OVAL and nothing more should be attaributed to him. It was not sort of comment which hould have come forth from Chairman of PCB. But ICC should also have been careful about charging a team and an administartion, which was under traemendous pressure and should have been sensetive to false allegation levelled by the ENGLISH MEDIA.

Posted by Mirza Arifain on (September 21, 2010, 7:34 GMT)

Thanks for English Biased Media and Biased ICC Behaviour that after all those allegations ,Pak cricketers comes up strong in reply and english team taste a series of defeat and which they won were also close matches.Not like one sided Test matches.Many Thanks once again.

Posted by Shahbaz Ahmad on (September 21, 2010, 7:33 GMT)

I think Ejaz Butt action late because all other cricketer speaks at Pakistan teams with out any proof. This makes Pakistani team under pressure. ICC also not working neutrally. As we all know where the match fixing start Zaheer, Jedoja and Koronia belong. But lobby works against Pakistan. We know lobby work against us, due to this Pakistan out to host World Cup. This lobby know want out from cricket.

I think all Pakistani cricketers like Imran khan, javeed, Zaheer, Waseem etc and each Pakistani should defend the Pakistani team. Help to handle media war against Pakistan.

Posted by Mirza Arifain on (September 21, 2010, 7:27 GMT)

After all these ongoing allegation on Pak cricket and suspension of their front line bowlers but still England Batting is collapsing .They are Still not doing good after putting enormous pressure by English biased media and biased ICC on Pak .England now have to think hard what they have to do before Ashes and world Cup .With these performances, they cannot do any batter in big matches.

Posted by Mirza Arifain on (September 21, 2010, 7:22 GMT)

After all these ongoing allegation on Pak cricket and suspension of their front line bowlers but still England Batting is collapsing .They are Still not doing good after putting enormous pressure by English biased media and biased ICC on Pak .England now have to think hard what they have to do before Ashes and world Cup .With these performances, they cannot do any batter in big matches.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kamran Abbasi
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He was the first Asian columnist for Wisden Cricket Monthly and wisden.com. Kamran is the international editor of the British Medical Journal. @KamranAbbasi

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