Pakistan cricket April 8, 2011

More shame for the nameless

Wisden's withdrawn accolade to the unnamed Pakistan cricketer has heavy symbolism of its own: a memorial to the identified and unidentified cricketers who have brought dishonour to the game of cricket

Tombs to unnamed soldiers are symbolic memorials to unidentifiable warriors who have died on the battlefield. Wisden's withdrawn accolade to the unnamed Pakistan cricketer has heavy symbolism of its own: a memorial to the identified and unidentified cricketers who have brought dishonour to the game of cricket.

Selection as one of Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Year is the 'oldest honour in cricket,' rarely awarded to Pakistanis. Englishmen, Australians, South Africans, West Indians, and Indians have all been more frequently honoured. Fazal Mahmood was the first Pakistani in 1955, and those who have followed include Asif Iqbal, Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, Hanif and Mushtaq Mohammad, and the two Ws.

The editor, in this case Scyld Berry, takes the decision. There is no science to it, only a reasoned judgement, and to leave one of this year's spots vacant is a measure of the impact the spot-fixing scandal had on last year's international cricket. It is a moment of extreme frustration and deep shame.

Some might argue that Berry should have chosen an alternative, and he is unnecessarily humiliating Pakistan cricket, but that would be to misunderstand the man. Corruption has been damaging international cricket for over a decade, yet after each spur of controversy we rapidly move on to more comfortable themes, eager to banish the notion that what is enthralling us could be a stage-managed farce.

While Pakistan isn't the only country to be dishonoured by corruption, its players have become corruption's most constant bedfellows, admittedly for many complex reasons. Indeed, what chance do the players have when its own cricket board acts with disregard for integrity?

Only yesterday Pakistan's senate was informed that journalists from national newspapers, news agencies, and broadcasters had taken payments from the Pakistan Cricket Board. Travel expenses to support a poorly funded profession might just be allowable, but much more was paid on top, to the tune of $70,000 in cash over the last 3 years. What was this money for? Why was it never declared by the journalists or the cricket board? A culture of corruption is never a culture to nurture progress.

In our desire to move on, we may have already forgotten how Pakistan's young team was winning hearts and accolades last summer with incredible Test victories over England and Australia. The skills of Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif had created an excited buzz. Salman Butt's young leadership was impressing peers and skeptics. But it was a grand deceit; the three architects of recovery were revealed as the conspirators of Pakistan's doom. It was a time of shock, horror, and grief.

Berry has remained silent about the unnamed cricketer of the year, offering arguments for any one of three banned cricketers, but can there really be any doubt? Only one man took the world by storm in the last 18 months, destroying batting orders around the world with a youthful exuberance that made him an instant star. Only one man's loss to international cricket is truly lamented, his rise from rags to riches a modern-day morality tale.

Pakistan is still feeling the consequences of Amir's ban. The touring party for the one-day series against West Indies is short of experienced pace bowling; rookies Junaid Khan and Sadaf Hussain selected to support Wahab Riaz, whose performance against India in Mohali suddenly casts him as Pakistan's go-to bowler. But this is the time to rebuild with fresh blood and cleansed souls, to begin the process that ensures the next time a Pakistan cricketer is one of Wisden's cricketers of the year his name his spoken with pride and not censored in disgrace.

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here