It was a nightmarish year for cricket. In Pakistan, we had gone through a minor witch-hunt as leading players had been accused of match-fixing, mainly by their former colleagues. This had led to formation of a one-man judicial commission headed by Justice Quayum. His report had been released and though it had come down hard on one or two players, it did not disturb the team But it was the Hansie Cronje affair that really shook the cricket world and its tremors are still being felt. While the South African team was touring India, the Delhi police announced that it had been monitoring the activities of the South African captain and came up with proof, by way of audiotapes of his links with Indian bookies. This came as a bombshell.
There was the customary denials but in the end Cronje admitted to the errors of his way and a King's Commission was formed in South Africa. This seemed to have spurred on the Indian Criminal Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to carry out of their own and protracted investigations into match fixing with open-ended terms of reference.
The focus had been shifted away from South Africa to India and it was Indian players, notably Azharuddin, who got targeted. There was a good deal of drama as accusations were hurled with abandon. More and more names appeared on the hit-list of the CBI.
In the meantime, not to be left out of the action, the Indian incometax authorities carried out a very high profile raids on many cricketers homes. It was turning into a circus. The CBI finally released its report and named, among others, Azharuddin, Jadeja and the original whistle-blower Manoj Prabhakar as being involved in match-fixing.
The CBI report also named some very big foreign names, among them Brian Lara, Mark Waugh, Alec Stewart, Martin Crowe and Salim Malik as being involved. Thus cricket itself stood in the dock. I think the storm has passed and cricket has taken a battering but has weathered it.
Whether match-fixing has ended for all times to come is problematic. If cricket matches were indeed fixed in the past, they will continue to be fixed in the future. Organized crime has been investigated many times, notably in the United States where it is the largest single industry. Nothing has changed. The most that we can hope for is that the players don't get involved or are led into temptation.
The PCB chairman Lt-General Taquir Zia, though obviously upset about the home series loss to England has chosen not to panic, to rush in and start making wholesale changes. A ticking off to the team's management and some senior players, he has kept faith with the team. This is exactly what it should be. There is no need to have a firesale.
What the team needs is better communication among itself. A lot misunderstanding can be avoided by face to face meetings. On the tours of New Zealand, Sharjah and England, the team should be encouraged to have frequent get-togethers so that the progress of the tour can be reviewed and any problems resolved. All members of the team should be involved so that they are made to feel that they are contributing. This is what will bind them.
The main weakness of the Pakistan team is that they do not give the impression that they are pulling together. It is bad enough in a home series. On tour, it can be disastrous.
The PCB Chairman is aware of this and he has been a great supporter of the players. The players should be grateful and should respond. He has taken the flak of the team's poor performance and accepted responsibility for the team's loss to England although everyone knows that the responsibility lies elsewhere.
Eid Mubarak, Happy Christmas and Season's Greetings to all readers.