Crying shame

Crying shame

Cricket as an international game faces its worst ever crisis with several Pakistani players being charged with ‘spot-fixing’ during the recently concluded Test match against England at the Lord’s. Unlike the previous allegations of match-fixing, which were mostly based on circumstantial evidence, damning evidence through a sting operation conducted by a British newspaper is available this time, directly implicating seven Pakistanis playing in that particular match. The cricket fraternity, administrators and fans around the world who have seen those video clips, have been completely benumbed with shock, turning into rage and disgust. The video showing the sequence of events on and off the field leading to the 1,50,000 pounds bribery scandal are so compelling and vivid that even Pakistan prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has been forced to admit that the allegations against its cricketers had made his countrymen “bow their heads in shame.”

If Pakistan, at least in words, has reacted strongly, the International Cricket Council (ICC), the supreme body of cricket, not surprisingly given its past record, wants the allegations to be corroborated and probed further before any action is initiated. When half the Pakistan team now touring England has come under a cloud and their integrity called into question, the ICC president Sharad Pawar has allowed the remaining part of the itinerary to go on, obviously because the cricket boards and the ICC are loathe to lose the revenue. A thick-skinned politician like Pawar possibly does not understand the gravity of the situation and the least he could have done was to issue a direction to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to keep the tainted players out until their names were cleared.

In fact, the ICC has been guilty of brushing under the carpet serious incidents of match-fixing ever since the Hansie Cronje-gate rocked the cricketing world just over a decade ago. The ICC has set up an Anti-Corruption Unit to sniff out erring players and investigate into allegations that surface from time to time, but it has utterly failed in its duty. The PCB has contributed more than its share to bring disrepute to the game through its kid-glove treatment of serious offenders, who have been allowed to mock at the so-called life bans. A time has come for the ICC to quickly establish the truth behind the latest scam and if it is proved, to impose a ban on the entire Pakistan’s team at least for two years.

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