Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Fix Is In

Pakistan in a match fixing scandal, oh how we were all warned.

And now we are all up in arms as this will ruin cricket forever, tarnish the game and send it back into the dark ages. Cricket will not die, but Pakistan cricket may. For most of this summer there has been a warm sense of hope for Pakistan cricket with England/Lords taking on the role as big brother and giving them a leg up by allowing a vast amount of ODI, Tests and T20’s to be staged across the country, some to the detriment of the grounds. And having had what is only described as an up and down tour, where the brilliance and has been shadowed by some foolish cricket, it has now stepped into the dark alley of despair.

Salman Butt along with 2 other highly rated blowing prospects has been marked with the brush that always stains. All 3 are deemed innocent until proven, but the evidence doesn’t look good. And the cat calls and yelling from all those in the press and outside the ropes is for the tour to be cancelled and Pakistan banned. This is silly and will destroy cricket, for these 3 have done something wrong, not the team. Pull them from the squad and let the tour continue. The bigger issue of the overall rife of bookmakers in cricket and the scourge of ‘spot betting’ is part to blame for this issue, its ridiculous to be able to bet on a no-ball [or the amount of them] in an over and opens the game to its earliest history of match fixing in the 1800’s between land owners and crafty ‘professionals’ We cannot allow this sort of gambling in any sport, but most of all in cricket.

Are the bookies or the players to blame? It is a hard choice and one that from behind a keyboard or TV screen we all say ‘No’, ‘never would I ruin the spirit of cricket’. Yet you must remember these are cricket players that have been denied a right to earn further money from the game due to terrorist attacks back home and the banning of Pakistan players from the lucrative IPL, has left them short in the pocket compared to others and I dare say feeling a little grieved at the situation, so a man pops up and offers a few 100k to throw down a few wide balls and now your mind thinks differently. The subsequent week has been extraordinary, including one of the most surreal sessions of Test cricket ever played; but while there is an understandable desire for swift resolution, the complexity of the case and the need to get any punishments absolutely spot on means that the ICC must take its time here.

We knew the summer was going to belong to Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif, but we thought it was for what they did with the ball, not their front foot. If they did bowl deliberate no-balls - and the evidence looks horrible, particularly the picture of Salman Butt starting at the bowler rather than the batsman - it is obvious that they must be dealt with severely, yet the widespread calls for life bans are surely, at this stage, over the top. Given the natural disaster currently affecting Pakistan , it should not be too difficult for us to get some perspective. The News of the World described it as "a kiss of betrayal", but it wasn't: it was the kiss of a kid who adores the game. He may have done something gravely wrong; if so, we must hope the ICC does not compound it with a hasty and excessive punishment.

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