As Four Corners confirmed last night, Pakistan cricket is a shambles, and Ijaz Butt, its absentee chief executive, is a dill. Bookmakers have exerted a heavy influence not only on the team but also on Pakistani players appearing in the ICL and elsewhere.
Don't blame the bookies. It's what they do, and the unscrupulous will always try to shave the odds. Certainly, they are shadier than most because gambling is illegal in Pakistan, and the betting runs into hundreds of millions, but no one forces players to take part.
Advertisement: Story continues below
Blame the captains of the Test team, for failing to halt the rush of players lining up to fill their pockets. Blame the feeble administration that took a grip on corruption after so many players, local and foreign, were exposed a decade ago and then slowly, inexorably, let it loose, forgot to maintain the cameras and microphones in hotel lifts, forgot about following the money, tracing the calls, stopped urging the army to take charge of it. The generals were the best deterrent. A few months ago, a former Pakistan coach said, "the military know everything. They briefed me when I took up the position. They had bulging files. I was staggered by the extent of it. But then their influence waned." And old habits returned
Blame the ICC because it has the facts but not the will to act. It's too hard. Instead paid officials are forced to twiddle their thumbs while the Test nations talk themselves into a stupor of inactivity. Sami ul Hasan, ICC's genial communications officer, worked in Pakistan cricket in the critical years a decade or two ago but nowadays is ineffective.
Let's not make the mistake of condemning an entire nation and its people. Pakistan has many faces, gave cricket its finest president, one of its noblest captains and umpteen skilful and sincere cricketers. A recent Twenty20 tournament, staged between teams from the main cities drew a vast audience. All the top players appeared. Right now 14 teams are taking part in the local Shield. Every country needs to be seen in the round. Pakistan cricket has been betrayed by the people it trusted most, its officials and captains. Sensible supporters, those not joining the nationalistic frenzy are angrier than anyone else because they've been let down more than anyone else. Pakistan is the sixth-largest nation in the world, and a priceless asset. It's worth attacking the cancer.
Why Pakistan? Jinnah did not live long enough to establish proper institutions. India and South Africa were lucky with their first leaders. Zimbabwe has been ruined by its egoistical, cruel and greedy liberator. Pakistan needed Jinnah to live another five years so democracy and modernism could be established. Instead he was taken, and ever since the country has been a battleground.
Inevitably, cricket has been affected. As governments change so the cricket administration changes, and often selectors and captains as well. Recently, it went from tolerable to abysmal, as Ijaz Butt was elevated to the foremost position in the game.
Butt is an idiot and ought to have been sacked after accusing England of throwing a game. That he apparently had not a whiff of evidence did not appear to bother him, or his High Commissioner. Cricket deserves better of Pakistan, a nation it is bending over backwards to help.
Pakistan deserves better from its players. Some of the supposed giants of yesteryear were outed years ago. The senior judge reported that the team had been torn apart by factions run by rival bookies. He insisted that the main culprits be banished. But they were heroes in a nation short of them. Self-delusion and paranoia are rife. India was accused of organising the sting to embarrass its neighbour. Cricketers were recently surprised to be informed that Abdul Qadir had invented the googly. As Rameez Raja pointed out, the events surrounding the Lord's Test presented an opportunity. Three players have been with their hands in the pie. At last an opening. Instead ranks closed.
Now those who truly care about Pakistan cricket need to get angry and involved. Stop giving plum jobs to the shysters of yesteryear, sack all those involved in nefarious activities. Some progress has been made. A monitoring body has been set up. Butt has been isolated. ICC has sent a team of advisers. But absurdity is not finished with us yet. Peter Chingoka, Zimbabwe's long-standing chairman, has been put in charge of the clean-up operation. Sweet dreams.
BY Peter Roebuck