'Who should have, or not have, a say in Muhammad Amirs case?'

M Ali Khan

Minister (2k+ posts)
Thou Shall Not Play

by Ali Aftab Saeed


I just pray to God that the whole Amir-should-or-shouldnt-play-in-PSL drama gets over soon. PCB is shamelessly feeding to news channels and papers day in and day out the same old rant with the same old characters, with a little twist here and there, sometimes without even a twist. The board doesnt seem to have the slightest idea of the implications this whole thing can cause, or it just doesnt give a damn.

I must admit I found the PCB Chairmans repeated remarks on the fate of the spot fixing trio once their ban was lifted to be quite strange. Thats because knowing Najam Sethi, I believed that with his taking over PCB the days of moral policing in PCB were going to end. Shahryar Khan, not a personal acquaintance, used to give the same vibes. But when Umer Akmal got caught allegedly having booze at a private party in interior Sindh, Khan took no time taking the podium and announcing that Akmal wont be selected for the team until proven innocent. Eventually Akmal did get selected; it is not clear if it was Afridis lobbying or a change of heart of the chairman himself.

Theres a conspiracy theory doing the rounds that the board, read Najam and Shahryar, didnt want Butt, Asif and Amir to play again. Amir got selected for BPL where he performed, and unable to sustain the pressure of not selecting him in the team, they instigated pawns, read Azhar and Hafeez, to protest publicly.

I dont want to believe this conspiracy theory but how is it possible for players to make so much noise? The board which wasted no time in issuing a show cause notice to Younis Khan for criticising selection committee, is letting Hafeez and Azhar speak on policy matters as to who should or shouldnt represent Pakistan? In fact, on occasions it seems as if it was PCB itself that fed the news to the media that players werent happy with Amirs inclusion.

I am sure when six Indian players, including Dhoni, were being investigated for match-fixing in the IPL, the rest of the players must have had an opinion, which they kept it to themselves. I am sure they had one on Sreesanths ban too, but they didnt announce it. When Shane Warne and Mark Waugh were caught giving pitch report to the bookies, their board decided what to do. It wasnt a cause of concern for the rest of the Australian players. The apparent effort of our board to appease the infuriated players is unprecedented.

Now lets come to the implications part. On the social media there are memes about how Amir should have contacted Maulana Tariq Jameel to get the repent pass to get back into the team. Im sure people are posting these in good humour, but what if Amir actually goes to him and he gives a fatwa that God has forgiven him for what he has done. Then what would Hafeez, Azhar and Ramiz Raja do? It will be patriotism vs religion. Checkmate.

We all know how influential Maulana once was in the dressing room, and not too long ago either. Though I havent read the book but I believe Cricket Cauldron by Shahryar Khan also discusses this. By giving the impression that everything is not under control the board will create space for someone to intervene, be it the government, military or mullah. Do they want it?

Even if it is only players who are orchestrating this, they can be excused for being stupid. After all, they see the politics and the patriotic card being played everywhere, every day. What they dont realise is that they arent politicians or military who can mould the narrative to their convenience or take the heat if it comes to it. Neither is spot-fixing as serious a crime as the ones happening all around us. What if a sympathiser of Asif or Amir concludes that if they have done their time (which they have), have made a public apology (which they have), and are legally allowed to play (which they are), then anyone against them playing again is trying to act too holy for a common man? Does this ring an alarm bell? It should.

However bad Hafeez and Azhar are at cricket, the board should neither let them play with fire, nor use them as scapegoats. Please have a meeting behind closed doors, let all the players know what has been decided, and keep the media out of it. Thanks.

Ali Aftab Saeed is a singer and director of Mishermayl Productions. He tweets at @aliaftabsaeed.