Human beings are hypocrites, lack reasoning and can be easily manipulated. This was my conclusion after running through the thousands of updates on social media on Asif, Amir and Salman – the three cricketers banned in cricket’s yet another match fixing saga. The updates ran from hanging them, to life imprisonment, to public prosecution, to whipping, to burning their homes with families!
For a start, people need to gauge the magnitude of crime involved – the financial value is said to be around 150K pounds – peanuts when compared to scams in which politicians, industrialists, bureaucrats and corporators get involved. Sums of this magnitude seldom even get reported. If your brother was involved in a money laundering scam of this amount, would you have recommended the same treatment? Besides, if jail terms were to start for this sum of money, there would be more jails required than houses across the world!
But then, sports (along with movies) touch the masses like nothing else. Fans like us are passionate to the point of eating, drinking and sleeping the game. In the subcontinent, the cricket team’s performance, reflect our own identity, our pride of place in the world. We have stronger opinions about people involved in sports. And Amir, Asif and Salman tried to make money by playing a ‘gentleman’s game’ in a non-gentlemanly manner.
Jailing Asif, Amir, Salman for the said terms won’t wipe away fixing. It will just destroy three careers and give Pakistan more belief that the world is against them. After all it’s the same world which brushed aside claims that Mark Waugh and Shane Warne made money by playing a ‘gentleman’s game’ in a ‘non-gentlemanly manner’. Even the ACB had managed to effectively hide it for a long time.
Amir, Asif and Salman can at best be charged for taking undue and unfair advantage of a precious cap, a responsible position, handed over by the nation and in process tarnished the sport and the country. No, they weren’t selling their country – thats an overstatement. Pakistan and cricket surely have been embarrassed, since this incident! However, that brings us to this question, did both these entities do enough to ensure prevention?
Pakistan is a state which many nations love to dub as a ‘rogue nation’. It’s been a name synonymous with terrorists, jihadis, extremists, bomb blasts and hell. It’s unfair, disgraceful and the truth lies somewhere in between. Any budding Pakistan cricketer indirectly becomes a victim of this perception. Thanks to a few connected unfortunate incidents, Pakistan cricket didn’t find much room in the heavily active ICC future tours programme nor in any cash rich T20 event.
In short, Pakistan was at mercy of certain nations and neutral venues to get a game of cricket. For an average twenty year old, coming from challenging backgrounds, with limited education and knowing only one art to survive, it isn’t the best of times. In a sport, where the average career spans barely half a decade, time was and is running out for their community. Imagine the state of a world class bowler like Mohammad Asif – sitting at home and awaiting the next series to play, when a lesser talented, Shanthakumaran Sreesanth was leading the life of a superstar and an unknown, Manpreet Gony, was minting money, just across the border!
Certain boards have invested and given a structure to their domestic cricket, enough to give an average domestic cricketer a living. Australia and South Africa are peers in that domain, England’s county system is very popular and India have revamped their domestic structure as well as injected it with IPL, over the past decade. Unfortunately all the mentioned countries give limited room for Pakistani cricketers to come over and operate. It’s the same with PCB – their whimsical selection policies, frequent captaincy and management changes ensure their own players get limited room to perform their trade.
If you thought the boards and nations were solely responsible for alienating Pakistan, big daddy ICC takes equal blame for their methods in preventing fixing. Their anti-corruption unit has caught only a handful of players in a decade; and it wasn’t due to the system; It was solely on mercy of a crooked bookie deciding to reveal. Hence ICCs silly rules ensured, revelations from crooks was their best bet. After all, banning mobile phone in dressing room isn’t enough! Human beings will always find ways to run around rules!
When ICC banned a few cricketers more than a decade ago, it didn’t stop fixing. If you follow all high profile cricket series, you can find that results are generally going against the flow. No one expected England to thrash India, few expected Australia to win in SL, few expected India to struggle in world cup, few expected India to just win 1-0 in West Indies, Pakistan to win recently or South Africa and Australia to be involved in a lopsided game recently. It’s a fact that the way most results go, the bookies are making more money than punters. So something could still be running amiss.
Strict rules, laws and its implementation is your best bet against fixing. People who are shocked at hearing about fixing, need to stay more in reality. Any place or event which has huge sums of money floating in and out, will have some sort of corruption. No wonder every financial institution has strict rules on internal checks and conflicts of interests, every country regulatory has strict codes on anti money laundering. Yet money flows and corruption happens on a daily basis. An entire Italian football league was fixed for three years. So whom are we fooling when we say we blurt righteousness lines!
As an Indian, the entire England series was very depressing to say the least. Enduring the whitewash was a grueling and laborious process in itself – most times I would just end up blankly staring at the television screen. While I am not a fan of ads taking screen space or being forcefully pushed down our throats at the slightest instance, there was one set of ads I liked.
Tata Steel’s recent series of ads have reflected more on values and on multi-dimensional aspects a corporate can touch society. It says “this is not an advertisement, this is life@Tata Steel.” For ICC, how I wish, they take up a few lessons from a leading organization how they run on values and touch multiple aspects of the sporting world they thrive in. For the record, the Tatas have as spotlessly clean a record as one can imagine with a giant MNC conglomerate operating in India.
It could start with stricter laws on fixing; regular and spot audits on domestic and international cricketer’s and their families financials; stricter codes for captains (note involvement of captains in every match fixing saga); banning the three said cricketers for a year – only from international cricket; fining them astronomical sums; and at the same time extending the hand to the misled as a sincere attempt to rehabilitate back.