CONTROVERSIES CONTINUE TO HAUNT PAKISTAN'S CRICKET

ANISUDDIN KHAN
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Apr
19 - 25, 2010

Sports thrive on controversies, which are the staple diet of sports across the world. Some of the times unexpected controversies make deep impact in introducing a sports to uninitiated millions. For example, Tiger Woods sex scandal introduced sports of golf to millions who hardly knew about the sports.

Every country and every sports in the world has its quota of controversies from ordinary to earthshaking ones. Tiger Woods intimate relations with a clutch of beauties enraged a country like USA where very kind of legal sex is allowed. Pakistan is among a few counties in the world which has been rocked from time to time by controversies since the creation of the land of pure in 1947.

However Pakistan has more than acceptable quota of controversies. You name a sport in which Pakistan excelled on world stage, and one would find controversies some small, some big.

From hockey, to squash and to cricket, three major sports that gave this country world recognition have generated controversies mostly by the players with the backing of the ill educated media. Of all the sports that attracted controversies cricket tops them all.

All sorts of scandals off the field and on the field, infighting in the team and dressing rooms confrontation unfortunately graced Pakistan cricket.

However match fixing and involvement with unwanted ladies on away tours and infighting and groupings has been the major sources of controversies.

This is not the place or the time to discuss how Wasim Akram was allegedly involved in match fixing and betting or his spat with a foreign lady tourists on the Caribbean beach where local police found the cricket star and his couple of colleagues allegedly smoking and in possession of marijuana. Or how former Pakistan captain Salim Malik was involved in allegedly cooperative housing scandal in which millions paid as advance just evaporated or his involvement in match fixing/betting which brought life ban on him.

This is not the place and time to trace the backlog of ugly history of Pakistan. However this is the time to discuss what happened in the last Australian tour where Pakistan got double drubbing in Tests and ODI series at the hands of the hosts. Pakistan played far below its potential and reputation and lost only because most of the players behaved irresponsibly throwing to winds the writ of the cricket establishment. Manager like Abdul Raquib, known as the gentleman among the gentlemen failed to report in time back to the PCB headquarters what was happening between the players and the team.

It is because of the soft attitude of Abdul Raquib and coach Intekhab Alam, the Pakistan team was like a chariot drawn by eighteen horses each one going in its own direction set by personal interest.

Selection of Abdul Raquib as manager was a blunder. He is a person who would hate to pull up any test players if he was on the wrong side of the law. The seeds of indiscipline were sown the day Abdul Raquib was made manager. Raquib had always been a good second than an effective first.

Trouble in Pakistan team was already in the wind when captain Younis Khan decided to opt out of Australian series. He knew there was grouping in the team and he would not able to handle it properly. The baton of captaincy was handed to another weakling Muhammad Yousuf. No doubt he was a world record breaking batsman but lacked the leadership qualities which demand the leader to be ruthless with his undisciplined and not performing colleagues and one who should nip any trouble in the bud before it takes root. It needs common intelligence and the will. But all those were missing in Yousuf. When Younis joined the team for the ODI series both Yousuf and Younis confronted each other leaving deep impact on team discipline.

PCB was quick to carry out enquiry into Australian debacle and after thorough investigations which also included statements on oath from the players, the cricket administration came heavily on the players.

Muhammad Yousuf and Younis Khan were told that they would not be selected in Pakistan for an indefinite period time because their presence would have negative impact on the team. Shahid Afridi's ball biting incident in Sydney ODI was the highpoint of indiscipline. The experienced test and ODI player knew what he was going in front of 28 TV cameras. But the act was interpreted as to help his friends engaged in construction business sitting in cozy atmosphere at home thousands of mile away. In what manner that helped the players could only be left to the interpretation and individual judgment.

Afridi, Rao Iftekhar, Shoaib Malik, brother Kamran and Umer Akmal all were fined heavily for their negative role on the tour. Two of them were banned from international cricket for one year and the seven would be under scrutiny of the administrators for six months.

All the controversies would have been buried after the enquiry and verdict of the PCB. But instead of dying, the controversies reared its ugly head with more vigor .

Muhammad Yousuf announced his retirement from international cricket. He was depending on his friends in electronic media who may have assured the players that through sustained campaign against the PCB, they could bring the cricket administrators on its knees and the player would return to test cricket riding a golden chariot. So far nothing has happened and the bearded player had gone on his preaching mission in the country.

Other players punished after investigation have appealed to the PCB for review and reprieve of the punishment. The PCB was taking its time and it would certainly halve the fine amount but it would take its own time.

By appointing Shahid Afridi, the PCB may have done a good things in its own wisdom but in a competition in which minimum 240 balls are bowled, Shahid Afridi could prove short of the intelligence needed to lead Pakistan in the West Indies where Pakistan had poor record of appearance after its initial tour in fifties when Hanif Muhammad created the world record. The PCB had hardly had come to terms with the Australian tour disaster when two bigger controversies erupted involving Shoaib Malik and Muhammad Asif. Both were of personal nature but still it brought Pakistan cricket under negative limelight.

Shoaib Malik marriage plan with Indian tennis icon Sania Mirza brought to surface his alleged first marriage with another Hyderabad Deccan girl Ayesha Siddiqui. The entire yellow media both electronic and print magnified the whole incident until it was resolved when the leaders of Muslim community in former princely state intervened and advised the two parties to scale down from their stands. However the incident had already done the damage and passport of Shoaib Malik was confiscated by Hyderabad (Deccan) police which advised the player not to leave the city without permission.

The sounds of Shoaib Malik/Ayesha Siddiqui tussle was still echoing in the air when another personal scandal involving drug tainted Muhammad Asif came on the scene. After getting into international limelight Muhammad Asif had allegedly failed to keep his image clean. A number of incidents involving the player were not reported until the player landed in Dubai airport with some small quantity of opium. The player was detained and kept in police custody for over two weeks. Diplomatic intervention bore some result and Muhammad Asif was deported and banned to reenter UAE in future.

It looks as if Muhammad Asif had not learnt his lesson. Emboldened with newly found riches and a glamorous life, Asif let himself go and got involved with a silver screen actress Veena Malik. He knew that long friendship with glamorous star would some day may bring trouble. And it happened quicker than expected. A kind hearted Veena Malik loaned allegedly Rs10 million to Muhammad Asif to meet his immediate financial needs and when relations soured she started demanding the money back.

The story of love and affection turned into a nasty drama in which the two parties refused to pull any punches. They stooped low not to conquer but to malign each other. As expected the matter reached the police station and would soon be in the court of law.

When recently the PCB chief Ejaz Butt was asked would the board intervene and save Muhammad Asif, he said the board did not intervene in the personal affairs of the players. Hardly had the media slowed down on reporting Muhammad Asif and Shoaib Malik/Ayesha Siddiqui saga when suddenly out of the blue emerged match fixing charges against Pakistan leggy Danish ( Dinesh) Kaneria

The controversy came to light on Friday evening when a short statement from UK police confirmed an investigation had been launched, and Kaneria's was the first name linked. He was Essex's overseas player in 2009 and is due to play for them again this season although his arrival has been delayed by a clash with the PCB's Pentangular domestic tournament.

Danish Kaneria, the Pakistan leg spinner, has denied any involvement in the "match irregularities" that Essex Police are investigating, following allegations that are believed to centre around a televised Pro40 game during the last English season.

"I was shocked when I woke up that day and saw these reports," he said. "They are totally baseless. I have always performed with all my heart and commitment for Essex and the results are there for everyone to see. I helped the side get promoted last season."

A PCB official who was present in UK when the allegations surfaced said Kaneria would be spared disciplinary action unless and until further evidence came to light.

It is understood that Kaneria is seeking legal advice on how to proceed, while there are also questions being raised in official circles as to why Kaneria's name was made public so quickly, unlike the local English player involved.

The inquiry is based on spot-fixing, which unlike traditional match-fixing (where the end result is the important aspect), is based on betting around small moments within a match, for example how many runs will come off a certain over, or how many no-balls or wides will be sent down. There is the potential for these elements of a game to be manipulated with the final result being unaffected. Any county game that is shown on television in the UK is also available in India and Pakistan and that opens the way for the illegal market of betting, which is still believed to be rife on the subcontinent despite extensive attempts to clean up the game in the wake of the Hansie Cronje scandal in 2000.