Scandals and match fixing: why it’s not cricket anymore
Scandal clouds the current 2010 Pakistan cricket tour of England. A questionable and lacklustre 3-1 loss in the four match test cricket series for the team from the sub-continent is just part of the story. This is a result of the ongoing furore surrounding match fixing and spot betting allegations against members of the Pakistani cricket team.
The first test match between the two teams started on July 29 at the Trent Bridge ground in Nottingham. This series culminated in a record innings and 225 runs loss by Pakistan to England, in the fourth and final test match at Lords cricket ground, on August 29.
Ironically, the result of this 4th test match will only be a peripheral footnote in the annals of cricket history, as the incidence of alleged match fixing by cricket players reared its ugly head once again. Some cricket purists will shudder at the spectacle at Lords, ‘the home of cricket’ of all places.
As flooding and natural disaster wreaks havoc in Pakistan, many Pakistanis would have preferred a more professional and honourable display by their cricket team on the present England tour, if only for emotional upliftment.
But money talks, and so despite the seemingly despicable actions of sports persons in such a negative context, there is the wider implication of cricketers now simply being pawns in a larger greed-driven commercial game, dictated by big money sponsorship.
It seems that cricket is not cricket anymore – but how and when did it lose its allure and reputation for being ‘the gentleman’s game’?
Cricket scandals have manifested themselves in different forms. The infamous incident on England’s 1987 tour of Pakistan between former England captain Mike Gatting and the Pakistani umpire Shakoor Rana is unforgettable. In the December 1987 test match of that year, umpire Rana had accused Gatting of unfairly moving fielders around whilst the bowler was running up – without informing the Pakistani batsmen.
This controversial incident caused a strain in relations between the two countries for some years.
Other cricket playing nations have been embroiled in similar scandals. The most notorious of these is the King Commission investigations in 2000, involving South African players and notably Hansie Cronje, their former captain. Cronje was subsequently found guilty of match fixing and given a life ban from the sport.
During that same period, former Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin and batsman Ajay Sharma were given life bans from their Indian Cricket Board, after testimonies against them by bookmakers for involvement in match fixing.
Mr Raj, a local businessman from Tottenham, North London and a Pakistani cricket supporter told People with Voices that the Pakistan cricket team is currently “used as scapegoats by the media,” because other countries such as India, would not be vilified like Pakistan.
He added that “The Indian Cricket Board and the IPL are the richest cricket boards and leagues in the world.” These, Mr Raj said, provide the International Cricket Council (ICC) with substantial funds in membership subscriptions that deters the ICC from digging for signs of corruption as vigorously as they have in Pakistan.
Mr Hussain, another Pakistani cricket supporter and local businessman from Finsbury Park, told People with Voices: “Money is the devil. Everyone has their price” and, “this thing spot betting, is not so common in the UK like in Asia.” Mr Hussain admitted that like many of his countrymen, he does not support the Pakistan cricket team as ardently as he used to.
There is constant pressure in modern sports to win at all costs. This is compounded by the raking in of hundreds of millions of dollars for TV satellite broadcasting companies and big cricket sports sponsors such as Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Air Sahara and Emirates Airlines of lucrative IPL cricket tournaments in India and elsewhere. A SportsPro Special Report in August/September 2009 confirms the huge investments by big sponsors of cricket.
Sir Allen Stanford, the American businessman and cricket entrepreneur has cast a dubious shadow over both West Indies and English cricket in recent years. This follows Stanford’s sponsorship of cricket tournaments in the Caribbean and subsequent fraud charges brought against him by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2009.
Cricket for many Pakistanis is not just a game, but is played with deep cultural passion but not nearly as well paid as their wealthier neighbours and counterparts of the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket.
BBC analysts have argued that as some young members of the current Pakistan cricket team come from the poorer regions of rural Pakistan, they were far more vulnerable to match fixing inducements.
In a recent BBC News broadcast on August 30, Imran Khan, the charismatic former Pakistan cricket captain vehemently decried any impropriety from the present Pakistan team. But in further BBC News broadcasts said that current allegations affecting the Pakistani cricket team is symptomatic of wider corruption within Pakistan’s political hierarchy and Pakistani society in general.
Colin Gibson of the ICC told People with Voices in a recent statement:
“The ICC have a wide ranging and comprehensive education programme for all young players, international support staff etc from all countries and regularly provide updates to boards.
“ICC can always learn lessons from any situation and will continue to review the processes and protocols around anti-corruption.”
This statement relates to questions posed to them about their protection and development programmes for young cricketers and lessons to be learnt from the ongoing cricket scandals.
W. G. Grace and other great early pioneers of the game will probably be turning in their graves over the current scandals that have tainted the once gentlemanly sport of cricket.
The rumblings of the ICC and Metropolitan Police inquiries into alleged corrupt match fixing charges against the current Pakistani cricket team will linger on, long after the present test matches and one day international series is completed and England pack their bags to face their next opponents, Australia – down under.