It’s still good for Pakistan cricket

Ijaz ButtOn this count, the ignominy was bound to visit us some day, such were the propriety and diligence levels of our cricketing powers-that-be.

And not for a day or two, not for a year or two but for a period spread over two decades, the ghost of match-fixing and our fixers has haunted our cricket.And once last year, courtesy two of our own expatriates, one a fixer and the other a sting journalist, both curiously sharing the first name – Mazhar – our boys were caught with their pants down, there wasn’t going to be any reprieve. Ijaz Butt’s ham-fistedness, in this as in all other matters, put a seal on that.

In a roundabout way Butt’s rude and inept handling has done Pakistan cricket a world of good – perhaps the only tangibly nice thing that has come out of his reign.The sentencing has yet to come, but Tuesday saw the jury hand out the convictions. Our guilty would now be punished in due course, and ordered to remain guests of Her Majesty for whatever terms the judge deems fit to serve.

Some 10 years ago, our indigenous exercise known as Justice Qayyum Report was too feeble, and threw patriotic life lines to the ones involved. To the extent that the accuser in the affidavit was slammed with a life ban and the accused was allowed to walk, for he was supposed to be too good a cricketer to be punished.No such niceties, none of such consideration is likely to be shown by the judge in Crown Court Southwark.

What a fall from grace this has been for Salman Butt, and those fabulous partners in pace who happened to be partners in crime as well, Asif and Amir.It is unfortunate and distressing, but it is definitely good, not only but especially for Pakistan cricket. And it says volumes about the ability of our administrators that the jolt, and its likely cleansing effect, was delivered by the foreigners.

The loss of face, though traumatic in the extreme, is counterbalanced by the possibility of getting caught and ruination that it brings in its wake from now on may rein in those adventurous souls in our cricketing colours who previously didn’t give a whit about the consequences of their shenanigans.Only if that comes to pass, if our cricketers shun chicanery, if those who snare the young ones like Amir and scare the living daylights out of Zulqarnain Haider are checked and weeded out, the pain would be well worth it.So, is it the closure that we sought? May be, may be not.The trio was not the only bad fish in our pond.

There definitely is more grime, only if someone tried to scratch below the surface. The ICC, though it has not overtly said so, was not all that happy when the leads it provided were not acted upon to go after the other possible fixers within our ranks. This is something one has learnt on good authority. And some of the accounts and money transfers that were in question have also been reported.Is the new dispensation in the Board willing to take them on?

A point of conjecture for the moment, the answer would come from actions and not words.By no means do the Pakistanis have a monopoly over various forms of fixing, the match or the salient features both. Only our cricketers of the 1990s had been smarter than the Hansie Cronjes, the Azharuddins and the Jadejas to not get caught on a cell phone, with chapter and verse of their doings recorded.

(There were others, many others, whose misadventures were successfully kept under wraps by the Boards more inventive and crafty than ours – not just in avoiding embarrassment but also coming down hard on the transgressors without the whole world seeing the spectacle.)But the one who seemed to be the smartest and best educated of the lot, the one groomed from early teens to skipper Pakistan, Salman Butt turned out to be too clever by half. He deserves his plight every bit. No tears would be shed for him.Asif and Amir, more so the latter for he seemed to be once in a generation cricketer that not just Pakistan but the cricketing world would miss, are losses.

But Pakistan as a nation is blessed with exceptional talents – more than our inept cricket administrators can handle or groom. In about a year and a bit since this damning scandal broke out, the Pakistan team has held its own against some pretty decent opposition and on occasions made some waves too. Meanwhile, it has blooded some new and exciting talent, the left-arm pacer Junaid Khan amongst them.So in the final analysis, if the cleaning of our stables means some more pruning the PCB should not be thwarted by the pain it might cause in terms of lowered performance levels. We are far too good for that, and looking backwards, only if we had done the same in 2001 – if not earlier. – PT