Whichever news channel I decide to view, there is just one story – the story of man’s greed taking over as his primal instinct. The news that some cricketers from Pakistan were involved in spot-fixing during their English summer, and might even have been involved in match-fixing during this tour or in the Asia Cup and the Australian tour before this has saddened cricket.
The former cricketers of Pakistan, the parliamentarians there and every man on the street – all of them have the same view: the system needs to clean itself and weed out all those agents that defile it. They want all the cricketers involved in this muck to be banned from cricket for life and they think that the system will be clean again. I am afraid it cannot happen that way!
I can understand the anger and frustration of each one who wants stern action to be taken. Corruption has been a disease that has plagued cricket for quite a while now… showing its ugly head every once in a while and then diving back underground before the persons responsible to keep this game clean come to try and smash it. For a change, this time the head is stuck above the ground and we have a chance to give this disease a crippling blow. However, if the correct measures are not taken, then we will give it an opportunity to hide back underground and it will continue to disease our game of cricket for a long time to come!
But what exactly are the steps that need to be taken? A life ban? A heavy fine? Both? Have we not seen Pakistan Cricket Board impose such penalties time and again to various individuals in their set-up? Has it helped? I don’t think so! In fact, PCB’s actions have contributed in a big way to make Pakistan (as Ramiz Raja put it) ‘the laughing stock’ of cricketing world today.
To solve this problem, we need to get to the root of it. Why do such problems occur? Why do players get involved in such corruption? Is it just greed? Greed is an element of every human’s nature. Some manage to curb it, some are not so successful! But if greed was the only reason involved here, then surely there should have been occasions when players from Australia, England and New Zealand also got implicated in such scandals? I have never heard of cricket corruption in these countries. It’s only Pakistan and India, along with some odd instances in South Africa, West Indies and Bangladesh. Even if there have been instances of cricket corruption in these countries, they have been the oddity rather than the norm as it has come to become in Pakistan.
I had a long discussion with a friend on this issue… and we came up with a few viewpoints… a few opinions on why corruption in cricket is more common in the sub-continent than in other countries…
Cricketers from Pakistan and India have to cope up with extremism on a large scale… every good performance will be hailed as their best ever and every defeat will be labelled as a ‘shameful’ one! Those very fans that put them on high pedestals after a win will desert them in times of defeats.
Consider the case of Mohammed Aamer… in such a scenario, what will he be doing? A highly-talented teenager touted by everyone as the next Wasim Akram, Mohammed Aamer has given everyone a reason to expect great stuff from him. But he knows that when things don’t go his way, his fans are going to desert him and his Board will not support him! In such a scenario, if a crooked bookie comes across and offers him to bowl a few seemingly harmless no-balls to make a quick buck, why would he say no? He is watching cricketers with much lesser talent than him making huge amounts of money elsewhere in the world… then why would he say no to a chance to earn at least what he deserves, even if it is not the right way! How is he to know that what is spot-fixing today might just turn into a nasty habit and that he might get involved in match-fixing tomorrow? How is he to know that the money that the bookies and others are earning as a result of his no-balls is going in the wrong hands? How is he to know that that very money is the root cause of a lot of terrorism that exists in the very country where he lives?
For this young man, this is an act of immature desperation. Men in Pakistan and India, especially in the rural and semi-urban areas, have to feed numerous mouths in one household using one pair of hands (and one pair of legs to bowl no-balls) that they have. If a seemingly innocuous no-ball is providing them with supplementary income, then why will they say no? I doubt an 18-year old Mohammed Aamer, given his background and upbringing, is mature enough to understand this.
The point I am trying to make here is that it is not only an act of greed… but also an act of desperation! Desperation can make people do dangerous things… match-fixing and spot-fixing are but two illustrations of those!
So what now? How should they be punished? What punishment will act as a lesson for these individuals involved and will also act as a deterrent to other individuals from committing such acts of desperation? The problem with cricket’s way of handing out punishments such as bans is that it is intended to be a warning to others who might be getting tempted to trudge onto this path… but it does not intend to teach any lesson to the men involved in these syndicates except cause them to stay away from the game.
When handed a ban, a cricketer can go through any of these three situations (or rather these three were the situations that my friend and I could think of… there might be more). One, he could miss the game and repent having done what he did! Second, he might just drift away from the game… losing any interest in clearing his name or contribute for the betterment of the game that once was a way of his life! And third, he may not change at all – still remaining that corrupt individual who is a menace not only to the game but also to the society.
The third situation is the most dangerous one… as it harms the society that he live in. He becomes the centre of all the wrongdoings in his circle and helps corrupt the minds of young talents like Aamer!
Coming back to the point, the punishment that they receive should shame them and make them repent their acts and deeds. A fine will not help… they can earn whatever money they have lost through fines by getting involved in more of these ugly activities. A ban may help if it makes the person miss the game and long for it. But does it happen in every case? Is every individual that big a lover of the game that he would not mind giving up his previous ways of life just to get another chance to represent his country at the highest level? Does everyone have that sort of courage? If the answer is no, then we lose out on emerging talents due to the menace of corruption.
One may say what difference it makes if one talented individual is lost because of the lesson that we wanted to teach to the other emerging talents. But what we overlook is the fact that this disease of corruption is going to strike the best talents first… because they are the best investment opportunities, especially when young. How many such talents are we willing to lose out on?
Then what punishment suits them? Frankly, this is one question that I am struggling to come up with an opinion to. However, as a person who lives in a country that earned her independence by using Gandhian principles, I know one thing about how these young men need to be dealt with: we need to SHAME them, not frame them.
When the match-fixing scandal broke out in 2000, something similar was done. There was a need to ban cricketers like Hansie Cronje, Mohammed Azharuddin and Salim Malik as they were too heavily involved in this scandal. But the likes of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Herschelle Gibbs and others, who had had certain allegations (proven as well as unproven) levelled against them were given further chances. These guys were hugely talented… too precious to lose out on! But they were given the message by the authorities – that if need be, we can act tough. We can impose the life bans and destroy your careers. But we are giving you another opportunity. Come back on the right track and make a name for yourself in cricket’s rich history. If you do not do so, you will be disgraced forever.
That is the message that needs to be sent across to Salman Butt and Mohammed Aamer. The case of Mohammed Asif is entirely different though. This is not the first occasion that we are seeing his name involved with activities that bring the game of cricket to disrepute. He is becoming into some sort of a habitual wrongdoer. He will need to be taught a more severe lesson than the others.
In the end, my stand is pretty clear. I want to see a second chance given to these players who are not too heavily involved in this murky world yet. They need to be shamed publicly, yes! But they need to be given another chance. There is no point in imposing a ban that will be overturned a few years down the line… as it happened with Salim Malik. That not only leaves a wrong message, it also encourages these activities.
They should get a second chance if they prove themselves worthy of it… because if we don’t allow second chances, then cricket’s will become a sorry society where no lessons will be learnt… and none taught either!
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