Monday, 9 April 2012
By Muhammad Asif Khan
Right from the day when the News of the World (NoTW) took the cricketing world by storm – by publishing the spot-fixing story – a large number of Pakistani cricket fanatics has been expressing soft sentiments for young Mohammad Amir and every supporter has his own way of looking at it, but majority seems converged on these two points (a) he is exceptionally talented (b) the left-armer is very young and has good amount of cricket left in him. In view of these aspects this school of thought believes that the 20-year old fast bowler should be given a second chance to play sooner then the expiration of the 5-year ICC suspension.
Fans are fans, they want to see their heroes in action at all cost so they can’t be blamed for their emotions but the authorities which are administering the game have a greater responsibility and their role should be refraining from transmitting a one-sided viewpoint. If a cricket board chief hints having a soft corner for a player then it should not be appreciated.
The above mentioned points, which actually were the convincing factor for many to see Amir’s early return to the field, were not persuasive for me. He is very young and was trapped. I disagree on this point simply because he was not young enough in terms of the experience under his belt. Before the infamous Lord’s test, Mohammad Amir had played fair amount of cricket and meanwhile was duly taught about the rules and regulations by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).
Amir mentioned in the interview to Sky News that since he was not used to of bowling No-balls therefore had to practice hard before actually going for those notorious couple of deliveries at Lord’s. Here I agree with him because his track record suggests the same – 14 Tests and 24 No-balls – but what happed in his 7th test match where he over-stepped 13 times is glaring, keep this point in mind. Well that’s not all, remember he was seen talking on his cell phone during a domestic match in Pakistan and was also penalised, therefore describing him as innocent and only a victim of the trap allegedly set by former skipper Salman Butt and others is not a digestible viewpoint – at least for me.
When he said that a guy named Ali blackmailed him – he was right he must have done something before the England tour due to which he was blackmailed by Mazhar Majeed and company. Who knows probably his 7th Test – against Australia – was the starting point of the relationship between Amir and the spot-fixing gang?
Now come to the second famous argument in Amir’s favour – he is an exceptional talent – even the great Wasim Akram supports Amir and urged the ICC to allow him to play domestic cricket. My question to all is that what if Amir was not exceptionally talented?
By excessive of talk about Amir’s return, the cricket authorities in Pakistan are actually admitting that we were short of talent in Pakistan. As done in the past where justice was compromised and certain players were let off the hook due to their talent. It raises a question that is talent the only yard stick to decide the fate of a player involved in a malpractice?
There is another scenario which needs to be looked at. A player is either caught or voluntarily comes forward against the menace but in both cases the follow-up by the apex body, the ICC, has been different somewhat.
Not so long ago, Pakistan’s wicket-keeper, Zulqarnain Haider spoke a lot about match-fixing but the ICC and the PCB, which have been pretty vocal against corruption in the game and always urge players to come forward and help but, in reality if someone opens his lips – like Zulqarnain did – then he is only snubbed. The ICC, with the zero-tolerance slogan, should have listened to him at least once.
On one hand the cricketing authorities are cautious to the extend that even a slightest of doubt is considered enough to end a career – Kamran Akmal is an example – but on the other hand if someone speaks up then they (ICC) just goes quiet. Recently Vinod Kamli and Hashan Tilkaratne and then Bangladeshi fast bowler Mushrafi Murtaza spoke about the menace. In fact Tilkaratne and Kamli went on to accuse their own team mates but what happened? The issues were swept under the carpet by the ICC.
This is really strange but true that if a player wants to expose things the ICC discourages him and if he gets caught, like Amir, then the apex body and relevant authorities act in a different fashion. Amir, Zulqarnain or whoever, regardless of his talent, should be treated fairly.
As far as Amir’s future is concerned, rather than giving lectures to players the authorities should investigate him further to know about the possible involvement of others because only four people – Salman, Mazhar, Ali and Amir – couldn’t run the entire fixing racket on their own but, will the ICC do it? Well, in view of the performance of the apex body and its Anti-corruption and security unit (ACSU) so far, I am not very optimistic and feel that further inquiry in this regard was highly unlikely.
If the environment is deliberately being molded in Amir’s favour then this shows that either we in Pakistan are short of talent and don’t believe that there was another Amir present in the system or we don’t want Amir to open up further so that other possible culprits should remain unharmed.
Just recall, Zulqarnain Haider took named of some of his fellows who later threatened to sue him as well but that was the end and nobody approached the court of law. Later Zulqarnain was kept aloof, and despite an impressive performance in the domestic circuit the door of the national team is still closed on him.
The only difference between Amir and Zulqarnain was off course the scale of talent but the thing which is glaring is that Amir concealed facts while Zulqarnain revealed them.
If the PCB or ICC wants to really clear the game of corruption then the motto “Zero Tolerance” must be implemented in its true letter and spirit.
The sentiments should also be hold back until the same level playing field is provided to Salman Butt after his release. Amir, in his interview dubbed his former skipper as the influencer, let’s see what Salman would have to say. The natural justice demands a fair listening to Salman too.
The writer is a sports journalist in Pakistan, heads the sports department at News One TV & tweets @mak_asif