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Pakistan cricketers accused of match fixing

A couple of the best players in the Pakistan cricket team, their two best bowlers, have been accused of match fixing by a British newspaper, and the story is now front page news in all of them. What they have been accused of is bowling “no balls” at pre-specified times, concerning which bets were then taken. All concerned have been at pains to insist that the “result of the match was not in any way affected”, which is all part of how subtle this particular corruption was.

You can just hear them saying it. “It’s nothing, just a few no balls. You get lots of money and look after yourself and your family, and nobody else suffers.” Add to all that a dash of menace (perhaps including some peer pressure) concerning what just might happen to you and yours if you don’t oblige, and it must be hard to resist. Then, once the bait has been taken, the tempters have got you by the throat, and can move on to more substantial rearrangements of the results of games. That one of the most promising young cricketers in the world, the eighteen year old fast bowler Mohammad Amir, is one of the players in the frame just makes it that much worse.

I know, it’s all still at the stage of “allegations”, but the accusations are that no balls were demanded at specific times, no balls which duly occurred. It looks very bad.

The Pakistani second innings is disintegrating as I write this, with Mohammad Amir having got out for an ignominious zero, greeted by the Lords crowd with embarrassed silence. England’s spinmeister Graeme Swann and swing ace Jimmy Anderson would this morning be a handful for any batting side with their minds wholly applied to resisting them. For the Pakistanis in their present frame of mind they are irresistible, although a bit of meaningless slogging is now happening. And you can’t help wondering if the comparable disintegration of the first Pakistani innings yesterday afternoon was similarly influenced by this catastrophe, which they perhaps already knew was about to explode. Nine wickets have already gone, and it can’t be long now for this tainted test match.

What next? Will the one day games now fixed between England and Pakistan proceed? Who knows? Worse, who will care? Will anybody want to come?

The general opinion radiating from England’s cricket commentary boxes this summer has been that England cricket has done a fine thing providing Pakistan with a second cricket home, what with Pakistan itself having become an impossible place to play international cricket. I wonder if England’s cricket’s higher-ups are starting to regret their generosity, if that is what it was.

More positively, I also wonder if the rather fiercer legal environment of the UK might serve to administer the necessary clean-up upon Pakistan cricket that Pakistan’s own authorities have, over the years (this is by no means the first such drama), proved themselves incapable of imposing. That’s probably far too optimistic.

This is not the first time I have here noted allegations of cheating by Pakistani cricketers. A few years back some of their bowlers were accused of ball tampering and they refused to carry on playing. That was pretty bad. This is far worse, and for cricket fans like me, profoundly depressing.

12 comments to Pakistan cricketers accused of match fixing

  • Poor Pakistan. Every bad thing seems to be coming their way at the moment. Although saying this is combining the tragic with the trivial (well, relatively trivial; the cricket cheating does have wider repercussions as you hint), the Islamic terrorism, the poor response to natural disasters, the driving out of harmless entertainment such as cricket, then the corruption of the harmless entertainers… they all make a toxic brew.

    A couple of decades ago Pakistan was seen as a poor country, prone to natural disasters, and corrupt. Then, as now, it was Islamic. But in those days you didn’t get the impression of a basket case, as you do now.

  • The Australian media is (unsurprisingly) focusing on a different incident that was also brought up in the allegations, which is the Sydney test between Australia and Pakistan in January this year, which Pakistan lost from apparently unloseable position. Pakistan’s bizarre tactics and terrible errors on the last day were blamed on “team disunity” at the time, but the claim now is that the match was fixed. This would have required most of the Pakistan team to be in on it, and is far worse than the “spot fixing” here. That game had Australia 40-1 to win at the start of the last day, and it looks like the temptation to fix the result was just too great, given that the players were already bought and paid for. If spot fixing is happening, it is going to turn into result fixing when the reward is big enough. In other words, if spot fixing is endemic, the game is completely corrupt.

    More positively, I also wonder if the rather fiercer legal environment of the UK might serve to administer the necessary clean-up upon Pakistan cricket that Pakistan’s own authorities have, over the years (this is by no means the first such drama), proved themselves incapable of imposing. That’s probably far too optimistic.

    Well, if these allegations are true, the players have clearly broken British law on British soil. (“Conspiracy to defraud…” amounts of hundreds of thousands of pounds is very serious) If there is clear evidence against them (and it appears there may be) there doesn’t seem to be any reason why they should not be arrested, tried, and sent to prison for this.

    But who knows what will actually happen? South African captain Hansie Cronje was caught red handed a decade and a half ago, and received virtually no punishment from the South African legal authorities. His reputation was ruined and he later died mysteriously, but the authorities let him go. The British authorities might be different, or might not be.

    I wonder if England’s cricket’s higher-ups are starting to regret their generosity, if that is what it was.

    I don’t think it was generosity so much as a desire to hold more matches (the number of test grounds in England has increased in recent years and they all want to host a match as often as possible), sell more TV time, and sell more sponsorship. Nothing wrong with that, though.

  • RAB

    May your God (if you have one) have mercy on your soul Natalie. Cricket trivial?!! Not in our former colonies it aint! ;-)

    Yes profoundly depressing. Bang to rights I’m afraid. There is just no possibility of this being coincidental.

    I was going to see the Pakistan/Australia 20/20 games at the County Ground (it’s just a short walk from my house) but I dont think I’ll bother now.

    Does Brian or Michael know much about this massive betting thing in the Far East. How does it work, how big is it etc, and what kind of crazy Bookie would take a bet as specific as that, without knowing it is bent as a nine bob note?

  • I’m still hoping somebody will reveal evidence to show that England were throwing matches throughout the 1990s. Otherwise, we’re left with the conclusion that they really were that appalling.

  • I didn’t mean to disparage cricket, RAB. Though I would find watching a whole match dull (unless I had a good book or something else to do at the same time) I find I am likely to like people who like it. Just didn’t want to commit the faux pas of saying the sadness this cheating causes is the same as the sadness something that kills people causes.

  • Snag

    “what kind of crazy Bookie would take a bet as specific as that, without knowing it is bent as a nine bob note?”

    My contention is that the no-balls were not the fix as such, they were merely to convince the punter that the fixer could indeed carry out what he was promising.

  • RAB

    Ah! Thanks Snag, the penny drops!

    You are a good woman Natalie. I knew exactly what you meant, it was just me, being me, not being able to resist trying to get a laugh line in.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Trott, Swann and Broad, who played beautifully, must now have the gut-churning fear that their great performances will be tainted. Come to that, anyone who scored/bowled well against Pakistan will now probably think the same.

    The players implicated in this should be banned for life. It may even be necessary for Pakistan to be suspended from international cricket for a while. It is harsh, and no doubt some Pakistan cricket lovers will bleat that they are being picked on, but that country’s cricket team has been so badly tainted that nothing short of a total housecleaning exercise is good enough.

    The death a few years ago of former Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer, which at one stage was treated as a homicide case, ought to be re-opened.

  • Paul Marks

    As recently as the 1960′s Pakistan seemed OK (well apart from being a military dictatorship).

    It had a lot less statist economic policies (right from 1947) than India – and, therefore, average living standards were much higher than India (something that is forgotten today).

    Also in the 1950′s and 1960′s Pakistan had fairly good religious tolerance, not just for the various sorts of Muslims (who kill each other almost every day now) but for non Muslims as well – for example there was big network of Christian mission schools and many important Muslims sent their children to them.

    Then (after the war with India and the independence of East Pakistan – now Bangladesh) the socialists took over in Pakistan – they nationalized everything in sight (bar some large landed estates – as, oddly enough, the socialist “People’s Party” was led by a big landowning family from Sind, it still is) and closed down the private (Christian) schools. And (of course) spent money like mad.

    The economy went into a nosedive (it has never really recovered) and the only opposition to the socialists was the Islamic movement (first really pushed by General Zia) with its support for a vast Islamic web of economic regulations – plus savage cruelity (both for nonMuslims and for Muslims of losing factions).

    So Pakistan got into its long term death spiral – socialists on the one hand (although they are also Muslims – they believe in a form of socialist Islam) and Islamists on the other.

    If there is any way out of this I can not see it.

    The only hopeful things one can say are that the socialist People’s Party sometimes tries to move away from full socialism (it has its social democratic Blarite wing) and the Muslim League still contains a lot of old style conservatives (who pine for the good days of the 1950′s and 1960s – and they were good days for Pakistan) and do not really support a Taliban style Pakistan.

    But in practice it is not the moderates in both parties who really inspire passionate support.

  • AN

    Paul: It is even worse than that. If they had gone for Western secular socialism a la Sweden, things could have been OK. Islam when applied Saudi style is closer to National Socialism or Stalinism, with the added burden of belief in a brutal middle eastern celestial dictator as Hitchens would put it. Men get to “tomcat” away to drive the population up three fold. I had family from both sides of the border, who now live mostly in the West and a few in India and the experiences are incredible to put it mildly on the western side which we now call Pakistan. Truly, in many ways it is a combination of Somalia and Saudi Arabia without the oil. Now India across the border has wealth distribution problems and poverty due to corruption as well, but they seem to plod on, due to a plural constitutional democracy and institutions which are functional despite the red tape. In fact, I am surprised how a billion people of various ethnicities, races, languages, religions etc. can even be administered for a few years let alone decades. Population growth rates have dropped significantly and there is more freedom compared to China next door which does have a higher per capita income. The key to this entire region is resource management over the next 30 years. Of course, a nuclear bang from the heaven seeking nihilists and Islamists of Pakistan can never be ruled out. The odd thing is Western policy makers know this fully, yet provide “military aid” to the failing State of Pakistan. Our children may be in trouble. Sorry for my rant, this is what happens when you lose religion in your teens….

  • Hi, I think people are missing the point. Whilst spot-fixing or match-fixing is big in the sub continent, it is endemic in all sport around the whole globe. It is a problem that threatens to kill sport as we know it. I have a blot where I try and unpack my thoughts and invite any comments on the issues I raise ON MY BLOG or HERE.