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.