(Article originally posted on Talkin’ Sport website, August 2010)
In all facets of life, there often comes a time when you simply think, enough is enough… I think that time has come for the Pakistani Cricket team, a team which is never too far away from the headlines, usually for all the wrong reasons.
After yet another controversy, I believe it’s time the ICC stood up and suspend Pakistan from international competition. It’s been done before, to South Africa during the apartheid era and more recently to Zimbabwe when Mr Mugabe’s reign of terror had disastrous ramifications to Zimbabwean cricket. It needs to happen again and Pakistan need to learn their lesson. Far too often are they making headlines for controversy after controversy, they are continuing to produce a series of bizzare events and it’s got to the stage where cricket’s integrity is being questioned.
In 2000, former captain Saleem Malik and rising star Ata-ur-Rehman were both suspended for life for their involvement in the match-fixing allegations of 1994, the allegations which involved Hansie Cronje, the gifted South African captain. Malik was accused, and found guilty of attempting to bribe Australians Shane Warne and Mark Waugh by offering them money to underperform and influence the result of matches. Rehman was suspended for ‘underperforming on demand’. Once this all died down, things returned to normal (by Pakistan’s standards) for a number of years, however in recent years, things are going from bad to worse. Listed below are a number of controversies involving the Pakistani national team in recent years.
August 2006 – Allegations of changing the condition of the ball, commonly known as ball-tampering, are made against Pakistan by umpire Darrel Hair. The resulting fiasco was most likely the darkest day in cricket history, with Pakistan refusing to return to play after the tea break on Day 4. As a result of this, after waiting in excess of 20 minutes, the umpires agreed to abandon the match and award it to England. Upon hearing this news, Pakistan agreed to return to play, however the umpires’ decision stood. What followed was nothing short of disgraceful with law suits and suspensions dished out to both players and umpires.
March 2007 – Just a few hours after crashing out of the 2007 ICC World Cup at the hands of cricketing minnows Ireland, Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer is found dead in his hotel room. Initial reports from pathologist Ere Seshaiah suggested that Woolmer was strangled to death, however this theory was dismissed 3 months later and his death was attributed to natural causes. Despite this, in November, coroner Patrick Murphy asked for further tests to be carried out on samples taken from Woolmer’s body following discrepancies in the toxicology reports by forensic scientists from the Caribbean and the UK. After hearing twenty-six days of evidence, the jury at the inquest returned an open verdict, refusing to rule out the controversial strangulation theory put forward by Seshaiah.
December 2009 to February 2010 – Pakistan’s tour of Australia in 2009/10 will be forever remembered for all the wrong reasons, not only for the fact that they didn’t win a game, but more so for the amount of internal fighting which would make the world’s most dysfunctional office seem harmonic. Incidents on this tour included a power struggle between captain Mohammad Yousuf and previous captains Shoaib Malik and Younis Khan which ended up splitting the side in half and the craziness surrounding the dropping of Kamran Akmal after a series of poor performances. Akmal voiced his opinions publicly, insisting his position in the team was safe despite being told otherwise and to make matters worse, his brother, Umar Akmal, faked an injury in an attempt to sit out the next Test match with his brother. In addition to these incidents, captain Shahid Afridi was caught on camera biting the cricket ball… Yes, biting the cricket ball. Of course, despite being an unusual approach, this behaviour is deemed to be ball tampering and as a result he was suspended for 2 matches. Upon returning back to Pakistan, the authorities topped of a fantastic circus act by suspending Khan and Yousuf for life, Malik and Rana Naveed-ul-Hasan for one year each and fining Afridi and both Akmal brothers heavily.
August 2010 – More allegations of match-fixing, this time involving young fast bowlers Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif and captain Salman Butt. The evidence thus far is damming with player manager Mazhar Majeed caught on film accepting 150,000 pounds in return for ensuring these two talented fast bowlers, deliver no-balls at certain periods of the game. At this stage, these are the only claims of underperforming however one must keep in mind that on Day 2 of the Test, Pakistan had reduced England to 7/102, before allowing an amazing recovery which saw England finish their first innings on 446. From there, Pakistan were bundled out twice for totals of 74 and 147… Questions must be asked!
November 2010 – Pakistan’s current wicket-keeper, Zulqarnain Haider vanishes from the team hotel on the eve of the fifth and deciding ODI against South Africa at Dubai International Stadium. Haider, who helped secure a thrilling win in the fourth ODI with a valuable 19 not out, had asked team officials the night before for his passport and hasn’t been seen since. There was however a message left on his Facebook profile, which read;
“Leaving Pakistan Cricket because get bad msg fr 1 man fr lose the match in last game”
Read into this whichever way you like, however given the history of controversy surrounding match-fixing and Pakistan Cricket, it’s easy to see that young Haider has obviously defied the orders of a filthy, corrupt bookmaker and now his life is at risk, forcing him to flee the country. Furthermore, there are concerns for the well-being of his family in Lahore, so security measures have been put in place to keep them safe.
In addition to these incidents, after the Lahore Terror Attacks in 2009, many countries have already refused to play in Pakistan given their safety concerns. Obviously this is no fault of the cricket team, however it’s just another egg in the basket of crisis’ involving the controversial country.
Terror attacks aside, with so much dishonesty and controversy in this period of time, one must wonder whether there are more instances which have simply been unnoticed, unproven or swept under the carpet. For example, take your mind back to October 2002 at Sharjah, when Shane Warne, who had recently returned from his own 12 month suspension for taking an illegal substance, tore through Pakistan twice, as Australia won by an innings and 198 runs. In this match, Pakistan folded to be all out for a pathetic 59 in the first innings, their lowest score in Test Match history. Not to be content with that though, when asked to follow-on they managed even less in the second innings, being shot out for just 53. Questions must be asked as to their motivations, or lack of, in that match!
To put it simply, the Pakistani Cricket team is nothing more than a disgrace to the traditional gentleman’s game and they need to learn their lesson. Of course, not everyone within the team (I assume) are guilty, however there have been far too many bad eggs, over an extended period of time. The culture is obviously a breeding ground for dishonesty and greed, and until this culture changes and every single player is content on playing a sport they love for a living, Pakistan should not be able to participate in international matches. If they do, another controversial, integrity-killing headline is only weeks away. Can cricket handle another? I doubt it.