From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.33 :: NO.38 :: Sep. 23, 2010

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ON THE BALL / W.V. RAMAN COLUMN

A big setback for Test cricket

The Pakistan Cricket Board has the best opportunity to be the trend-setter for initiating a process that may well be practised by other countries in the future. But the big question is whether it has the inclination to do so, for which only time will give us the answer.

The Champions League, an offshoot of the successful IPL, is underway in South Africa. While it is widely accepted that the T-20 version is here to stay, it also leads people to believe that this is one format that gives the punters and bookies enough and more opportunities. The English summer, however, has brought forth a new dimension and that too a negative one, not at all helping the diminishing glamour of Test cricket.

The Pakistani trio of Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir have been through an exhaustive investigation process in the UK and while the findings have not yet been released, the episode was a strong wake up call for the administrators to do their utmost to clean up the game. Even before all the facts were brought to the table and the cricketers named were reported to be guilty, the issue took a turn for the worse with the Pakistani politicians and the diplomats giving it a political twist and getting into a denial mode. Yes, the cricketers need to be supported in dire circumstances, but to disregard what is a serious issue is nothing but audacity of the worst kind.

The theory of a conspiracy against Pakistan is too ridiculous to even be a rib-tickler and in as much as the ICC needs to minimise the opportunities for players to get sucked into what is a multi-million pound racket, the respective boards of the international sides should also support the ICC by taking a tough stance.

There is no harm in the PCB suffering from inertia until the players are proved guilty beyond any doubt, but if one were to go by the statements and reports supposedly emanating from Pakistan, it does not seem that there is any serious intent on the part of the administrators to come down heavily on the players even if they are found guilty.

The legal recourse is always available for the administrators. But if that option is taken despite the officials being fully aware of the culpability of the players, then there is no hope at all of cricket being cleaned up and the Anti Corruption Unit will remain an impotent cog in the ICC's wheel.

The temptation of making huge sums of money for a simple, insignificant error might have lured cricketers at different times from any part of the World, but the PCB must address the issue that is staring in its face currently. It is pertinent for the PCB to realise that the rest of the lot playing the one-day series in England have inherited a stigma for no fault of theirs. It will not be easy for them to withstand the taunts and yet focus on their game well enough to perform at their best. Shahid Afridi has been under severe pressure and for one who was thought of as just nothing but a basher of the ball, he seems to be handling the situation in a very suave manner.

In the aftermath of the sting by NOTW several others are coming under the scanner and it will not be a big surprise if a lot more names are bandied about in the fixing syndicate. If T-20 was supposed to breed more of the murky dealings, Test cricket also provides a lot of options for hardcore opportunists. It is no doubt impossible to curb or control the betting that goes on during cricket matches. But the youngsters should realise that there have been many in the circuit for more than a decade who have not been lured by any form of fixing.

Hence it is imperative that strong measures are taken and the various boards have to mete out stern punishments to the guilty. Otherwise, the very phrase “it isn't cricket” will become irrelevant and will sound shallow when someone utters it. There will be a strong urge for the boards in the Sub-Continent to use the racial card to ward off any stringent action that is on the ICC's anvil, but one must not forget that the issue is not about race, caste or creed. The very sanctity of the game has taken a beating.

The need of the hour is for the players to preserve the game which has made them what they are and as far as money is concerned, the pay packages of modern day cricketers is not inadequate by any means. It is a question of what is important and that is individual-based, and therefore, the onus is on the cricketers themselves to help restore the glory of the game that has been constantly attacked by unsavoury incidents every now and then.

The Pakistan Cricket Board has the best opportunity to be the trend-setter for initiating a process that may well be practised by other countries in the future. But the big question is whether it has the inclination to do so, for which only time will give us the answer.



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