Pakistan Rocked By Cricketing Scandal

In a nation that is rocket by environmental, social and military disasters, cricket has always been the main outlet and a sense of escapism for a cricketing mad nation, in a country whose daily diet is anguish and suffering.

Pakistanis are concerned with the latest allegations of match fixing against their national team.  “Amist the chaos that our country faces, there should be some source of romance,” reports Chaudhry Ishtiaq Ahmed, an attorney from the city of Lahore. “For Pakistan, that source of romance has always been cricket. Cricket is the one thing we could always be proud of and now that pride is gone.

The allegations blindsided Pakistan at its most vulnerable moment, the country has been rocked by the latest floods and has left millions of people destitute, destroying infrastructure such as roads, schools houses and bridges.  The area submerged by the flood is approximately the size of Italy.   At the centre of this alleged matched fixing scandal lie two Pakistani cricketers who colluded with a middleman to alter the course of a cricket test match against England last week in London.

Pakistani television channels provided daily coverage of the video showing footage of the middleman, Mazhar Majeed a London-based businessman, showing large amounts of cash as he meets with British tabloid reporters posing as members of an Asian gambling cartel.

The tabloid, News of the World, said Majeed accepted the hefty sum $232,000 from the undercover reporters to ensure that Pakistani cricketers bowled “no balls,” equivalent to an illegal pitch in baseball, at certain intervals during the match. The manipulation better known as spot-fixing, since gamblers at times not only wager on the outcome of a test match but on individual occurrences as well.

Majeed arrested Saturday facing charges of conspiring to defraud bookmakers the case is currently being investigated by the British police to ascertain the role Pakistani cricketers might have played.  In turn Pakistani law enforcement authorities have dispatched their own investigators to London.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has launched an investigation as well on the extent of corruption in matches involving the Pakistani team.

The Pakistani public in the mean time are baying for blood.   Ahmed, the lawyer, was so enraged by the said allegations that he filed a motion in the Lahore High Court requesting that the offending cricketers be charged with high treason.   On Tuesday in the legislative chamber of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the Northern Province who has been hardest-hit by this summer’s devastating floods, lawmakers ignored relief  talk with regard to rebuilding and instead focused on the cricketing scandal.

“Cricket is part of our genetical make-up,” Ali said. “People here watch cricket matches and pray for cricketers. When cricketers do such things, it really hurts people.  Should these allegations be true, the guilty players should be banned for life.”

A by-product of British colonial rule, cricket has long been the national pastime. It reflects across every strata of society, played on manicured cricket fields by middle-class Pakistanis in white sweaters and crisp trousers, and in trash-littered lots by dirt-poor youths using stacks of bricks as wickets.  One of the country’s cricketing legends Imran Khan forged a place in Pakistani politics on the shoulders of a 21-year Hall-of-Fame career on the cricket field.

Pakistani cricket has been stained by controversy for years. Two players were found guilty of match-fixing in 2000 and banned for life from the.  Cricketing star Shahid Afridi put on probation by the country’s cricket council for ball-tampering footage indicating of him biting into the ball during a match.

The latest scandal is the final straw for many Pakistanis. Prime Minister Yusaf Raza Gillani declared, “Our heads have been bowed by shame.” Newspaper editorials called the scandal symptomatic of the corruption and lack of accountability that permeates government and society.

“Corruption has trickled down into the entrails of our society, and no area is clean,” said an editorial in the English-language Daily Times. “We must not compromise any more, neither in cricket nor in any other field.”

Pakistanis say the only way forward is to revamp the country’s entire cricket program.  Offenders in the scandal should be banned for life, they say, but if team oversight isn’t dramatically improved, the sports’ national administrators should be replaced.

Given the status cricket has in our society the stakes are high. Aamir Sohail, a former cricket captain, says Pakistani society struggles to maintain cohesion amid myriad religious, political, sectarian and class divides. Cricket, he says, “unifies the nation.”

“But with these things that have happened, people could start detaching from the game, and that’s a dangerous sign for Pakistan.”



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