It all began after 1992, Pakistan had just won the world cup and was considered to be a team unparalleled with any other. The team had a perfect combination of youth and experience. A senior captain and vice captain who would take over with almost 10 of his cricket career to come. However, horror struck when during 1993 tour of New Zealand rumors spread out about match-fixing against a few senior Pakistan players. At that time this was just an allegation and nothing was proven yet and even the Justice Qayyom verdict could not prove but only due to turnback of statements from former fast bowler Ata-ur-Rehman who initially made allegations against the senior players. This was the beginning of the corrupting the gentlemen’s game in Pakistan.
Nothing happened and years passed, came the World cup 1996. Pakistan was the defending champion and with the tournament being played in Asia, they had the advantage of home conditions. Pakistan qualified for the quarter-final to face arch-rivals India. At the night before the match out of nowhere, the spearhead and captain Wasim Akram pulled out of the game. The stand-in captain Amir Sohail even said that Akram had told him he was fit and will be playing even the night before. But at the last instant on the day of the match, he said he could not play. Pakistan went on to lose the match by 48 runs and was knocked out of the tournament. Questions were raised but still, nothing yet was proven.
4 years later, Pakistan had lost the final of the world cup 1999. Even though the team had fought valiantly but there were a few eyebrows raised when the team lost from a convincing positions a few times and made some questionable decisions during the tournament, these included the loss against Bangladesh in the group stage and Final match toss where Pakistan decided to bat in what was very difficult batting conditions with overcast weather. Subsequently, in 2000, the Malik Qayyum report was published and 11 players out of which 7 played the world cup 1999 were investigated and questioned, this was the first time in the history of Pakistan cricket that an inquiry committee was made to study the allegation leveled against the team. Salim Malik was the first player to be banned from all cricket for match-fixing when Justice Qayyum’s inquiry found him guilty. Shane Warne and Mark Waugh also testified that Malik had tried to bribe them to lose the Karachi Test of 1994-95. Ata-ur-Rehman was also banned for life for proceeding against for perjury, however, both these players were in the last stages of their careers and it did not make an impact on cricketing world as it could have. 6 players including Mushtaq Ahmad, Waqar Younis, Saeed Anwar, Akram Raza and Wasim Akram were fined heavily warned and were ordered to be kept under observation.
With the verdict against the guilty players, many felt this will make sure that no players even conceive about corrupting the game but we all know what happened 10 years later in 2010. Salman Butt, M.Amir, and M.Asif were found guilty of practicing spot-fixing and deliberately trying to effect the 4th England-Pakistan Test match. Initially, all 3 of them denied being any part of it but with time all of them came out in public and accepted their wrong doings. All 3 of them were banned for 5 years and spent time in prison as well.
With the bans now implemented by the ICC this time, there was a lot of focus on educating players about the corruption in the game. Sessions were held according to the PCB where they were told how to handle this situation. The ICC Anti-Corruption unit frequently held meetings with the players to share any intelligence about a possible approach from bookmakers. The players that now have recently seen how their teammates suffered in 2010 were expected not only to keep away from these acts but also to report any such incidents. However, come the 2nd day of Pakistan Super League 2017. With only being in its 2nd season the league suffered from the worst sort of scandal. Islamabad United’s Sharjeel Khan and Khalid Latif were provisionally suspended for indulging to corrupt the game with the allegations against Sharjeel by the PCB to deliberately playing 2 dot balls in the first match. Just after the tournament ended in march, Muhammad Irfan got suspended for 2 years for failing to report an approach by a bookie at least 5 times. Soon afterward PCB suspended Karachi-born Shazaib Hasan for alleged connections with bookies. One would have thought with now the PSL tournament ended for over 2 months and tour of west indies now underway, no more players will be suspended but just a week ago Muhammad Nawaz was banned for 2 months by the PCB for delaying to report the approach.
As a cricket fan for me, the PSL incident has to be the most heart-breaking controversy. In 2010 one was forced to accept that with very less attention given to educate the players regarding spot-fixing the incident happened, but now with so much that had happened in the past and with more focus on the player’s mental training about these corrupt practices, the PSL incident should not have happened. If you look at it, for Pakistan cricket team after an average 7 years a player is found guilty of match fixing/spot fixing. I do not think this was a case of less money being offered to our players, certainly not with Sharjeel Khan. Sharjeel khan was a part of the centrally contracted PCB players, he was bought by the Islamabad United team in Diamond category in the PSL draft and he also had signed with the Leistersire team for the English 20-20 tournament so he would have made more money than he does annually. This is because of the selfish desire for wealth which even after offering any amount of money will still be there. This is the main cause for the downfall of Pakistan cricket. We, for the last 2 decades have never been below 7th ranking position in One-day Internationals, today we are at 8th with just a few points ahead of West Indies. In 2010 Muhammad Amir lost 5 of his prime cricketing years and this time we might lose Sharjeel Khan, the only batsman in the team who played with the strike rate at par with the modern day cricket. The only way we can save our cricket is by taking some severe action that will set an example for the future cricketers. Life ban for Sharjeel khan and Khalid Latif might cause our team to perform poorly today but in the future, it would make sure that no player even consider being part of any sort of corrupt activity. We need such examples to be set because simple cricket for us is more than a game, it’s something that we are attached to as a nation, it helps us forget the worries in our life, something that after a long day helps us forget our tiredness, it helps develop bond with friends and family, it’s something that keeps our drawing room alive and most importantly it help us to unite.
Written by: Syed Muhammad Alam (Team PS)