Is the Spirit of Cricket dead and buried?
On the final day of the Oval Test between England and Pakistan, the News of the World published the details of a major sting operation which appears to reveal serious corruption in the world of cricket. The newspaper has named bowlers Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Amir and captain Salman Butt as being at the centre of pre-arranged 'Spot-fixing' of seemingly minor events such as bowling no-balls.
More seriously, however, these small fixes appear to point towards a much broader culture of corruption in cricket, particularly on the subcontinent, where millions of pounds exhcange hands in illegal betting syndicates. For a sport which, more than any other, is celebrated for its spirit of fair play, sportsmanship and integrity, the suggestion of match-fixing has brought it to its knees. As more allegations are mounted and more details emerge, has the News of the World revealed a few bad eggs, or is cricket rotten to the core?
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The allegations reveal what has been suspected for a long time
The spectre of match-fixing has haunted the cricket world ever since Hansie Cronje was convicted of accepting money for 'forecasting' results in 2000. Since then, major players such as Mohammad Azharuddin have also been implicated, but more worryingly, others - including the current Pakistan coach Waqar Younis - seem to have been let off rather lightly. Recently, players like the Bangladesh captian, Shakib Al Hasan [[http://www.cricinfo.com/bangladesh/content/story/475486.html]] and Australian stars Mitchell Johnson and Shane Watson have reported being approached by shady figures suspected of links to the world of gambling, [[http://www.cricinfo.com/australia/content/story/475190.html]] while Pakistan's dramatic loss of a test match in Sydney in January this year has suddenly come under great scrutiny. [[http://www.cricinfo.com/ausvpak09/content/story/475052.html]]
The worry is that these instances point to a widespread world of corruption in international cricket. If these are the reported instances, what lies under the surface? Alleged fixer Mazhar Majeed apparently declared he had at least seven Pakistan players under his influence; a number which if found to be true, would call into question the very integrity of the sport of cricket as a competitive and fair activity.
First off Mazhar Majeed is not an alleged bookie but a confirmed bookie. [[http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/sports/cricket/top-stories/Match-fixing-scandal-Arrested-bookie-claims-Indian-link/articleshow/6455663.cms]]
You've skipped on match fixing allegations against five unnamed Indian players made by West Indian Rashead Latif in 1997 that were given a second glance in 2000. [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chandrachud_Commission#Criticism]] It hasn't been suspected alone; players have been charged and removed from the world of cricket in the past. Cronje was very publicly incriminated in his day.
Pakistani wicket keeper Z.H has walked out on the team; because he cannot choose between the lives of his family and selling out his integrity. The spirit of cricket is alive but as long the spirit of betting is kept up so will spot-fixing,match-fixing and ball-tampering by dangerous criminal cabals, represented by bookies that might even kill; to make a buck.
Questions will be raised at any suspicious or unexpected events
Much of the beauty of cricket lies in its capacity to shock and surprise. A magical spell of bowling can reclaim a seemingly lost cause; a sudden collapse can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Following the allegations of match fixing, however, any remarkable occurances will be accompanied by the lingering smell of corruption. Australia's incredible fightback in January now seems to be tainted with the possibility of corruption (Mazhar Majeed claims that this was the last Test he helped rig), and it is sadly inevitable that even small events such as dropped catches and misfields will never be fully taken at face value. Cricket, once the most noble and fairest sport of all, can never escape the suspicion of foul play.
If world cricket can be proved to be clean, then hopefully in the long term, it will regain its credibility. The match-fixing scandal should act as a shot in the arm to the anti-corruption unit of the ICC, and eventually cricket should be played without the suspicion of wrongdoing once more.
The Spirit of Cricket has never existed in the first place
Cricket has long been celebrated for its unique 'Spirit', which implies a set of unwritten rules by which all players must abide. This is even enshrined in the written laws of the game, and includes holding respect for umpires and the opposition, showing restraint of on-field emotions and a commitment to play the game fairly at all times [[http://www.lords.org/laws-and-spirit/spirit/spirit-of-cricket-preamble-to-the-laws,141,AR.html]]. Clearly the recent match-fixing scandal implies some of the most serious breaches of the Spirit of Cricket, but in fact, this magnanimous 'Spirit' has been an illusion throughout the history of the game. Batsmen very rarely 'walk', even if they know they should be given out, 'sledging' (euphemistically described as "Mental Disintegration' by former Australian captain Steve Waugh) has existed for decades, while conversations caught on stump microphones have been deemed too foul-mouthed for transmittance to TV audiences.
Even WG Grace, arguably cricket's first ever legendary player, is rumoured to have replaced the bails on the stumps having been bowled out, declaring to the bowler that "The spectators have come to see me bat; not you bowl".
The best cricket is played competitively but fairly. Although players do sometimes act outside the Spirit of the Game, there are many more instances when the Spirit of Cricket is in full view. Adam Gilchrist famously 'walked' when given not out in the 2003 World Cup semi-final, while the image of Andrew Flintoff consoling a distraught Brett Lee following the nailbiting finish to the 2005 Ashes Test at Edgbaston has become an enduring image of the sport. While the corruption scandal has shocked cricket to its core, it is noticeable that many people from around the world have come out in defence of Pakistan, and the fact that the relative poverty experienced by their players makes them very susceptible to corruption. Like all rules, the Spirit of Cricket may be breached, but more often than not, it stands as an exemplar to the often selfish and unforgiving world of sport.
Pakistani cricket can never fullly recover
While the whole world of cricket has been stunned and wounded by the revelations of corruption, Pakistani cricket, already no stranger to on and off-field controversy, factionalism, fanaticism and recently terrorism with the gun attack on the Sri Lankan national team can never fully shake off the damning evidence which has been revealed. Even if the players involved receive life-bans, the fundamental culture of Pakistani cricket will always be questioned, probed and placed under suspicion.
Pakistan has produced some of the greatest cricket players ever, and its fan base is unrivalled in the passion of its support, but Pakistan cricket will have to live forever in the shadow of match-fixing and corruption. The Spirit of Cricket has to involve Pakistan and the great many things it has brought to the game, but from now on, the already spotted Pakistani name will be permanently scarred.
Pakistan always recuperates no matter how dire the circumstances. The team is hanging by a thread but the thread won't break because of the team's talent and the popularity of the game in the country. If the Pakistan team were dismissed; a sizable chunk/faction of international cricket fans (therefore cricket profits) will also have to be given up.
The corruption scandal is an insult in the wake of recent events in Pakistan
Around the world, cricket provides solace, passion and enjoyment for millions who may be faced with extreme hardship. Cricket has played a major role in establishing a post-apartheid South Africa; it has crossed the immense divide of Civil War in Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan's recent qualification for the T20 World Cup has been a wonderful example of triumph in the face of great adversity. Moreover, the ICC has organized charity matches for Tsunami victims and have scheduled one for the victims of the floods in Pakistan.
With the banning of international cricket to be played in Pakistan becasue of securtiy concerns, the MCC hosted the ironically named Spirit of Cricket Series between Australia and Pakistan in England, with the intention of keeping Pakistan alive as a cricketing nation. With Pakistan currently gripped with its worst floods in living memory, and with the Sri Lankan bus shooting bringing terrorism into the sport in the country, the revelations of corruption are insulting to millions for whom cricket is one of few consolations in life currently.
Pakistan is not the only country in the world to be a victim of terrorism; nor is it the only country ever accused of match/spot fixing.
Betting; however is illegal in Pakistan.
Cricket has survived and learned from scandals in the past
Cricket, like any major sport, has been gripped with crises and grown stronger because of them throughout its history. The infamous 'Bodyline' Ashes series of 1932-33 seriously called the Spirit of Cricket into question, and even threatened an international dispute. In its wake, however, came new rules designed to limit the number of players allowed to field in certain positions, and cricket has developed as a result. Kerry Packer's World Series cricket - in 1977, a highly controversial venture - led to fairer pay for players, television coverage and the birth of the modern one-day game, while the breakaway ICL prompted the cricketing authorities to launch the massively successful Indian Premier League, introducing the game to new audiences throughout the world. Even the corruption scandals of 2000 led to the formation of the Anti-Corruption and Security Unit: the current scandal will be good for the long term survival and evolution of the game.
Cricket's past scandals and crises have never reached the point where the entire worth of playing the game is called into question. Match-fixing, if proven, discredits the sport completely, while suspicions of it will ultimately kill its competitive spirit and public support. The ACSU was set up in 2000, but lacks any police powers and has clearly failed to unearth the most recent Spot-fixing crisis. If it takes a tabloid newspaper to police the game, then the authorities tasked with its correct administration are clearly not up to the job.
The corruption scandal will hopefully serve as a lesson to future players and agents
One benefit of the recent allegations is that their very public exposure serves as a lesson to people considering corrupt activities in the future. Amir, Asif and Butt have become public hate figures, while Mazhar Majeed faces criminal charges. Now that corruption has been brought to light, it will be better policed and players will be far less willing to give in to the temptations of corrupt bookies and agents. Hopefully, the News of the World exposé will be the final act in any ongoing match-fixing schemes.
That is assuming that the sole motivation behind fixing spots is greed and greed alone. That theory is hard to digest in light of the latest developments in Pakistan cricket.
The public reaction from Pakistanis has been very positive
Pakistani cricket fans are not exactly known for their impartiality towards their cricket superstars, but in the case of the recent match-fixing allegations, the response has been one of intense criticism. Many people are calling for their life bans, and the overall sentiment is that the Pakistani people have been betrayed. Even the Pakistani High Comisioner in the UK, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, has retracted his initial statement that the News of the World had set the players up, and has now called for life bans if the players are found guilty [[http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2010/sep/05/pakistan-spot-fixing-high-commissioner]]. The exposure of players as traitors will act as a deterrent to any future match-fixers.
That is not a positive reaction at all. The Indian public never put down their players in 1997 when the West Indian Rashead Latif claimed 5 Indian players were guilty of match fixing(a far more serious offense than spot fixing: comparing selling an entire match to selling a few runs)
Former Pakistan team captain(1992) world cup; Imran Khan stresses on how spot fixing is hardly worth a lifetime ban on the players. [[http://cricket.ndtv.com/storypage.aspx?id=SPOEN20100151761&nid=48830]] [[http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?203674]]
The spirit of cricket is dead because Pakistan does not back her players in their time of need unlike the Indian public that pays no heed to the Chandrachud Commission; often times pretending it never happened.- [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chandrachud_Commission#Criticism]]
The Z.H case exposes the kind of life-threatening pressure team players are under by bookies and corrupt betting rings.
Now if there was any truth to Prabhakar`s accusation the team-mate also had to be Indian. So basically India had a player talking about another Indian player offering him a bribe to fix entire matches not spots; then a west Indian player later mentioned five other Indian players involved in this and the whole thing was dismissed... with no Indian public furore or condemnation. -http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?203674
What do you think?