Thursday, September 02, 2010

No-ball troika from Pakistan: Presumed Innocent?

By John Cheeran
This is the month of Ramadan. Three Pakistani cricketers ---captain Salman Butt, fast bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamir -- on Thursday said they were innocent and the rest of the world, I mean, The News of The World is torturing them. May be, they are not lying.
Pakistan is a colourful nation and often that colour is blood red. I remember that during the last cricket World Cup in 2007, held in the West Indies, Pakistan’s coach Bob Woolmer was found murdered. The team manager, then faced with a moral crisis, said while facing the global media that he asked his players to swear on Koran, by placing their hands on the book, that they had no role to play in the most foul murder. There was no incriminating video footage in the West Indies.
Here in London, nailed by the video footage, no such exercises are coming forth. Now the tagline is Presumed Innocent. Till yesterday Butt, Aamir and Asif were seen smiling but now they have said they are not in a mental frame to play cricket.
They are not suspended by the Pakistan Cricket Board. They are not dropped. They have simply walked away from the centre.
To argue that a brilliant bowler such as Aamer was not the cause but the consequence of circumstances and should not be banned for life from the game, as former England captain Mike Atherton has argued, is nothing but sophistry.
When you stray from the line, batsmen punish you. When you err, you get punished. Till now cricketers accused of colluding with bookies could wriggle out since there was no evidence of having taken money for falling in line with the bookies.
Here, for the first time, players are caught on camera along with the bookie, of accepting money. But Imran Khan, that opportunist par excellence, now wants the brilliance of young Aamir to be protected. Match-fixing and spot-fixing, too, need martyrs, Imran. Aamir, if he is found to be guilty, deserves no place on a cricket field in any form of game. Ditto for Butt and Asif.
Cricket’s problems stem from the fact that its administrators lack the will to take impartial and tough decisions. They need to serve the game, not the petty power and personal equations with in the respective national boards.
The spirit of forgiving should take a back seat this Ramadan.

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