In 2009/10 the Pakistan cricket team toured Australia. In a three match Test series they lost all three ‘encounters’. They also lost all 5 ODI matches and the single T20 played over a nightmare period of two and a half months between December 19th and February 5th.
Relations inside the visitor’s dressing room and between the side and its administrators looked from the outside chaotic. Captain Mohammad Yousuf appeared to be in a power struggle with former captains Younis Khan and Shoaib Maluk. (But over what?)
Shadid Afridi was involved in a bizarre ball tampering incident in which he blatantly bit the ball and later, after an internal inquiry by the Pakistan Cricket Board, he and the brothers Akmal were fined and put on probation for six months.
The same inquiry handed out in effective a life time ban to Yousif and Younis, plus a year’s ban to Malik and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan.
This bedlam and the fact that their opponents were then wrapped in a mantle of invincibility verging on immortality inherited from their more worthy forebears, meant that the results prolonged Australia’s reputation as the world’s preeminent side.
Their dramatic escape from the jaws of defeat in the Second Test played at the SCG added to their reputation for unassailability. Despite being bowled out for 127 in their first innings and starting their second innings 210 runs behind, and then having to defend a second innings lead of only 171, Australia scuttled out their opponents for just 139 to win by 36,
But as England were to prove later in 2010, this was a very ordinary Australian side – a side of the fifth rank. Actually, the Pakistan team was bristling with talent, much of it new and prodigious.
During their inquiry the Pakistan management testified to the PCB that they suspected that some of their team conspired with bookmakers during that Second Test match.
In a comment that would to a large extent be echoed by players and pundits after the Lord’s Test of 2010 when Pakistan allowed England to recover from 7 for 107 and post a mammoth and spread betters’ feast of 446, the Australian captain, Michael Clarke, dissembled that he “certainly had no suspicions”.
To have said anything else, Clarke would effectively have admitted what Test cricketers, their management and surely most of the game’s administrator and commentariat must personally have believed; that matches, events and therefore records and feats against Pakistan in a long period around that time must have been – to borrow an expression from the lawyers – unsafe and unsatisfactory because of corrupt practice.
This illegality has been going on under the eyes of administrators and so-called journalists, the latter more anxious to protect the product they earn their living from than to expose the truth .
Let’s face it, the ex-cricketers who are part of the multimillion dollar entertainment industry which cricket has become and who these days have a virtual monopoly on reportage of cricket have a feeble record on the exposure of this endemic corruption. They have failed the paying public, the supporters and the game itself.
It took ‘real’ journalists to catch the crooks while credulous commentators endeavoured to explain away the inexplicable happenings – including the giant no-balls – that they witnessed at Lord’s and in previous matches.
After yesterday’s guilty verdicts, cricket has a choice.
Either it closes the door on these events of the recent past, locking the ‘mad relation’ in the attic far from sight if not from sound, and conspires to move on.
Or it roots out what has happened, investigates all the otherwise incomprehensible dropped catches, the imprudent bowling changes, the rash run charges, the reckless dismissals, the careless collapses and admits that the results, the stats, the accomplishments are worthless and should be struck from the records.
Those who cheated and took corrupt payments (and there are many more who have yet even to face charges) are of course principally to blame, but their cricketing opponents, administrators, cricket press and commentators share responsibility for the long continuance of this utter and unchecked corruption that has brought the professional game to the very brink.
Perhaps only the fans – the game’s true supporters – can now be trusted to know what the right thing is to do now.