IT’S hard to believe. A cricket team with their backs against the wall, desperate to keep the game going in their own country... and they’ve let the fragile, cricket-speaking world down.
Yes, Pakistan, bow your heads in shame.
The elation of holding Australia to a 1-1 draw in the “neutral Test” here earlier in the summer can now be discounted. Their brave fight back in the current series against England is thrown into question. For Pakistan, where street cricket is the only game in town, the future is bleak.
While their nation struggles with unprecedented floods and political turmoil, their cricketers have seen fit to disgrace the nation. Not all of them apparently, but Mohammad Amir, the 18-year-old bowling sensation, is believed to be among the disgraced. Seven current players are implicated.
The News of the World, England’s sharpest and best-selling Sunday tabloid, devotes its first seven pages to the scandal this morning, and the rest of us are struggling to take in the enormity of their allegations.
I got wind of these events yesterday afternoon – but some have known for a lot longer. The central character, a former agent called Mazhar Majeed, fell for the News of the World’s incredible undercover reporter Mazher Mahmood. He took £140,000 off the journalist in “crisp £20 notes” at the Copthorne Tara hotel after an initial £10,000 deposit.
Then he sat back and oozed: “I’m going to give you three no-balls to prove what’s happening. If you play this right, you will make a lot of money, believe me.”
And, bang on cue, Amir – who became the youngest cricketer to make the Lord’s honours board on Friday when he took his fifth wicket – bowled a huge no-ball. So too did Mohammed Asif. Three times, they produced huge no-balls at exactly the right moment. And they did so after discussions with their corrupt captain Salman Butt.
The evidence is clear. First ball of the third over. Third ball of Amir’s third over after a chat with Butt which saw no fielders moved. Last ball of the tenth over. It’s all there in print.
And these incidents, apparently, are just the tip of the iceberg. Majeed told the News of the World: “I’ve been doing it with them, the Pakistani team, for two-and-a-half years. We’ve made masses and masses of money. The players actually approached me about this.
“I deal with an Indian party. The one-dayers and the Twenty20s are about to start and we’re going to make a hell of a lot.
“They all want Butt to be captain. They want to lose anyway. The Twenty20s are easiest.”
It stinks. Pakistan can’t play at home anymore since the tragic shootings during the Sri Lanka series. The ECB kindly allowed them to play Australia in England... and this is the thanks they get.
Scotland Yard are now investigating. The ECB and ICC have released a statement. But today the Lord’s Test went on, with Pakistan going down in flames to lose the series 3-1.
But suddenly it doesn’t matter. It’s just not cricket. No balls? Pakistan’s cricketers can certainly be accused of that.