What the members of the International Cricket Council did, in their combined wisdom after two days of deliberation in London, was the ultimate in the act of running away from the hard realities of life.
If the suggestion of amnesty, on the eve of the momentous meeting called to tackle the ever-growing evil of betting and match-fixing, was bad enough, some more talk of "stringent action against those found guilty," appeared as empty as the Lord's stadium was, when 18 wise men, representing the nine Test-playing nations met in the nearby clock-tower, the ICC headquarters.
The high expectations, cricketing-world over, of an effective panacea emerging to resolve the greatest controversy to hit the game, went down the Thames like so much effluent. In the end of it all, the ICC president Jagmohan Dalmiya, who twisted as much hopes as the English language, came up with suggestion of having one more committee, aptly titled CIA (Corruption Investigating Authority) to go further into the issue.
Dalmiya also suggested the appointment of highly-placed persons as some kind of inspectors to oversee the individual behaviour of players, of all countries, on tour and take instant action. He concluded his press briefing, like a helpless school-master, that "such corrupt behaviour will not be tolerated in future."
It was, one might be tempted to say, a greater exercise in futility than what we have seen from the respective cricket boards faced with such accusations against their players. As the Sports Editor of the BCC said, I do not know why so many people had to travel halfway round the world to do nothing at all. When the very image of the gentleman's game is in the muck. It was indeed a grand act once more of passing the buck.
The latest act of the ICC, or rather its demonstration of inaction, will encourage those countries whose players or administrators are in the present imbroglio, to also now soft-pedal on the issue. There was already a turnaround by the Pakistan Cricket Board president Lt. Gen Tauqir Zia, who had earlier promised to present a copy of the Justice Malik Mohammed Qayyum inquiry report to the ICC. Not only was that not forthcoming but there was a virtual attempt to express the view that the PCB did not, in so many words accept the findings of the report.
"All the Pakistani players are innocent. No one is involved in betting or match-fixing," he said. "Unless there is conclusive proof of their involvement, we take it that they are innocent," he added. Now, this statement really suggests a conflict within the Pakistani cricket administration itself. A leading Urdu daily of Pakistan to which the Justice Qayyum report was leaked out, has published excerpts of the report.
In the report, six players have been found guilty of big betting and match-fixing and of holding assets far beyond their means as professional players. The half-a-dozen who have been allegedly named are: Wasim Akram, Salim Malik, Mushtaq Ahmed, Inzamamul Haq, Saqlain Mushtaq and Ijaz Ahmed.
According to Justice Qayyum, Wasim Akram and Salim Malik were the kingpins in the business of match-fixing. He has suggested a life-ban on Salim Malik and that the captaincy should be taken away from Wasim Akram. Justice Qayyum has also suggested that the total assets held by Wasim Akram and his close relatives ought to be investigated fully. "Even his inclusion in the team purely as a player must depend on this inquiry.
Justice Qayyum has further recommended that Mushtaq Ahmed, Saqlain Mushtaq, Inzamamul Haq and Ijaz Ahmed should be immediately be imposed a fine of Rs 5 lakh. The PCB can take its own disciplinary action or the government launch its own investigation further to what he has recommended.
Some indictment this, coming as it does from a man who had to face many obstacles by way of interference due to frequent changes in the composition of the top hierarchy of the Pakistan Cricket Board, as also the change in the country's ruling regime.
But, will Justice Malik Mohammed Qayyum's findings, as indeed his importance of being earnest, stand against the will of those who just want to sweep all the bits and pieces of the great controversy under the carpet?