The eternal optimist cries out in defence of the recent spot fixing, fancy fixing, micro fixing ( call it what you like) allegations - that the video evidence of the sting operation is a set up. The bookie Mazhar Majeed could have been filmed after the overs were bowled and then the set up could have been recorded. The dramatic way in which Majeed lays out the bundles of cash, just doesn"t ring true. But then who knows what the truth is.
The video clip of the sting" operation has been viewed and reviewed many a time when the news broke out, but all the time the optimist within said, that it was all a set up. Why would an eighteen year old get sucked into 'spot fixing" at the Mecca of cricket- Lord"s, where he could 'wow" cricket fans with his sheer talent? He went on to scalp 6 wickets and amass 50 test wickets and that in itself was so laudable. And the other, his apparent partner in crime, Mohammad Asif, words fail to express as to why when he was on a positive comeback trail he would choose to go off track. The human mind is unfathomable.
The allegations are serious and there is video evidence, but is that enough? Again the cricket lover within protests and hopes that it is all just a set up. But if one were to get real then the ghost of fixing haunts. And when it comes to spot fixing or fancy fixing there are varying degrees. As the ICC's anti-corruption and security unit (ACSU) former head Lord Condon had once said in an interview that cricket was perhaps the easiest game to fix. He said, "Fixing needs only two things: a cricket match and the ability to bet on it. It is the most bet-upon sport in the world. Nothing else comes close."
Given that premise the levels of betting vary from the superficial to the ones that involve players. In the year 2000 cricket faced its toughest crisis, that of match fixing where the result of a match was fixed. The teams could not guarantee winning but they could assure a loss. This was seriously the worst debacle that cricket could face. One felt that after the Hansie Cronje episode that match fixing was dealt with and cricket cleaned up to that extent. But what remains is this whole bubble of spot fixing, fancy fixing or micro-fixing that could slowly eat into the intrinsic belief that cricket is largely clean. For those who want to believe that the game is largely innocent will have to look at how passages of play progress. The die hard cricket fan will accept that there is no fixing ( we are referring to spot fixing) involving players and will continue to dwell in the 'romance" of the sport. Others who are more skeptical will always doubt games that Pakistan lose dramatically or anything to do with Pakistan really. And there are those (who honestly are cynical) who will consider all matches are fixed. For them perhaps not watching cricket is the best solution.
The first session of play on the 4th day of the 4th and final Test match between England and Pakistan in the recently concluded Test series will stand out as one of the most tragic comical passages of play experienced. Four members of the Pakistani team were under the scanner of spot fixing including captain Salman Butt and three other players, unnamed till then who were also involved according to Scotland Yard. They had everything to lose as far as the Test was concerned. From the overnight score of 41/4 they slumped to their biggest defeat in Test cricket history, an innings and 225 runs. When the accused cricketers got out, the looks on the faces of the opposition said a lot. There was disbelief, disgust, and doubt writ large on the faces. Add to this scenario the fact that the pre match practice was banned and the post match presentation was behind closed doors. For the cricket fan – these happenings were not ideal.
So what"s next? Besides hoping against hope that all this is just a hoax, a set-up – all one can do is wait to see if the accused are proven guilty or innocent. Till then one will have to just accept them as players playing the game of cricket the way it should be played. Exaggerated no balls notwithstanding, this will be a tough exercise but for the true cricket lover this indeed needs to be the route to take.
Perhaps the most tragic aftermath of all the inquiries, would be to see the end of arguably the most exciting fast bowling talent that the cricket world has seen in recent times. Eighteen year old Mohammad Amir, the bowler the cricketing world has only recently come to love and admire, would be cricket"s biggest loss. And that is mainly why the optimist wants that these accusations are proven untrue and that the sting operation is really just a set up. Wishful thinking? Maybe, but for the sake of talent and for cricket one hopes that this is the case.
The accused captain of the Pakistan team summed up the mood as it stands when he said, “ These are just allegations and anybody can stand out and say anything, it doesn't mean they are true. They include quite a few people and they are still ongoing. We'll see what happens."
For now we can just hope and pray that they come clean and that sport that we love so much remains largely untainted. Unreal thoughts? Who knows, time will tell. Cricket has always been larger than the individual but it could do without these tweaks and unsavoury turns.
Pakistan is and has been a team that you simply had to love for their dysfunctional abilities. They were like a family where no one seemed to adhere to any norm. From a cricketing point of view accepting the unaccepted was exciting, but the undercurrent of corruption pollutes that emotion.
May Cricket survive. May Cricket remain clean. An optimist cricket lovers plea!!