Some very quick thoughts about the latest brouhaha in Pakistan cricket:
1) We should have expected something of the sort. No other sporting institution in the world is as sensational and headline-grabbing. They (both the board and players) have gone beyond belief so many times that everything seems credible now. Unfit because of eating too much spinach, genital warts, drugs in an amulet, falling over the stumps while attempting the sweep, last ball wins, last ball defeats, bans, resignations, what have we NOT seen over the past decade? Bollywood has nothing to match our storylines!
2) What an incredibly immature bunch. Sometimes you are embarrassed to support men like these. Then you remember that you support the team and what it represents, and few individuals are ever wholeheartedly supported – and for good reason too. Finding a cricketer who hasn’t let the nation down, in one way or the other, is about as common as seeing pigs fly.
3) Nothing is permanent in Pakistan cricket and we cricket lovers need not get all upset about these punishments. Do I really need to remind everyone that anything, absolutely ANYTHING, is possible? I don’t think any of the punishments will be carried out to the fullest extent (except perhaps the monetary fines – PCB will be functioning at its administrative best to collect that money!) and I think several twists and turns and about-faces are on the way.
4) It’s not such a bad thing that these people were punished. All of them, except Rana sahab and Umar Akmal, had payback coming their way, in one form or the other.
a) Afridi bit on a ball, for god’s sake. He tried to cheat, period. Anyone who defends that needs to take an Ethics class.
b) Yousuf hasn’t contributed a fraction of what he is capable of since returning a few months ago – and I say this as one of his biggest fans. His record-breaking run in 2006 was one of the few bright spots for Pakistan cricket in recent years, and helped the world get over the Oval fiasco. Let’s not forget the ICL-PCB-IPL drama he was at the center of, though. He started that mess, and he could have limited (if not ended) the shenanigans at their peak. Did he? No. Did he redeem himself with great captaincy? Uhh…
c) Malik has probably been the biggest destabilizing influence in the team since Shoaib Akhtar left. I used to really like him, and was willing to support his captaincy despite him not being an automatic starter, but he reminds one of an apple that’s been chopped open and left outside in 40 Celsius. Now he is occasionally sweet but mostly rotten.
d) Kamran Akmal – first you drop two catches for each one that you take, play a starring role in one of Pakistan’s worst defeats, and then have the temerity to declare that “I will decide with the coach and captain if I’m playing or not.”?
d) Younis – ah, this is the hard one. It’s also true, though, that he deserved to get punished for refusing to man up. Despite getting the whole country’s support last year after Dumbshed Dasti’s match-fixing accusations, despite getting the board’s full support time and time again, he walked out on us too many times for us to trust him. (Look at what’s happening with Michael Clarke for a timely comparison. He stepped out of some meaningless ODIs to fix a very personal problem, and people are wondering whether he’s good enough to be their leader.) I have always whole heartedly supported Younis Khan – wayyy before he was popular, in fact, modeling my batting stance after his as a ninth grader. I backed him against India in 2005, too, and despite being widely reviled, he helped us write history. He repeated it last year, charming the cricketing community with his honesty and optimism en route to Pakistan’s most glorious sporting victory since 1992. In between, though, he walked in and out of the captaincy so many times that it is impossible to call him reliable.
5) In much the same way that Shoaib Akhtar’s removal from the team was a good thing, this also can be a good thing if it represents the end of player power (as Sarfaraz Nawaz puts it). Put another way, if this marks the power of the institution over the individual in Pakistan, I’m all for it. OF COURSE the PCB went a little too far. I agree – but as long as they apply the same standards to themselves, and as long as they STICK TO THEIR DECISIONS, this is good in the long run. If the cricketers act like men and not drama queens, if they choose not to whine to the media, they will earn respect in the eyes of everyone. (Shane Warne’s one year ban and triumphant return are a good example.) Take your punishments, come back, play good cricket, and if you can’t perform, have the grace to walk out. You’re not important, the institution is – and we don’t get that as a nation.
On the other hand, the PCB must also take a long look at themselves and correct the obvious flaws within. That’s how Pakistan cricket can take any positives from this. We’re laughing stocks now, yes Wasim bhai, but we’ve been laughing stocks for quite some time. Let’s make this the trough, and let’s begin to rise from this.
Wishful thinking? 😉