Apr 20, 2010

Pakistan cricket: Dampened by self-infliction?

By Dr Nauman Niaz

As the Shoaib Malik-Sania Mirza wedding regressed into being a common story, Pakistan Cricket was in the middle of another scoop, Danish Kaneria was suspected for being allegedly involved in fixing a county match, as reported in English newspapers. It struck the already exasperating critiques like a sledgehammer. Why that is the West hasn't been really keen to take Pakistan cricketers seriously, incessantly seeing them with cynicism and suspicion.

Walter Lippmann eruditely put in words: "We must remember that in time of war what is said on the enemy's side of the front is always propaganda, and what is said on our side of the front is truth and righteousness, the cause of humanity and a crusade for peace". We as us haven't been able to even follow this philosophy. We bite the flesh on our limbs ourselves and then try whipping the neighbours for having inflicted the wound.

Nothing concrete has been invented to stem the criticism almost pouring ceaselessly against the Pakistan cricketers, even without concrete evidences and alibis. Presumably because the PCB itself has tried washing their dirty linen in public; they need to understand that probably every conflict is based on the 'good guys' and the 'bad guys' can often both be guilty of misleading their people with distortions, exaggerations, subjectivity, inaccuracy and even fabrications, or even lying about the issues in order to gain support or just driving their enemy to an irretrievable corner.

The recent episode saw the British police investigating two Essex players for 'match irregularities' and in spite of an open-ended media release by the Essex County, the name of Kaneria was published publicly, him being termed as a prime suspect. In a report printed in the Daily Telegraph, it was registered that Kaneria would thoroughly be hauled up by the investigators. It's entirely not about fixing of the match result, but a 'spot-fixing'. If Kaneria's name could be leaked why the other 'partner in crime' didn't could be pulled-up, because he wasn't a Pakistani or his skin had only been darkened in the sun and not primarily because of melanin?

The entire sequence could be attributed to the link hypocrisies where PCB's incapacity and their recent self-infliction where the Chairman of the board was readily accepting in a press conference that there were players viewed with a crooked eye for their indiscretions with reference to match-fixing, though minutes he rebutted but few from the Senate party had the tenacity to publicly acclaim that there were evidences about some of the matches being thrown in Australia; they were actually giving the Western journalists meat for their stories regardless of the fact that such crimes in cricket couldn't really be proved. Why were we trying to pull the cat out of the bag before the alarm bell had rung?

What PCB was doing? Self-preservation; presumably they tried serving to rally people behind a cause, at the cost of exaggerating, misrepresenting about the issues in order to gain support.

It was most unfortunate that people leveling serious charges of match-fixing on their players used selective stories, partial facts didn't really reinforce reasons and motivations and the narrow sources of experts tried providing insights into the situation. It seemed that the Disciplinary Committee set up by the PCB was demonising the players using a narrow range of discourse where by their judgments were made while the boundary of discourse itself, or the framework within which the opinions were formed weren't really discussed with evidences. It was about narrow focus of PCB's top-tier narrowing focus to help serve their interests. The committee that banned four cricketers besides imposing hefty fines on three others, the entire inquiry was a farce based on incompletes, legal breaches, inaccuracy, driving of their agenda, milking the stories, maximising media coverage of their powers by the stringent use of briefings, leaking pieces of a jigsaw to different outlets, allowing journalists to piece the story together and drive their story up to their own agendas. Little they knew that the West was waiting anxiously for their prey; they reinforced the existing attitudes-simple and repetitious.

There is an opposite and equal reaction to every action, if and only that action falls in the realm of construction and production. But if the action is ill directed, ill conceived and half cooked it invites an unequal, counterproductive blowback.

At times inevitable gets delayed, blowbacks get interdicted and crisis get temporarily averted; while at other times it does not rain but it pours; when each day brings a terrible news; when tragedies stalk the land and reversals are a norm, when defeats are nauseatingly familiar while victories a romantic mirage!

How not to run a Cricket board? How not to make a fool of yourself? How not to chagrin an entire nation by first wounding its pride and then rubbing in salt? How not to become a laughing stock the world over? How not to flounder and fluff up, when excellence and diligence is need of the hour? How not to become an ostrich while the sandstorm has jolted the world?

The answer to all that is simple; never do what Ijaz Butt's government does! Ever since his assumption of office, Pakistan Cricket has gone into a tailspin, lurching from one disaster to another, tossing helplessly. So controversy prone and tragedy ridden has been his tenure, that any peroration of the events of past two years would dwarf any Greek tragedy in pathos. So much has gone wrong, so many have been the fluff ups that one may safely presume that no controversy imaginable is left in store.

To elevate geriatrics to a worthy designation is to vitiate both; once place in venal and wavering hands the most glorious and well established of all institutions go to seed. This is exactly what has happened to the PCB and its staple produce.

A dilemma is best illustrated in form of a comparison between policies and the contrast among the results. With the modern cricketing praxis being written in Hindi and the centre of gravity of cricketing power gravitating towards our east, we could not have asked for a more unsuitable chairman of the PCB as Mr Butt.

First he is a morose, laid back character with some utterly dysfunctional ideas of leadership. Secondly, he is hopelessly out of tune with the intricacies and nuances of modern day cricket, totally a cipher in cutting edge advancements as kinesiology, motor learning, etc. He has done little to inspire confidence on his capacity of discharging in an effective manner even the elementary functions required of his designation. He shuffles his team members around like cards in a game of a poker.

Under his patronage, the PCB has become a house of broken vows, shattered dreams, impossible loyalties and incessant intrigues. The ones who welcomed him with gusto have turned eerily silent; those who jumped aboard his bandwagon with glee have long since ditched it in a huff.

Kaneria's recent exploitation (unless until proved with concrete evidence) is just a continuation of what Mr. Butt and his 'erudite' disciplinary committee had augmented, levelling their players being involved in match-fixing? So who is the sinner, the West or us as self-inflictors?

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