Pakistan’s cricket followers have always been a very emotional group, but the latest allegations of spot-fixing have created an especially volatile situation, simply because the case is so unique.
In the past, there have been many instances when players were accused of underperforming, but never has the evidence been presented in such a way that the public can understand things so clearly.
On Monday, there were large-scale demonstrations in Lahore and other parts of Pakistan, and the fans were united in one thing: the guilty need to be punished and the Pakistan Cricket Board must also take a serious view of this matter.
The public is fed up of having their faith in the team be tested in this manner. It’s well known that heroes can become villains in the shortest time in the subcontinent.
But this is not merely a case of players failing. It’s a case of the two main fast bowlers, Mohammed Amir and Mohammad Asif, having their careers on the line.
Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ijaz Butt, who is himself under fire from different quarters, has been asked to prepare a report by the government. But, this is such a unique case that no report other than the one prepared by the British police has any merit. The case is in their hands, and how things unfold in the next 24 hours will shape the future of Pakistan cricket.
Just how this team can play the ODIs still scheduled on this tour is a question on the top of everyone’s mind. Given the fact that Shahid Afridi, who relinquished the captaincy and retired midway through a Test series, had warned both the players and the Board about the Majeed brothers (Mazhar and Azhar), how can he take the field again with any authority?
Afridi is captain in the ODIs, and given that his advice was clearly ignored, what will his thinking be when he picks the 10 men to play under him? Unless the cloud of spot-fixing is conclusively removed, how can he field players like Amir, Asif and Salman Butt?
If the players within the team are hugely upset by what has happened, those who served Pakistan cricket with distinction in the past have gone beyond just expressing their hurt. “I can take charge and manage things but first the board has to recall the players accused of spot-fixing and the present management from England,” said Javed Miandad, offering to take up the coaching job once more if his country needed him.
“We need to field a new-look side and new management for the one-day series in England. They are still not proven guilty but given the kind of pressure they would be under at the moment and considering the pressure there will be on the team, the sensible thing is to call them home now,” said Miandad.
“It is obvious the management failed,” said Miandad, calling for a clean break from the existing set up.
Mudassar Nazar, who spotted Amir as a 14-year-old and took him to the National Cricket Academy in Lahore, was particularly pained.
“If these allegations are true, it’s a huge setback for Pakistan cricket. It’s not just about one or two players, but also for a generation of youngsters.”