How do you think the average Pakistani cricket fan reacted when news of the latest scandal to hit their cricket team broke? When the British tabloid, The News of the World, ran a sting operation on a bookie who boasted on camera that he could get the Pakistani team to do anything he wanted? And when the next day’s play – when two Pakistani bowlers bowled no-balls in exactly the same overs as he had predicted – proved that he wasn’t lying?
Well, the words ‘shocked’ ‘grieved’ ‘embarrassed’ ‘saddened’ or even ‘angered’ come to mind. But do you think that any of the fans really felt ‘betrayed’?
I think not. To feel a sense of betrayal, you need to have had a feeling of trust to begin with. And while I am sure that the Pakistanis love, admire, hell, even idolise their cricket team, I am not sure that they trust any of their players as far as they can throw them.I mean, honestly, how could they? Even the most naive Pakistani cricket fan is well aware by now that there is something rotten in the world of Pakistani cricket. Allegations of match-fixing have become routine over the last couple of decades.
Charges of ball-tampering crop up every year or so, with such senior players as Shahid Afridi at the centre of the storm. And spot fixing – in which a player tries to oblige his bookie friends by influencing a particular period of play by throwing away his wicket or dropping a catch or, as happened in Lords on that fateful day, bowling a no-ball – is so common as to barely occasion comment.
None of this is such a well-kept secret that the Pakistani cricket fan has no idea that this stuff really happens. So, while I am willing to accept that Pakistani fans may be upset and annoyed, I don’t really think that they really feel let down by their national team. As far as they are concerned, all of this is pretty much par for the course.
See, that’s the thing about betrayal. It only hits you like a sledgehammer if you have no idea that it is headed in your direction at the speed of light.
Ask Elin Nordegren. The Swedish ice-blonde wife of Tiger Woods had no idea that her husband was cheating on her – let alone that he was doing so with an assembly line of busty babes. When she finally found out, it was as if her world had collapsed around her.
As she said in an interview to People magazine after her divorce was final, she didn’t suspect him for a minute, so when the mistresses began to crawl out of the woodwork she felt very betrayed – and very stupid indeed. That’s exactly how Victoria Beckham felt a few years ago, when Rebecca Loos sold the story of her affair with David Beckham, complete with accounts of sexually explicit text messages and raunchy phone calls.
The Beckhams had built their brand on being a devoted, wholesome couple who only had eyes for each other and it must have come as a complete shock to Victoria to see hard evidence of her husband’s involvement with another woman. But the ones who probably felt the most betrayed were David’s fans who had bought into the myth of Beckham the family man.
It’s only when the world buys into a particular myth that a sense of betrayal kicks in. We all believed – or at the very least, we wanted to believe – that Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston were made for each other. She was our favourite Friend, America’s corn-fed sweetheart; he was the blonde God of good looks, the pin-up idol of every girl (and at least some of the boys). Theirs was a marriage meant to last.
So, when Brad Pitt fell for the dark, dangerous beauty of Angelina Jolie on the sets of Mrs and Mrs Smith (though they swore till they were blue in the face that no actual impropriety occurred until Pitt had left Aniston – yeah, right!) you could hear the sound of a million hearts breaking all over the world. Jennifer was, as expected, devastated and heart-broken, but all of us felt just as betrayed on her behalf.
It was that sense of betrayal that turned us against Shashi Tharoor when the IPL controversy broke. Tharoor was our middle-class hero, the squeaky-clean Malayali boy made good who had come back home to do his bit for his country. He was going to clean the system, making it as honest and incorruptible as himself. He was a politician with a difference; and he was going to make a difference if it was the last thing he did.
So, imagine the shock when it was revealed that Tharoor’s then girlfriend and now wife, Sunanda Pushkar, had been granted sweat equity worth about R 70 crores in the Kochi team that won the IPL bid, with minister Tharoor standing as mentor. You could argue that this was nothing compared to the blatant corruption that some of Tharoor’s fellow ministers indulged in.
But that wasn’t the point. The truth was that we expected better of Tharoor. And when he let us down, that sense of betrayal could only be assuaged by his resignation from the government.
I guess the moral of the story is: the higher we build them up, the harder they fall. The more the trust; the greater the sense of betrayal.