Former Pakistan bowler Aquib Javed was the bowling coach in the Lord’s Test in 2010 when Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt were alleged to have carried specific on-field actions, including bowling no-balls, at pre-determined times on the instance of a bookie. The three were handed long bans and spells of prison time. Amir had pleaded guilty but Asif and Butt denied the accusations long after their prison sentences, and only admitted culpability in 2013 when they had exhausted all legal avenues. Earlier this month, the players became eligible for an entry to international cricket. Aquib Javed recalls that fateful day and presents his strong case against the inclusion of the players in the Pakistan team and says that extraordinary offence demands extraordinary punishment.
It was the worst day of my life. I was the bowling coach then, and have just horrible horrible memories. That was the worst time of my life. All of us were so embarrassed. We couldn’t go out even to restaurants for a few weeks. In fact, we couldn’t even leave our hotel. It hit our dignity and we couldn’t show our faces anywhere. I don’t want to see something like that happening to Pakistan cricket or to any nation again.
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The three players — Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt — have served out their suspension and they must have realised their mistakes. They have gone through five tough years and some prison time as well, and they must be very embarrassed. But that doesn’t mean that they can play for Pakistan right away. They must start in domestic cricket and T20 leagues or first-class cricket anywhere in the world. That’s their right; everyone has the right to earn their bread and butter. However, I am concerned about fast tracking their selection to the national side. They just can’t be welcomed back with open arms as it will open the Pandora’s box. Nobody has produced bad headlines for Pakistan cricket in the ensuing years. Though I am not involved with Pakistan cricket at the moment, I am still a Pakistani. I want positive news from Pakistan cricket. At this stage, I won’t support the idea of letting them play for Pakistan straightaway. I can guess how those players might be thinking. Somewhere in the back of their minds, they might look at the cases of India’s Mohammad Azharuddin and Pakistan’s Saleem Malik and few other players. They must have seen those cricketers live happily and allowed to have normal lives.
They might feel, “Why only us? Why can’t we get the same treatment too? That’s the danger, and therein lies the responsibility of cricket boards. The board has simply sat back for too long and allow these characters to come back easily and live happily. This we need to stop. The events happening in IPL and other leagues in the last few years makes one wary. We don’t want cricket turning into professional wrestling,
WWE. The gravity of the situation demands that we set some examples of people.
No special treatment
Amir has been built up as young and naïve and I don’t think its a fair narrative. Amir was old enough to understand the right from the wrong. At least in the episode we are talking about. There is no question of him being treated differently because he is three years younger compared to the other guy. It’s about setting examples and age has nothing to do with it.
Cricket is the only thing that binds people in the subcontinent, in our part of the world. The responsibility then is greater on us to be strict in dealing with such kind of corruption. These players can be given hope of course — that if they do something extraordinary in life, we can re-think about their careers. But the message must be clear. Once you taint the name of your country, or a cricket board, there is no way you can come back and represent your country again. This should be accepted by all boards.
Can you imagine what will be going on in the minds of their team-mates who have to deal with them back in their midst? After all that they have done? Let me give you my own example. I have gone through so much and made so many sacrifices, both as a player and coach to get where I am. How do you think I feel when people take shortcuts and back-stab you? In this incident, I was the bowling coach. They not only challenged my authority but have betrayed me. That is wrong.
It’s not even that I just knew them when I worked as the bowling coach of Pakistan. Our relationship went much further back. I was their coach from the start. I had actually supported them early in their careers, in fact found them. Asif and Amir especially, and brought them up from nowhere. We have gone through so many memorable moments, good, tough and emotional. I had been with them on so many junior tours, ‘A’ tours, countless net sessions and spent innumerable hours talking about the game.
And it’s not as if they weren’t made aware about these illegal activities. We had many programmes in our academy where we had presentations about illegal stuff and the kind of people they should avoid. We have shown them examples of people we didn’t want them to follow. And then showed them examples of some of the heroes of the game like Sachin Tendulkar or so many others who are legends both on and off the field.
They have been very clean and spot on with their cricket and otherwise also. There are outstanding people in Pakistan like Younis Khan and Misbah ul Haq. If you take Sachin and Younis, they were successful and made more money than any corrupt cricketer can imagine to, and they have done it through hard-work and sacrifice and by not taking a single short-cut in life. They not only have more money but more respect.
But these three players betrayed us. It was the worst day of my life. How can you even get that somebody has already decided to bowl a few no-balls? But once you saw it, you felt really bad. The bottomline is that they made a huge blunder and it is unacceptable.
– AS TOLD TO Bharat Sunderesan