March 24, 2007 1:59:15 pm
Scandals and Pakistan cricket seem to have an umbilical connection. Traditionally, Pakistan cricket has had players of great talent but limited discipline, making them a team that would play inspirational cricket one day, and perform below average the next. This journey from sublime to ridiculous has been almost predictable. This is largely a fall-out of the way the nation and society shaped after Partition.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), formed to facilitate development, has forever been at the receiving end of the players’ fury. Be it Zaheer Abbas, Majid Khan, Inthikhab Alam or Sarfraz Nawaz, the stories of Board versus players have always been fodder for the media. Cricket teams from Pakistan have had a history of groupism and nepotism. The most famous, of course, being the Imran Khan and Javed Miandad case. The legacy has been carried forward by Salim Malik, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Amir Sohail, and more recently Inzamam-ul Haq.
Normalcy for Pakistani cricket would be when star players have thinly veiled arguments with their captain/teammates through the media; when players miss training camps due to dubious injuries; when there is a new captain after every second series. In a nutshell, the usual situation is when players make the headlines occasionally for brilliant on-field heroics, but mostly for immature histrionics.
The Rana-Gatting spat
One of the early major international controversies involving Pakistan, apart from the regular domestic disturbances was the 1987 incident involving umpire Shakoor Rana. Rana occupies a place in cricket history as the umpire who was involved in the infamous slanging match with Mike Gatting, which stopped the Faisalabad Test in December 1987.
The incident that made him famous came on the second day of the Test when Gatting signalled David Capel to come in no further from deep square-leg as Eddie Hemmings moved in to bowl. Rana put his hand up to stop play and then accused Gatting of cheating. The following day was dominated by diplomatic efforts to produce a face-saving apology from both.
The reverse swing
The advent of reverse swing by Sarfraz Nawaz in the 1970s was always seen as suspicious by the cricketing fraternity. That variety of bowling, now an art form, was subsequently passed on to Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram, who are considered to have been the finest exponents of the art. On Pakistan’s 1992 tour of England, England had no answer to the reverse swing.
In Pakistan, the match-fixing scandal was exposed in 1994, when Salim Malik was accused of attempted bribery by Shane Warne and Mark Waugh (who, it later emerged, had themselves accepted payment from bookies for providing information, an incident downplayed by Cricket Australia). Nearly six years later, after three inquiries supervised by the cream of Pakistani judiciary, the result is that former captain Salim Malik and medium-pacer Ata-ur-Rehman were banned for life. Six others, including Wasim Akram, Saeed Anwar, Waqar Younis and Mushtaq Ahmed, were fined between $2,000 and $6,000.
Pakistan threatened to walk out of their South African tour in February 1998 when bowlers Mohammad Akram and Saqlain Mushtaq were ‘mugged’ outside their Sandton hotel. Both players were hurt in the incident. But rumours began to circulate that Akram and Mushtaq had, in fact, picked up their black eyes and chipped teeth in a bar brawl at a local strip joint called Club 69.
Another sex scandal rocked Pakistan cricket when, just before jetting out to a tournament in Singapore in 2000, Shahid Afridi, Atiq-uz-Zaman and Hasan Raza were caught entertaining a group of young ladies in their Karachi hotel rooms. The players insisted that the girls had merely “come to collect autographs”, but the PCB didn’t believe a word of it. All three players were fined and banned from the ICC Champions Trophy.
Controversy has been his middle name, ever since Shoaib Akhtar shot into prominence, uprooting the middle stump of Sachin Tendulkar in 1999. In the 2003 triangular series in Sri Lanka, he was caught tampering with the ball, making him the second player ever to be banned on ball-tampering charges. His relationship with the captain and coach Bob Woolmer has been far from good, partially due to his manipulative nature and partially due to politics.
On October 16, 2006, Akhtar was suspended by the PCB along with Mohammad Asif after the pair tested positive for the performance-enhancing substance nandrolone. They were subsequently pulled out of the ICC Champions Trophy 2006. On November 1, 2006, PCB handed down a two-year suspension to Akhtar and a one-year suspension to Mohammad Asif, banning them from professional cricket during the period. However, on December 5, 2006, both were acquitted by a review tribunal.
Akhtar and Asif were ruled out of the Pakistani squad for the World Cup by team officials, minutes before the squad was to depart. The team management, along with the PCB, said their injuries were too severe to risk taking them to the Caribbean.
Since neither of the two had been declared fit, they had not undergone official doping tests. However, Pakistani officials told cricket sources off the record that the team management feared that they would fail the doping tests.
England were awarded the fourth and final Test of their home series against Pakistan at The Oval after the tourists forfeited the match in the wake of a ball-tampering row. Pakistan refused to return to the field for the final session of the fourth day after umpires Darrel Hair and Billy Doctrove had earlier imposed a five-run penalty against them for altering the state of the ball.
A month later, Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul Haq was cleared of ball-tampering by the ICC after a two-day hearing in London, but was banned for four ODIs for bringing the game into disrepute.
PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan resigned from his post in the wake of the Oval Test fiasco, Zaheer Abbas was taken off his managerial post, and Younis decided to step down as captain. Khan was replaced by government advisor Naseem Ashraf. The final fall-out of this was Hair’s fading out into oblivion.
In November last, the liaison officer assigned to the Pakistan team in India, Anil Kaul, alleged that Akhtar had slapped coach Bob Woolmer following a fight over the music to be played in the team bus. Both, however, strongly denied the allegations.
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