I second JRod’s utter contempt and shock at the revelations that have emerged about Pakistan’s cricket team. Yes, full judgment needs to be reserved until the facts are all confirmed, but the initial — gasp, videotaped — evidence is unbelievably damning, and even the circumstantial stuff (photos of Pakistani cricketers with the alleged bookie) is worrying.
This type of scandal forces you to think about the difference between public and private images. Before this scandal, no one believed the Pakistani team was a paragon of team management, and most assumed the constant rivalries between Malik/Afridi/Yousuf/Younis (and so on) had more to do with incompatible personalities or goals. But few — at least, not me — thought there were potentially thousands of dollars also at stake, with team members worried that whoever ascended to the greasy pole would cut off the spigot of spot-fixing.
The shock is even more personal than that, alas. Think about Salman Butt, who appeared to all as an eloquent, calm presence in a jittery team. Those press conferences; the victory in the 3rd Test; the pledge to do all he could to give a gift to victims of the Pakistani floods. As the alleged ringleader, Butt also deserves much of the blame for pushing Mohammed Aamer toward the Dark Side, possibly the worst cut of all, given the bowler’s age and unmistakable talent.
So where does this all leave us? Some may be content to think this merely another example of Pakistani mayhem, but not I’m not one of them. We’ve just heard allegations that Lalit Modi and the BCCI secretary colluded during the IPL auctions, pushing players here and there to suit their own needs. Like it or not, cricket has been pushed from the gentleman’s pastime to global currency sport, and it’s high time we moved to protect it. If it’s not match-fixing, it’ll soon be drugs or steroids — stay on guard.