Frankly, as soon as I heard about it my first thought was "yeah, the Sydney Test has to have been fixed." I was at the SCG for the entire game. I witnessed Asif and Sami rip through the Aussies in the first innings on a pitch with a bit more life than usual (but hardly the minefield it was made out to be). After that innings I almost felt like going to put a $20 on a Pakistan win, even though my Indian father would probably have beat the shit out of me for even considering it.
In hindsight, I saved myself $20. But there's more to it than that. Anyone who saw Pakistan in the field during the Aussies' second innings had to get a funny vibe - even by their average standards in fielding they were awful, especially Kamran Akmal who put on a keeping display that wasn't even worthy of my old Whangarei Boys High U15s. Mohammad Yousuf of course also gave us a masterclass in bad field placing as he refused to attack Peter Siddle, allowing him to put on a 100 run partnership with Mike Hussey and post a lead when it looked for a while like Pakistan might win by an innings. And the less said about their batting collapse the better. Let's just say I don't quite know how you can lose chasing a total of 176 in a freaking test match with a couple of days to go.
While there hasn't been confirmation that the Sydney match was fixed yet, anyone can join the dots here.
Some are saying that the players should all be banned from first class cricket for life. I can't argue with that. While it would be sad to see a young talent like Mohammad Aamer (who took money to bowl no-balls in the England series) out of world cricket for good, the ICC needs to take a stand here and show that this sort of bullshit will not be tolerated.
There's another strong school of thought that the ICC should ban Pakistan from world cricket now. If not for life, at least for a lengthy stretch.
Part of me agrees with this view, but then I consider the issue deeper.
Out of all the major test playing nations, Pakistan are undoubtedly the most screwed up. Not just in their notoriously volatile and corrupt cricket administration, but also their political situation itself. Anyone who follows the news knows what I mean. The country is basically teetering on the edge right now - when you mix in nuclear weapons and the Taliban and al-Qaeda making major inroads into the north of the country, you can see the problems even more.
What does cricket have to do with geopolitics? It's pretty simple. The radical Islamist groups all hate cricket. They see it as a Western indulgence that distracts youth from the task of serving Allah or some such bullshit. But Pakistanis one and all all love the game. Supporting the Taliban over the corrupt national government is one thing, but when you're talking Taliban over cricket, cricket wins every time.
The entire Indian sub-continent are crazy about cricket - Pakistan are no exception. You take cricket away from them, they're naturally gonna get pissed.
Moreover, cricket is good for Pakistan as well. A young man who dreams of playing cricket for his country is a young man who isn't in a madrasha learning to blow himself up or joining al-Qaeda. Boys and girls alike all play the game together. Girls aren't playing with the boys if they're being forced to wear a burqa.
If you take cricket away from Pakistan, you're driving hordes of young, pissed of Pakistani youth to Islamic radicalism. Someone explain to me how that's a good thing.
Which is why I'd like to propose a solution.
- All the players who have been involved, punt them for life. End of story, no excuses. And the ICC makes these bans, not the Pakistani board only to have them reversed three weeks later.
- The ICC takes emergency measures to take over the management of Pakistani cricket from the PCB. Once they do so, they undergo a rigorous procedure to clean up the way the game is run in the country along with heavily investing in young guys and promoting the game all over the country.
- A special task force is set up to manage the Pakistani situation - get guys like Waqar Younis, Sarfraz Nawaz and other clean former Pakistani greats involved in this along with ICC people.
Of course, since the ICC are an incompetent and sclerotic organisation who are only interested in making money, this won't happen. The bitter Indian forces who run the game these days will be happy to stick the boot into Pakistan while they can.
However, there is more at stake here than a bunch of blokes hitting balls.
Pakistani cricket is not only good for Pakistan, one could argue it's equally good for the world. A young man with a bat and ball in his hands, playing cricket with his mates has no room to hold an AK-47 or a bomb in a backpack or time to hear about the evil infidels.