Spots, Lies and Videotape...
As the relentless monsoons engulfed Pakistan last month, sweeping the homes and livelihoods of an estimated 16 million people; a rather more surreptitious storm was brewing in the subcontinent. The News of the World newspaper, with all the dignity and grace we have come to expect from it, has revealed damning evidence against at least three Pakistani cricketers. According to various media, the public mood, both in the UK and abroad has been flavoured with shock, anger, dismay and disbelief. “The Land of the Pure”, has seemingly lost its virginity.
Fortunately for the public, moral champions such as the Pakistani High Commissioner, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, have called for “draconian” penalties in any proven cases. Scores of ex-International cricketers are rushing to the dry cleaners to have their suits ready for their precious 5 more minutes of fame on Sky Sports News, where they lament the death of the game’s integrity and boast about never having been embroiled in such debauchery. Of course, cricket was beyond reproach in the era of Mike Gatting, Imran Khan and Hansie Cronje.
However, beyond the tabloid euphoria and egotistical hypocrisy of certain pundits, has come some insightful analysis from, amongst others, two former England captains. Both Nasser Hussain and Michael Atherton have highlighted that corruption in cricket is rooted much deeper than in those three infamous no balls at Lord’s; and that restraint and discretion should be showed, particularly in the case of the prodigious Mohammad Amir. Indeed, Amir is rapidly becoming the poster-boy for the poetic irony that strikes at the heart of modern India and Pakistan – that of corrupted wealth.
For, in spite of however many (alleged) crores of black rupees Amir has managed to stealthily accumulate during his short career, there is no doubt that he has been far more ostentatious about his wealth of talent on the pitch. He will always have abundantly more in the bank of his cricketing talent, than cash in his mattress. In just 14 test matches, Amir has pulverised England, Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka, claiming 51 wickets; including those of Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey and Kevin Pietersen. Amir was awarded “man of the series” for his stellar and gripping performances in England this summer. At the tender age of 18, he is the most gifted young bowler in world cricket.
No irony was lost, however, when Amir collected his “man of the series title,” on the same day that those fateful headlines were published. The nauseous applause in the Long Room at Lord’s was reminiscent of the reaction of the English football players when Diego Maradona followed his deceitful “hand of God” with perhaps the greatest goal in the history of the sport. Indeed, the English are all too familiar with the complex dichotomy of the flawed prodigy – as Wayne Rooney exemplified when he dominated the front pages of the next edition of the News of the World.
The example of Rooney is providentially analogous to that of Amir – a young man with the world at his feet, who has (apparently) been bedevilled by his more basic instincts. However, there is no doubt that the public mood has been far more sanctimonious over the actions of the now-infamous Pakistani trio, than those of the English talisman. Cheat on your wife, and you are a laughing stock; but cheat on men and you are Judas. It would be interesting to ask Coleen Rooney who she thinks is more of a charlatan – Amir or Wayne.
Perhaps rooted in the entrenched ideology of chivalrous battle, the notion of cheating in combat hurts the English psyche like no other. Having spent enough time in India to appreciate how the society functions, I can see the acute disparity in mindsets between Britain and the subcontinent, which has led to what we have seen this summer – a microcosm of a gargantuan clash of cultures. For those who were abhorred by the MPs’ expenses scandal last…