The year 2010 is etched in the memories of Pakistan cricketers as one that will always be associated with painful memories. The summer of that year saw three of Pakistan’s top cricketers banned due to involvement in a shameful spot-fixing scandal, which threatened the very existence of the game in the country. Apart from the almost irreparable loss to the country’s reputation, the long-term effects of this episode would always place Pakistan’s cricketers under extraordinary scrutiny.
With the expiry of the five-year ban on all three cricketers and the return of Mohammad Amir to the international squad, there was a general feeling that Pakistan cricket had turned a new leaf and left behind a terrible saga. It was also widely understood that lessons learnt from this episode had been digested and adequate steps taken to ensure that future generations of Pakistani players would not veer off the prescribed path.
It is in this context where the current spate of allegations against some promising cricketers involved in the ongoing edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) has been a tough pill to swallow for followers and administrators alike.
For the followers of the game, that hollow feeling inside of deja vu that accompanied the revelations that Sharjeel Khan and Khalid Latif had been suspended and sent back home due to alleged involvement in corruption would have been like a nightmare come true — again. The pain of watching Sharjeel, who has shown so much promise since his hundred in the keenly contested final of the inaugural edition of the PSL, now facing a potentially career-threatening disruption would be a tough one to bear.
The emergence of the PSL after years of false starts and deliberations was considered a fantastic achievement for an organisation like the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), who had hitherto been lambasted and ridiculed for its inability to move with the times. Whilst many other nations created their own brands of the vastly entertaining and lucrative Twenty20 Leagues, the Pakistan set-up struggled to make any headway in this direction. The inability to host international players and teams on home soil accompanied by the general inertia in the organisation meant that the birth of the PSL was always going to be a problematic process.
All that changed in 2016 when the PCB stepped up to the plate and launched the PSL with success which surprised many naysayers and supporters alike. A total of five teams participated in hotly-contested games with Islamabad United under the leadership of Misbah-ul-Haq emerging as the unlikely winners.
The PSL brand was thus accepted and widely recognised by fans and many international players and those interested in Pakistan cricket. The feeling that the PSL was possibly the best and most positive development in Pakistan’s recent cricket history was one that was shared by many.
The feeling of euphoria and hope continued to the start of the next season of the PSL in 2017, with a bigger and better tournament planned and promised. The tournament kicking off with a spectacular opening ceremony, which left the nation breathless with anticipation of the fine quality of cricket to come in the next few weeks.
However, the let-down at the start of the second tournament due to the allegations against the two Islamabad players, thus, were truly heart-wrenching for those who had put so much faith in the emergence of the PSL as a route through which promising future talents would emerge for a better future.
For the PCB, the news of any corruption related activity is unwelcome but in a strange way, their involvement in this issue from the start of the crisis does show an organisation which is capable of performing its duties with a high degree of professionalism. The fact that it was the PCB who first announced the investigation and also acted in a decisive manner to take control of the situation does bode well for the future.
Unlike the past, where there would have been an effort to brush the issue under the carpet, the PCB acted with confidence and stemmed the rot before media organisations took over and speculated. If that had been allowed, as in the case of the 2010 fiasco, then the results would have been significantly different with the future of the PSL brand under extreme distress.
The handling of the current situation in such circumstances has been excellent but the PCB will have also realized that they are now faced with a no-win situation if and unless the focus of the tournament is firmly returned back onto the cricket itself. In this regard, the resumption of games and a business as usual attitude being displayed in the tournament is worth praising.
There is no doubt that the monster of corruption seems to have raised its ugly head once again. This is something that no Pakistan fan or supporter would have wanted to hear again, but now that it has happened, it is down to the PCB and its management team to ensure that the matter is brought to a swift close. The PCB needs to come down hard on any offenders, make an example of them, nip this in the bud and handle the issue with the urgency and importance it requires.
Saj Sadiq is a freelance writer and chief editor of Pakistan cricket website PakPassion. He tweets at @Saj_PakPassion.