How to find our feet – It is time to look beyond the tainted trio

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Salman Akbar, the goalkeeper of Pakistans Asiad gold-winning team, offered a succinct comment when a scribe recently sought his views on the failure of the Pakistan Hockey Federation to pay their salaries for the last three months.

It was right around the time when MQM chief Altaf Hussain had just pulled the rug from under the PPP and seemed on course to bring the house down in Islamabad the beautiful.

Playing down assurances from PHF quarters about redressing the grievance, Akbar said words to the effect: Yahan hakoomat ka pata nahi hota (here, one never knows about the government) before leaving little to imagination about the implication.

Removed from this deprived lot are our much pampered cricketers, who provided a spectacle to the world in Doha last week and I dont mean with their Iranian-style tie-less suits, which towards the end, had given way to poor choice T-shirts and growing stubbles.

Regardless of the end result what with the International Cricket Council tribunal delaying a decision on their fate, few can deny Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer have, by their actions, hurt Pakistan more than their cricket careers.

As a result of their dubious conduct, Pakistans name has been sullied across at least four continents the match/spot-fixing charges actually began early last year from a nightmare tour Down Under, traveled to the West Indies for the T20 World Cup before coming to the gates of hell in England last summer. The infection was palpably felt with the heralding of another unhappy New Year in Qatar.

It is of course, all very well to light up a cig and indulge in legalese that tired axiom pertaining to the accused being innocent until proven guilty. However, circumstantial evidence begs not to be ignored. This isnt about condemning them prematurely, but the fact that they have shamed the country in how they have been implicated in a scandal of such epic proportions.

Salman Butt, for instance, can harp all he likes about being straight the gems pertaining to the Scotland Yard-hauled money from his room being in the realm of a wholesome dowry and legit cash for an ice cream parlour opening come to mind.

But reportedly, theres unlovely evidence before the tribunal provided by the News of The World and other accounts that circulated at the time.

However, to the discerning viewer, it was his fixed gaze at the bowling crease when Mohammad Aamer/Mohammad Asif were bowling the no balls-in-question that begs introspection.

The almost certain application is for the fielder to focus on the batsman as the bowler readies to hurl the cherry, not where the bowlers foot will land. Reports from Doha suggest it was a sticking point.

It also merits attention that the lawyers of Butt and Asif were at odds a sign, perhaps, of the weary trial where the apparent motivation was to save ones own skin regardless of and at whose cost!

To my mind, Butts lack of reflex reaction to the damaging allegations of spot-fixing when these first surfaced in England was intriguing. As a keen student of behavioural sciences, it struck me how he failed to even respond to the charges initially when something of this nature would have aroused the wrath of anyone unfairly slighted.

The Doha rendezvous also provided noticeable contrast. While Butt and Asif declined to comment to the media and looked jaded, Aamer, with an impish grin, was more forthcoming and perhaps, given his age even uttered tosh like ache kaam ke liye ja rahe hain (going for good work) before signing off with hopes for a positive result. Probably, that element of vulnerability in the boy wonder is what induces sympathy from a vast majority.

An outsider may be forgiven for thinking were a crazed nation, treating people with dubious actions like heroes but thats the corollary: so much is forgiven in this cricket-mad land at the altar of bat-and-ball talent that we seem to set little store by integrity and commitment.

The role of the Pakistan Cricket Board in destroying careers is well documented and its current chief Ijaz Butt played a decidedly damaging, even if eccentric, part in the tainted trios case.

It may well feed into the worst-case scenario for the players nobody should be fooled into believing that those running the show at the world body will have a soft corner for Pakistan cricket after Butts ill-advised comments about the ICC chief, the English team and the trios own publicly aired misgivings about the tribunal.

In my humble opinion, our people need to move on. Today, we seem desperate to see the fast bowling pair escape a ban to bolster the team, not necessarily because we believe in their honesty. It is time to back players whose hearts beat for the crescent-and-star and keep faith in the morrow.

The writer is a newspaper editor and can be reached at [email protected]