Calls for overhaul of Pakistani cricket intensify

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A furious Pakistan demanded Friday that cricket makes good on promises to clean up corruption, declaring prison terms for three disgraced stars a wake-up call for a national sport in crisis. The spot-fixing scandal at the Lord’s Test against England in August 2010 was taken personally in a country where cricket is an obsession and a respite from the bitter realities of Taliban attacks, recession and corruption.
But when a British judge sentenced former captain Salman Butt to 30 months, fast bowler Mohammad Asif one year and Mohammad Aamer to six months, Pakistanis were left wondering if they were really watching sport — or just greedy men lining their own pockets. “We are made mugs for getting up in the middle of the night, lunatics for investing deep emotional attachment and fools for devising our own strategies,” wrote a local paper.
Millions of fans want to see Pakistan implement a 2012 deadline from the International Cricket Council (ICC) to end political appointments in cricket — one of only three countries in the world where this still happens. Late Thursday, a few dozen local players and young men protested against the disgraced trio in the central city of Multan, setting alight portraits of the players and calling for a complete overhaul of Pakistani cricket. “Pakistan should completely start afresh with a new set of players because there are still question marks over a few of the others,” Tariq Neem-ullah Khan, a former local cricket player and political activist told the gathering. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), which has kept a low profile since new chairman Zaka Ashraf took over last week, said it was determined to eradicate corruption from the game after “a sad day for cricket in the country”.
But there were no high-profile apologies or resignations. “PCB is determined to ensure that any form of corrupt behaviour from Pakistan cricket is stamped out,” said spokesman Nadeem Sarwar.
After the scandal broke, the ICC came down hard on Pakistan, last year threatening them with suspension if reforms were not implemented. The PCB said it has taken serious measures to prevent future misconduct and that “more would follow” as and when the need arises. “Ridding Pakistan cricket of any possible corrupt behaviour will remain a high priority,” it said. Pakistan’s greatest cricketing hero, Imran Khan, who led the team to win the 1992 World Cup but is today an opposition politician, said the verdicts would be a wake-up call and that “from now on we should be ultra careful”.