Courtesy Sydney Morning Herald
People have been quick to judge the Pakistani cricketers, but what is happening might have nothing to do with money.
If these allegations of fixing are proved, it could be related to extortion, threats, and the well-being of their own family members. It would not surprise me if illegal bookmakers have told players that if they do not perform X and Y, their families will be kidnapped or harmed.
In my time as Pakistan coach, I gained some incredible insights into the workings of the country and the team, and I’ll never forget the time the team captain called me up to his room on the eve of a match.
Earlier that day, a player who we had not selected for the game approached me, saying: ”I was told I would be playing tomorrow.” My response was, ”Well no, you’re not, you’ve obviously been given the wrong information.”
Then the skipper of the side called me late in the evening. I went to his room and he was standing there with a very sombre-looking selector.
This selector said: ”We must pick [the player who had earlier approached me], I have been told that if he is not in the team tomorrow, my daughter will be kidnapped and I will not see her again.”
At first we both laughed, but then we realised he was being serious. Our chairman then called the president, Pervez Musharraf, who in turn phoned the people behind the threats and said they had better reconsider or else. The next we heard the matter had been resolved.
We must also remember that we are judging these guys by the standards of our own country, when their situations are vastly different.
The first time I met Mohammad Amir was when he was 16 years old, coming to an under-19s camp. He comes from a small village near the Swat valley and was delayed by three hours because the Taliban had closed the highway. That doesn’t happen in this country. One thing that struck me about Amir was his constant smile, his zest for the game. That has not changed.
I will never condone any form of fixing, but we should consider that a cricketer might not be thinking of personal gain but of getting money to buy a generator for his village because they don’t have electricity.
I had a lot to do with Mohammad Asif and he was always missing training sessions to look after his sick mother. He has spent a lot of his money on looking after his family.
If Salman Butt is involved in any match-fixing, I would be absolutely stunned. He is a very intelligent, polite guy and has done well since taking over the team.
I cannot remember one incident in my time as coach of Pakistan that aroused suspicion of a fix.
I had my eye on it when Asif and Shoaib Akhtar had come back from their nandrolone bans. We had a meeting about match-fixing and spot-fixing.
We were pretty consistent during my tenure. The players knew there were financial rewards for performing well.
My first reaction to this latest news was sadness. These are people I know, people I call friends. This will probably be the end of some careers.
I don’t think Pakistan should be banished. We have seen them survive some incredible on- and off-field turmoil. You shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
But I will say that the present Pakistan administration cannot escape some of the blame for this. What they need right now is positive leadership and they don’t have it. The Pakistan Cricket Board chairman, Ijaz Butt, is not a leader, he should not have the job.
When I was there, the board did not have people with vested interests, they were business people who treated people fairly. The first-class players were looked after and paid well and it made a difference.
It would be the greatest tragedy if a young man like Aamer has been led astray.