Pakistan and controversy

Pakistan cricket has often straddled the extremes of incandescent brilliance and dark desperate corners. The latest controversy of spot-fixing seems to fall into the mind-numbing pattern of shameful slip-ups that point out the foibles of corruption, squabbling team-mates and a bumbling administration. Here are a few unsavoury incidents as one looks back in despair.

The first whistle-blower

Does the name Qasim Umar ring a bell? The Kenya-born batsman played for Pakistan from 1983 to 1987 and was expected to have a long career, but that was until he levelled allegations of corruption within his team. Umar's veiled hints at matches being thrown away were never taken seriously and he was dropped. A promising talent was lost forever, and it is a tale that seems to get regular sequels!

Simmering internal flames

Even Imran Khan, the pace ace and astute captain, was not spared the knives and that too during the brightest phase of his glittering career which was also Pakistan's most special moment in cricketing history. After he won the World Cup in 1992 in Melbourne, Imran was accused of not thanking his team-mates while he focussed on generating funds for his pet project – the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital. In recent times, Shoaib Akhtar struck at Mohammad Asif and there were insinuations about a cartel within the squad trying to undermine skippers Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf.

For a few dollars more

Saleem Malik was the quintessential street-smart batsman who unfortunately got too smart and paid the price. In 2000 he was banned from cricket after the match-fixing accusations surfaced and ruined him along with India's Mohammad Azharuddin and South Africa's Hansie Cronje. Now the spot-fixing controversy has left Messrs Mohammad Amir, Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif in a fix and the last word is still awaited on the murky world of tainted money and players who sell their souls.

Coach no more!

Bob Woolmer, respected coach and a man who tweaked brightness into many a career, was found dead in his hotel room in Kingston during the 2007 World Cup after Pakistan had slumped to an inexplicable defeat against Ireland. Theories of poisoning, strangulation and death due to natural causes were all examined and the jury finally delivered an open verdict that displayed further ambiguity. Doubts, however, remain and former Pakistan seamer Sarfraz Nawaz alleged that the then Pakistan coach was killed by the match-fixing lobby.

The Oval tumble

During Pakistan's tour of England in 2006, Inzamam-ul-Haq and his men refused to enter the field post-tea at the Oval on August 20 while protesting the allegations of ball-tampering levelled by umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove. And as the communication gap widened, the umpires said that Inzamam had forfeited the match. The incident sullied Pakistan's reputation as a cricket-playing nation.

Terror trail

In March 2009, terrorists fired at the Sri Lankan team bus as it wound its way to the venue in Lahore. Players escaped with injuries but the psychological scars remained for a while and churned up ghastly memories of the massacre of Israeli athletes by Palestinian gunmen at the Munich Olympics in 1972.

Substance abuse

Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif blew batsmen away before sulking under a shadow of drugs. Asif twice tested positive for steroids and was once caught at the Dubai airport with shady drugs in his wallet and was kept behind bars for more than a fortnight. Now with his over-stepping at Lord's, Asif surely is in a spot of bother.

Sydney slump

Before the Lord's turf was tarnished, Pakistan's free-fall had commenced in Sydney in January this year. Pakistan gained a 206-run first innings lead but Kamran Akmal's ‘butter-fingers' and an inexplicable batting collapse helped Australia snatch a 36-run victory. Now Ricky Ponting is left wondering whether his squad's triumph is tainted by the lack of sweat from the rival team.

Hungry for a bite

When Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis yorked perplexed English batsmen in the 1990s, the word ‘tampering' was bandied about without any proof until the legitimate truth about reverse swing was finally unravelled. However, there was nothing clean and honourable about Shahid Afridi ( in pic, right) biting a cricket ball in Perth earlier this year. The captain later said: “I shouldn't have done it. I was trying to help my bowlers and win a match.” And as the year progressed, Pakistan's cricketers found newer methods to implode. Sad but true.

K. C. Vijaya Kumar