There were the fireworks in the opening ceremony and then there were the fireworks the next day. The question that continues to be asked is whether PCB shot them up prematurely. There is talk that there was such solid evidence against Sharjeel Khan and Khalid Latif that it had to be done. Worse, that they had been collected by the ICC. In that sense there was no choice left with the PCB.
But could it all have happened low key, without the step that the PCB took that then became public of course? The two players could have been put under caution and their franchise told not to play them till the investigation continued. This is just like they did for Irfan, Shahzaib and Zulfiqar Babar.
That way once the investigation was complete they could have yes, been sent home, but maybe under guise of injury and the rest of the players in the tournament cautioned. In fact what was amazing was that the chairman PCB, Shaharyar Khan blurted out everything to TV cameras at Karachi airport as he came back, some say prematurely.
That was silly I would say. Because Shaharyar Khan also revealed that more players were involved and that more would be sent back. And yet, just as Pakistan and the rest of the cricket world waited to see who would be next on the plane home, there came the tweets next day from Najam Sethi that there was no further proof against any other player. And that they had been cleared to play. In fact some of the names mentioned had in fact come forward to report bookie’s contact said Najam Sethi.
That to me seems to show that there is an internal dispute between Shaharyar Khan and Najam Sethi. We all know the background and that is that Shaharyar Khan was never really interested in launching PSL when it was brought forward once again by Najam Sethi after being filed as undoable by the previous administration.
Shaharyar Khan also wanted it to be held in Pakistan and further wanted him to be the lead. There was obvious jealousy after the inaugural edition when Najam Sethi announced that it had been profitable. Worse for Shaharyar Khan, he was simply outvoted on anything he wanted to see in PSL and he was not to be found in the management of it.
Considering how both Shaharyar Khan and Najam Sethi crave for media coverage considering their respective egos, it was clear Shaharyar Khan had lost out big time. As such when the spot-fixing news came to light on the very first day, Shaharyar Khan had his pound of flesh to wave at the media. This, he wanted to say was why he wasn’t in favour of the PSL or at least point out to flaws in the anti-corruption arrangements.
He also wanted to immediately disengage himself from the happenings and caught the first flight home. I know that Shaharyar Khan dislikes taking flights at odd times but that he took the late flight back shows how desperate he was to get away from this event.
I also wouldn’t be surprised if he had severe disagreements with Najam Sethi on how to handle this. Note that Shaharyar Khan said there was further proof against more players and Najam Sethi saying the next day there was none; in fact the other players whose names had been mentioned were cleared to play in the tournament.
It could have been that Shaharyar Khan was coming under pressure by the ICC and include more players in suspension and that Najam Sethi wanted to take on ICC by claiming this was a domestic tournament, out of bounds by ICC Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) and that it would be handled internally by the PCB ACU.
Since everyone knows that the PCB revolves around Najam Sethi, I am sure Shaharyar Khan was pushed aside and fearing that his presence would invite pressure from ICC, Shaharyar Khan also left the scene along with the players, who both reportedly came on the same flight. Now even ICC has said that this remains PCB’s internal competition and they do not have jurisdiction over it.
Nevertheless it’s going to be a tough watch by the PCB management, especially its ACU, until the players have left for home after the final. Till then anything is possible. The betting mafia doesn’t let go easily on an event like this. There will still be set pieces through the tournament, just that the players will not become that stupid to take selfies with the individuals who pass them the brief.
As it happened in the 1990s once the match fixing was exposed, the players that were still involved and had participated in groups now did not even tell each other if they had compromised their game. Same will happen here. Waiters in hotels and perhaps even ground staff will pass on the messages from the bookies. So could cab drivers.
After all it is impossible to keep the players away from contact. Only the known are identified by face, sometimes by name. Whether it is London, Mumbai, Lahore or Dubai they will find their way to the players.
The point here is who are the guardians and what is their background. Look at some of the support staff of the teams and figure it out. Also have a look at the PCB management, and also who are holding positions in the governing board of the PCB. Can these people actually forestall the bookies?
Also look at what happened to whistle blowers like Zulqarnain? He was actually under attack from the bookies against whom he had spoken out. He never played again.
Then look at the weak prosecution of any case at any level in Pakistan. What do the players or their influencers have to fear? No harm will come to them. And if they are caught, then at most a year or so, and they will be looked after.
Lastly, there is the fear that some foreign players from countries with very strict laws and a moral code against match or spot fixing may leave. Ravi Bopara was very vocal the last time when then skipper Shoaib Malik executed some surprising tactics. PCB must keep that in mind too and should not get lax again. •