The Umar Akmal ban: Pakistan’s fixing factory

Lack of international cricket on home soil has left room for temptation and corruption in Pakistan, say cricket experts.

Umar Akmal
Umar Akmal

The Pakistan Cricket Board has been at the centre of controversies and wrongdoings in cricket over the last two decades. The PCB’s latest claim to infamy is for its ban on Umar Akmal for failing to report corrupt approaches made to him in two separate cases. This 29-year-old, right-handed Pakistani batsman has now been banned from playing any form of cricket for 3 years by the PCB’s anti-corruption officials. Talking to ITV Network, former Pakistan leg spinner Danish Kaneria said Umar Akmal’s entire career has been damaged by his wrongdoings. Kaneria, who was also banned over a spot-fixing scandal in English cricket, said he has been asking the PCB for help over the last 5 years. He said he has always fought for things in his career. He said he had seen several players welcomed after they accepted charges against them. He said he has accepted the charges against him and written many letters to the PCB. Kaneria said he has been denied a chance to set things right.

He said he wanted a genuine comment on why he cannot be rehabilitated. Kaneria said, “I know my cricketing days are over but I want to deliver. I have never played the religion card and I am very proud to have played for Pakistan. I’ve played 61 Test matches and still I am the 4th highest wicket-taker.” Senior sports journalist Ayaz Memon said Danish Kaneria deserves an explanation from the PCB. “If it is happening with him, it is very unfair. He should present his case again,” he said. Discussing the ban, ITV Network’s panel of cricket experts overwhelmingly said Pakistan has been at the centre of corruption in cricket, and when these cases are revealed, it humiliates the whole nation and it ends up looking like Pakistan has a whole fixing factory. The charge against Umar Akmal is that he was offered $200,000 to play two loose deliveries and not to play against India in the 2015 World Cup. Akmal is charged of not informing the PCB about the approaches made to him. Experts on the panel wondered how Pakistan has more players being charged for fixing than coming up with raw unbridled talent.

There are about 19 players who have been associated with corruption scandals in which 8 players had played international games. Ayaz Memon traced it to the lack of international cricket on Pakistani soil with the Pakistan Super League being the only avenue for its cricketers. With less opportunities, players might get frustrated but that is no reason for a big player like Umar Akmal to be caught in fixing shenanigans. “We might think cricket is clean now but the same case with the biggest cricketer of Bangladesh, Shakib Al Hasan, puts a question mark on all that. Maybe you have not done any wrong but, according to the laws, you are expected to report it to the authorities. Your silence could be a sign of interest in the matter,” Memon said. Umar Akmal’s behaviour has also been a talking point, either in international matches or in the PSL matches, and with coaches as well.

Akmal should have come clean early but if one goes back, one can see that Mohd. Nawaz and Mohd. Irfan has done the same thing and did not talk about the bookies to the board and they only got six months suspension. Though a talented player, Akmal lacks the discipline which is needed in the game. The ban of three years can be a good lesson for him and for the coming generation as well, said Kaneria. Rajkumar Sharma, Indian captain Virat Kohli’s first coach, said before any domestic session in India, anti-corruption officials counsel players and which is missing in Pakistan. “If you don’t tell your players on how to react to these situations, you are equally responsible to that. PCB needs to be for active and should start paying their players well,” he said. Sharma said the PCB should start educating their players. Ayaz Memon said that there are always two lobbies in Pakistan and that is the same case in India. Cricket is a rich game and there are people, who are greedy and work unfairly.