Cricket Expert & Columnist
Very limited appeal
Nasser Hussain wonders how Pakistan can hope to prepare for the limited overs series against England.
Last Updated: 31/08/10 1:03pm
Cricket finds itself in a terrible position and Pakistan fans in particular have every right to be fuming following Sunday's allegations.
Normally they are very loyal, passionate followers of cricket. You barely have to say a word against one of their players and a host of emails arrive in that player's defence.
But the accusations of spot-fixing levelled at some of their team - coming as they do at a time when the floods are causing such devastation at home - appear to have turned opinion.
Pakistan fans seem to be thinking 'if these allegations are proven to be true, then the players have really let us and the country down'.
In that context, it's incredibly hard to see how Pakistan can prepare in any meaningful way for the upcoming Twenty20 internationals and ensuing one-day international series.
You can already see evidence that a siege mentality has set in and there must be whispers in hotel corridors about who may be involved and who isn't, all of which his hugely destabilising.
If the rumours are true that several of the players don't want to play under one-day captain Shahid Afridi, then I really do fear for Pakistan cricket over the next few weeks.
Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ijaz Butt has stressed that there are no plans to suspend the four players implicated - Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif and Kamran Akmal - but if that scenario does evolve how will a weakened team perform against England? I dread to think.
On Sunday morning I said I felt that every player should be regarded innocent until proven guilty, and I stand by that.
However, I did receive a few emails pointing out that "in the proper world people implicated in wrong-doing are suspended until an investigation is completed into the allegations against them".
So there are two very different arguments out there and, as I see it, there's no definitive right or wrong answer as things stand.
From a cricketing perspective, though, I can't see how the upcoming Twenty20 internationals and one-dayers can go ahead with the four players implicated playing for Pakistan.
How can we ask viewers and spectators to watch the games when there is such a level of uncertainty that every no-ball or wide bowled is questioned?
My gut feeling is that people want the whole matter cleared up before any cricket goes on.
If we lived in a perfect world where we didn't have to worry about television contracts, finance and spectators who have bought tickets, we wouldn't see another ball bowled before we have a resolution.
We need to find out who else might be involved, what else might have gone on and which matches might have been affected in a similar manner.
As a cricket fan and someone who has been involved in the game for at least the 20 years I would like the issue to be cleared up before Pakistan bowl another ball in international cricket, but I can't see that happening because it takes time to solve these things.
Therefore, we are left with the middle ground - namely to suspend the four guys who under investigation until they can clear their name.
Even that would leave me with a weird taste in my mouth. It would feel shallow and hollow to commentate on a fixture that resembled England v a Pakistan second XI. We could be going around in circles for a while.
As someone who has been involved in cricket for well over 20 years, Sunday's allegations in the News of the World didn't come as a shock for me. That might seem very cold and calculated but it's the truth.
Rumours have been abounding for years about Pakistan cricket and what has allegedly been going on.
What did upset me though was that Amir has been dragged into it.
I had hoped that when the story broke that it wouldn't involve this new breed of cricketer that Pakistan is trying to produce; I really hoped that it hadn't contaminated down to this young team that they are trying to nurture for the future.
A teenage player can't be treated differently from everyone else, though, just because he is young and has vast potential. There may be mitigating factors but we can't have special rulings for individuals, no matter how bright their prospects. That's not how the way it works.
But as Michael Holding and I said on Sunday, you do generally have to give people a second chance in life. That's my opinion.
In a funny sort of way, Sunday's revelations may turn out to be good for the game because it has given the ICC's anti-corruption unit fresh evidence and renewed impetus to address the problems.
I do also believe that you have to be very strong in this type of situation because the game is bigger than individual; it has to be cleaned up.
I've heard people on radio phone-ins saying the game is corrupt. No, the whole game isn't unless I've been incredibly naïve for the last 20 years.
I don't agree with those who say it will be difficult for England to prepare for the one-day series. They are very professional under Andy Flower and are hungry to win games; they will look at what they are dong and continue building towards the World Cup.
I know it's easier said than done, but they will try hard to blank out what is going on around them and do their job.