BBC Sport cricket


Related BBC sites

Page last updated at 05:42 GMT, Wednesday, 22 September 2010 06:42 UK

Jonathan Agnew column

Pakistan's Umar Gul and England's Stuart Broad
The one-day international series has not ended in the best of spirits

Jonathan Agnew
By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent

The fixing scandal that has blighted Pakistan's tour of England is absolutely dreadful for cricket. In fact, I don't think the sport has ever faced a crisis like this.

However, I strongly disagree with suggestions that Pakistan should be banned from competing - that simply isn't the answer to this problem.

Pakistan cricket has to be helped and nurtured. If it gets suspended or chucked out then one of the game's major powers - and a nation with such talent and passion for cricket - faces a terribly bleak future.

But it also has to help itself. Pakistan cricket has a culture of blaming everybody else and taking criticism very personally, which has to change.

There has to be an acceptance that there is a problem and clear signs that the problem is being addressed, in which case everyone will be delighted to help.

Unfortunately, Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ijaz Butt's claim that England were paid to lose Friday's third one-day international at The Oval - a claim that England strongly deny - is absurd and it simply reinforces the historic notion that when Pakistan cricket comes under the microscope it lashes out, people back off and the necessary groundwork within its national game doesn't take place.

Now, everyone would agree, that groundwork has got to happen. Pakistan has to get its house in order. Everybody wants to help, everybody thinks Pakistan cricket has a future.

And at the forefront of the effort to help must be the International Cricket Council (ICC). It's the governing body and it's got to show absolute leadership at this time of crisis. So far it has been toothless but with the 2011 World Cup looming large on the horizon, immediate and decisive action is imperative.

There is also a huge role to be played by Pakistan's allies on the subcontinent - if they don't acknowledge there's a serious issue here, their World Cup (hosted by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh) will be mired in allegations of sleaze and corruption.

I'm worried that the tournament will be badly affected by a constant drip, drip, drip of allegations and rumour, so everybody has to stand up and try to sort it out - particularly those on the subcontinent.


Whether they like it or not, that is where much of this betting is taking place and it is generally players from that part of the world who are targeted.

Having said that, it shows how widespread the problem is when the only player so far charged in relation to recent alleged corruption in the sport is former English county cricketer Mervyn Westfield.

It would help if the case into the three Pakistan players accused of spot-fixing is heard and dealt with before the World Cup in February. If that means that they're cleared of the allegations then fine, but if they're guilty they must be ruthlessly punished and that has to be done before the tournament so people can see what happens if you get caught.

There has to be a massive education and awareness programme for the players taking part in the event, the ICC has to have so many people there on the ground, all phone numbers have to be logged and there has to be a massive anti-corruption drive.

Only then can we be remotely sure that it's clean. Everyone involved in the sport has to help police it. That way you can hopefully start to stamp this out.

One of the saddest aspects of this ill-fated one-day series between England and Pakistan is that there has been some excellent cricket played by both teams, and we're all set for the ideal finale at the Rose Bowl on Wednesday.

What a tragedy, therefore, that all of this has been overshadowed to such an extent that players are fighting in the practice nets.

It illustrates just how much bad blood now exists between the two teams that Jonathan Trott and Wahab Riaz should throw their pads at each other before things are reported to have turned ugly.

England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Giles Clarke and Pakistan paceman Mohammad Amir
Giles Clarke's face looked like a tombstone as he handed over the man of the series award to Mohammad Amir

This all started on 29 August when the News of the World published allegations against three Pakistan players on the morning of the fourth day of the final Test at Lord's.

While the no-balls during the match did look odd, I didn't think anything strange was going on. But after reading the newspaper stories, I looked back on the match and it felt very nasty.

The post-match presentation was carried out behind closed doors in the Long Room and ECB chairman Giles Clarke's face looked like a tombstone as he handed over the Test man-of-the-series award to Mohammad Amir. That was the nadir and, from then on, the whole saga has been horrible.

Monday's fourth one-day-international, which followed Butt's comments and the confrontation between Riaz and Trott, was as hard to commentate on as it was to play.

England tried hard but they didn't want to play and you could see it. It's no fun when you're sitting there wondering if a dropped catch is real and although I haven't got to that stage yet - I'd still rather believe what I'm seeing - one or two others have.

Captain Andrew Strauss has absolutely had enough of this series. You could tell from England's batting on Monday that there was a real enmity towards their opponents, and who can blame them?

But whereas Pakistan have made this crisis work for them as a team, it's really got to England and unfortunately it's now affecting the way they're playing. They need to be at their best to win and, mentally, they're not there.

When I got to Lord's I thought, firstly, I don't really want to commentate on this and, secondly, I'm not sure this match should be played. Things have got so bad I'm not sure there was anything to be gained by playing.

England and Pakistan relations not tarnished - Waqar

But actually, when you get there and see 20,000 people in their seats watching a good game of cricket, life does have to go on and it's up to everyone involved in the sport to take responsibility for what's going on out there.

People will look back on this tour with a great deal of sadness, yet it might just be the start of properly clearing the sport up.

All this talk has been here for years and nothing has ever been done or proved. If this is the start of clearing it all up, then in 10 years' time we may look back and say it was after Pakistan's 2010 tour to England that cricket finally woke up to a problem.

It's sad in the way that the relationship between the players has degenerated, and I hate the fact that people are wondering what they're looking at on the cricket field.

But this is cricket's opportunity to sort itself out. There is no hiding place - now it's all out there, everyone knows what might be going on and there has to be a whole new culture in cricket. That hopefully starts from now.

Jonathan Agnew was speaking to BBC Sport's David Ornstein

Print Sponsor

see also
Pakistan fans remain undaunted
22 Sep 10 |  Pakistan
England demand apology from Butt
21 Sep 10 |  England
Morgan seals England series win
22 Sep 10 |  England
Pakistan level tainted ODI series
20 Sep 10 |  England
Strauss outraged by fixing claims
20 Sep 10 |  England
Players need guidance - Graeme Smith
20 Sep 10 |  Cricket
Trott and Riaz in confrontation
20 Sep 10 |  Cricket
ICC to probe third one-day match
18 Sep 10 |  Pakistan
Pakistan trio to contest charges
14 Sep 10 |  Cricket
ICC backed to stop betting scams
10 Sep 10 |  Pakistan
Riaz to face police questioning
09 Sep 10 |  Pakistan
Cricket's fight against fixing
29 Aug 10 |  Cricket

related bbc links:

related internet links:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites