Pak cricket: Sport dies the moment cheats join the game

Cor­rup­tion has a long tail in that part of world, only a frac­tion of which is con­tained within the sport­ing land­scape.

The Pak Banker - - Editorial - Kevin Gar­side

Pak­istan all out for 74 at Lords. Who would have bet on that? Those prophetic words were pinged across the ether via my Twit­ter ac­count at 4.45pm on Satur­day. In the ab­sence of the kind of hard ev­i­dence be­ing loaded on to the News of the World presses, irony was the only de­vice avail­able to ex­press a view that came too read­ily as far as Pak­istani cricket is concerned.

Cor­rup­tion has a long tail in that part of world, only a frac­tion of which is con­tained within the sport­ing land­scape. Not even cricket, a sport cast as a bas­tion of rec­ti­tude, is able to re­sist the con­se­quences of state-backed eco­nomic, ed­u­ca­tional and cul­tural im­pov­er­ish­ment.

That is their ex­cuse. What is ours? A year ago al­most to the day the first hint of the Re­nault race­fix­ing con­tro­versy that ripped through For­mula One emerged at Spa-Fran­cor­champs in Bel­gium, a sa­cred rac­ing precinct revered by Grand Prix men. Here, on the vast as­phalt straights and rapid cor­ners that cut through the forests of the Ar­dennes, the greats of the game have made their name.

It was not deeds of der­ring-do played out at 200mph that made our hair stand on end but a vile tale of or­gan­ised sport­ing crime that had Nel­son Pi­quet Jnr, the son of three-time world cham­pion Nel­son Snr, de­lib­er­ately ram­ming his car into a wall to fa­cil­i­tate vic­tory for his team-mate, Fer­nando Alonso, at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.

The devel­op­ment cut F1 to the quick, fol­low­ing as it did on the heels of the "lie-gate" scan­dal that snared our own Lewis Hamil­ton in Aus­tralia at the open­ing race of 2009, in which the McLaren driver changed his ev­i­dence dur­ing a rou­tine stew­ard's in­quiry; and the " Fer­rari-gate" af­fair of 2007, which re­sulted in a record £50 mil­lion fine for McLaren af­ter the team was found in pos­ses­sion of an 800-page dossier de­tail­ing the work­ing of their ri­val's car.

Though the mo­ti­va­tion to cheat was not fi­nan­cial, as in the case of Pak­istan's crick­eters, the shame­ful F1 tril­ogy re­vealed base prac­tices that in­fringed the deeply in­grained no­tions of fair play cen­tral to our un­der­stand­ing of what sport is. It is not over yet. The sport re­turns to the courts next week when Fer­rari are called be­fore the F1 beak to an­swer for the re­sult at this year's Ger­man Grand Prix, where race leader Felipe Massa was in­structed to let his team-mate, Alonso, through for vic­tory on the grounds that the lat­ter was bet­ter placed to win the world driv­ers' cham­pi­onship.

The cyn­i­cal ma­nip­u­la­tion of that out­come demon­strated con­tempt for the spirit of com­pe­ti­tion as well as an in­fringe­ment of the rules. Equally per­ni­cious is the ero­sion of trust be­tween par­tic­i­pant and ob­server that re­sults from episodes such as these. The moment fans no longer be­lieve what their eyes are

telling them is the point at which sport per­ishes, los­ing its value and its mean­ing.

We have seen how cy­cling and ath­let­ics, fol­low­ing the wide­spread use of drugs to en­hance per­for­mance, have had cred­i­bil­ity eroded. Ben John­son lost more than his medal when his sprint to gold at the Seoul Olympics was found to be fraud­u­lent. His char- ac­ter, like

that of the crick­eters presently un­der the moral mi­cro­scope, is for­ever stained - in his case, over 9.79 sec­onds. Only last week, Dr Wendy Chap­man was forced to re­live her part in the Blood­gate scan­dal that took down one of English rugby's best-loved fig­ures, Dean Richards. The ex­pos­ing of the Har­lequins coach, not only as a cheat but as a liar at­tempt­ing to con­ceal his role in the feign­ing of a blood in­jury with a cover-up, was the more alarm­ing given his past as a The mis­cre­ants roll out their ex­cuses, pres­sure to suc­ceed, blah, blah, blah, with­out a thought for the vic­tims, losers as well as win­ners. How will the record for an eighth wicket set by Eng­land's Jonathan Trott and Stu­art Broad be re­garded now? Both etched their names on to the Lord's hon­ours board, Broad with an in­nings of 169 that sur­passed any­thing his Test-play­ing fa­ther posted in a dis­tin­guished ca­reer.

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