By Akash Kaware
The movie was released in 1992, but I only saw ‘A Few Good Men’ in the year 2000. I have seen it many times since, but the final scenes of the movie – complete with Jack Nicholson’s ‘You can’t handle the truth!’ monologue and his shouting match with Tom Cruise – still give me goose-bumps. Since watching that movie, legal dramas, both on the big screen and small, have been a favorite with me, with ‘Witness for the Prosecution’, ‘Anatomy of a Murder’ and of course ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ being particularly memorable. As far as entertainment is concerned, my affinity to on-screen legal capers is only surpassed by the sport we all hold dear to our hearts, cricket.
And yet, as the events of the past few weeks have proved, a combination of two of your favorite pastimes does not necessarily create another riveting spectacle. After all, you might love butter chicken and you might love gulab jamuns, but put the two together and you do not get another delicacy. All you get is a gooey mess! Likewise, the spot-fixing trial against Salman Butt and Mohammed Asif, and the subsequent conviction of the two, plus Mohammed Aamer, has been anything but fun.
It is hard to feel any sympathy for at least two of them. Butt was an aberration of a Pakistani cricketer in a sense that he is well-educated, articulate and would have probably managed to create a financially secure life for himself even if he had not been a cricketer. Such a fellow should have had enough sense to realise that the myriad rewards that cricket now offers its practitioners would have been enough to lead a comfortable life, especially considering the fact that he was a capable batsman in a team which has long grappled with troubles on the batting front. Instead he chose to put his career at risk for a few extra pounds, which makes you wonder, just how much money is enough money?
Asif, I have no hesitation in stating, was the bowler I most loved to watch in the last few years. He was a fast bowler’s version of Shane Warne, effortlessly capable of making the ball do his bidding and had the unique ability to make the batsmen look silly. One needs a sharp mind to outwit international-level batsmen as often as Asif did. But as his doping scandals, dressing room bust-ups, airport detentions and finally spot-fixing conviction testify, all the intelligence he displayed on the cricket field was no match for his stupidity off it. And I am very sure, if it had not been for this scandal, he would have found another way to self-destruct what could have been a glorious career.
The law makes no concessions for naivete, but it is Mohammad Aamer’s fate that breaks the heart of an average cricket fan. At a time when the world of cricket is starved for quality bowlers, here was an 18-year-old who was almost frighteningly good for his age. The tape-ball cricket in Pakistan will surely throw up enough talent to make sure that the team would not miss him too much, but such waste of God-given talent is as infuriating as it is sad.
Atticus Finch said in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, ‘You never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.’ It is easy to say that Aamer should have known the right from the wrong. But can any of us really say for sure that at 18, if your captain, your agent, and a senior bowler were in on the conspiracy, when the reward for a seemingly innocuous no-ball was greater than what Aamer’s father, a watchman, probably earned in years and when the possibility of being caught was miniscule, we would not have done exactly the same thing? There is simply no way to justify what any of the culprits did, but at least in Aamer’s case, one can understand why he did so. And that is the reason I hope redemption lies somewhere in Aamer’s future.
The challenge now for the game is to make sure no more 18-year-olds are ruined by the lure of easy money. A lot has been said about the punishments handed out to these three being deterrents to future fixers, but I for one find such suggestions laughable. Remember that the expose, when it happened was because of a newspaper, not by any exemplary piece of vigilance by either the ICC or any other cricketing body. Remember that the criminal cases against these cricketers happened because their misdemeanours happened in England, where betting is legal. If the expose had happened in say India or Pakistan, the punishments would have been limited to curtailing the player’s careers, not their freedom, which might not be such a big deterrent for say, a morally bankrupt older player nearing the end of his career. Remember that the cases against these players were for conspiracy to accept corrupt payments and defraud bookmakers, not for making a mockery of an intangible concept called the spirit of cricket. Cricket has nothing to celebrate at this downfall of the greedy and the corrupt. If anything, it was caught napping while a newspaper and a fair legal system did its dirty work.
The sport cannot count on others to eradicate this menace. It has been said in many quarters that ICC and the ACSU (Anti-corruption and Security Unit) do not have the resources or the power to curb corruption in the game. It is true to an extent, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I do not have all the answers, but all of a sudden, Steve Waugh’s idea of lie-detector tests does not seem so silly to me now!
(Akash Kaware is an Indian IT professional, who would've been a successful international cricketer if it hadn't been for an annoying tendency to run towards square-leg while facing tennis, rubber or leather cricket balls hurled at anything more than genuine medium-pace! Watching Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid convinced him that breaking into the Indian team was not going to happen anytime soon and hence he settled to become an engineer and MBA, who occasionally wrote about cricket. A few months ago, sensing his uselessness and constant use of cricket websites at work, his company banished him to Canada. His hopes of playing international cricket have, thus, been renewed!)