Today, Cricket Died. Period.

Stunned. Anguish. It does not even begin to express my emotions at this time.

Watching Pakistan under perform on such regular basis is always heart wrenching. Watching them lose matches from seemingly a winning position, was depressing and incredulous. But, as die hard fans of our team, we would always come out supporting the green shirts no matter how they fared in the field. Hoping against all odds, they would eventually overcome their short comings and give us victory like yester-years. Today, all that changed.

After shocking revelations in News of the World which was lapped up by the international media  on spot match fixing in cricket, I am now not only disturbed but utterly disgusted with the players who have literally played with our emotions for such a long time.

The under cover investigation claims that this has gone on for over two and half years and possibly much longer. And that the players themselves initiated this ring is rather alarming. The investigation claims as many as seven players are fixing the outcome including the captain Salman Butt, fast bowler Asif and Aamir and wicket keeper Kamran Akmal. The other players names were not revealed, but it is safe to say they are probably all batsmen. It did mention though that Shahid Afridi is not involved and that all these seven players are ganging up against him to oust him.

Last year, Yunis Khan dropped out of the cricket world saying he has lost the confidence of his players. Or was it the same players orchestrating his ouster, like they are doing today of Shahid Afridi? All these stories of infighting among team members really revolving around the match-fixing gang? If so, then the problem is far deeper than the seven named.

This is not the first time we have heard of spot betting and match fixing. The first I heard was in early 1990s when Shane Warne, Mark Waugh, two great Australians, were caught sharing some match information with bookies. Not dissimilar to what has happened today. However, they were fined (AUS$5,000 each) and the story was not aloud to go out till leaked many years later. Similar claims were made in India for Indian team when it was failing to win critical matches. Pakistan, South Africa also suffered from those allegations. Eventually, Hanse Cronje (South African Captain), Mohammad Azharuddin (India’s Captain) and Salim Malik (Pakistan Captain) received life bans and made the scape goat of the corruption within Cricket. Sadly, Australia never banned any of its players.

What the Cricketing body, ICC, did not do is investigate thoroughly and capture the rest of the gang of players in each team. Surely, Warne, Azhar, Hansie and Malik cannot throw a game or bowl/bat badly alone to change the outcome. They need support of others. Shockingly, ICC left it for the boards to decide the course of action for them and went sleeping. Players like Shane Warne (Australia), Sachin Tendulkar (India), Wasim Akram (Pakistan), among many others were internally reprimanded but never publicaly punished. They, like many other team members, were far too big a star and cricket brand to be publicly lynched. Sadly, spot fixing survived, under closed doors till this day.

ICC has no clue what is going on out there. Today, could be a great eye opener for them. But judging from their previous conduct, they will not budge from their sleeping position and refer it back to respective boards to sort out internally.  But if they continue to turn a blind eye to such matters, it is no secret that more people, like me, will turn their eyes away from cricket. In not so near future, we will have a time when young fans will no longer come out to support their teams. They will switch to other cleaner sports and ICC, which is now banking on a billion people audience for their billions in rights, will be competing for their attention with other sports. Time has come to not only fix the game but to catch/ban all those old timers who are still playing and enjoying the protection of their boards while participating (covertly) in spot fixing.

Its no secret that we have all heard of spot fixing, and we have all heard of incidents in cricket matches for many decades. We all know that incredible collapse and that spectacular batting performance is not always genuine. Especially, if the batsmen is part-timer and the bowler has bowled his first 5-wicket haul.

Dear ICC, your fans have been jolted to the reality. It’s time that you also wake up and smell the foul stench that surrounds your sports stars. Its not just limited to Pakistan, it has roots in every major Test playing nation. Standup and clean the cricket field, before we clean the bleachers and head for other sports arenas.

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Dr MA Shah T20 League

This Ramadan, Karachi is home to another edition of Dr. MA Shah T20 league where top clubs compete at night for the coveted cup.

It is probably the most watched club cricket tournament in the world. With live TV Broadcast by Geo Super, full attendance at the stadium, and thrilling encounters between club cricketers.

Occasionally, a cricket star would also participate, like Shahid Afridi and Yunis Khan. But the large majority of the players are never heard of pure talents from the streets of Karachi.

This year, there is a healthy addition of Afghanistan Youth Team, which is playing in the tournament. What was even more interesting to see was a whole enclosure for Afghani Fans to sit and enjoy their team take on Pakistani clubs. It goes on to show how popular the league is becoming with foreign teams now participating.

What I like about watching these matches is that it is raw talent slugging it out there among the best of their peers to win the coveted title. Even the sponsors, there are quite a few, are all local brands to Karachi that probably no one has ever heard of before. The atmosphere is electric and the competition enthralling.

Karachi has truely produced a great cricket T20 tournament from the ground up. It has a huge fan following and games are nothing but great entertainment.

The timing of the games is also interesting. Usually the matches begin when the sun goes down. And continue on till wee hours of the morning. The spectators still make it to the bleechers, despite needing to go to work the next day, and local restaurants keep them fed with their mobile kitchens. Considering it is Ramadan, many prefer to do their Sehri meal at the ground rather than at home.

Over all, I look forward to this tournament as it is truly unique and indigenous to Karachi. I hope similar high powered and quality cricket tournaments could be arranged at other towns and cities of Pakistan. Maybe, I might turn out to play for one of those teams, if it happens to be in Islamabad.