THE alienation of Pakistan from world cricket continues — partly with blame and partly without — as the relationship with erstwhile friends, England, on and off the field dissolves into hostility. This week’s ECB press release said it all.
Terrorist activity left Pakistan unavoidably without a home base, attracting sympathy and help, but now there is corruption suspicion against three of their players — with some apparent ‘forecast’ evidence published in The News of the World newspaper. Then comes the comments by Ijaz Butt, the Pakistan Board chairman, in a blatantly political attempt to tarnish England, and his words have left a sour taste.
The England players already detested playing against Pakistan in this one-day series, and hearing that Butt claimed there were rumours that England threw the match at the Brit Oval might have had them walking out. Andrew Strauss reacted with “surprise, dismay and outrage” at Butt’s suggestion.
It was clear from a radio interview, repeated on the BBC, that Butt felt that the allegations against three Pakistan players were no more than insinuation and that he reckoned these individuals should not be suspended without being found guilty. Then he made a vague claim that there was talk among bookmakers that England threw the Oval match. He added that he could not name any bookmaker in the same way that no bookmakers could be identified in the English newspaper allegations. That was his thinking — unfairness and conspiracy against Pakistan.
On Monday the ECB circulated the following press release. Nothing like this has been issued probably since the Kerry Packer break-away circuit storm almost 40 years ago. While sympathising, one must pray that the ECB do not invest their hard-earned funds in libel action against an admittedly “wholly irresponsible” Butt. This would be a total waste of time and money. The law action involving Packer certainly was.
ECB press release (Sept 20, 2010):
“For Immediate Use
“ECB and England team to continue NatWest Series against Pakistan
“The ECB and the England team today announced that they were committed to continuing with the current NatWest Series against Pakistan. This decision was unanimously taken by the ECB Board following a meeting between the ECB chairman Giles Clarke, CEO David Collier, ECB managing director of England cricket, Hugh Morris, and the England captain and coach, Andrew Strauss and Andrew Flower, and a subsequent meeting with all of the England team.
“The ECB and the England players completely reject the remarks made by the PCB chairman Ijaz Butt yesterday about the England team’s conduct in the third NatWest ODI at The Brit Insurance Oval. Mr Butt’s comments were wholly irresponsible and completely without foundation.
“The ECB expresses its gratitude for the outstanding conduct of the England team this summer and will take all legal and disciplinary action which may result from Mr Butt’s comments.
“The Board and the team, however, are of a view that it remains in the best interests of world cricket, the players and in particular of cricket supporters that the tour should continue and it would set a dangerous precedent to call off a tour based on the misguided and inaccurate remarks made by one individual.
“ECB will continue to offer ICC its full support in taking the strongest possible action against all areas of corruption and is pledged to offering the ACSU its full support at all times.
“Given the current sensitivities surrounding this issue, ECB believes it is imperative that any serious allegations made against another team or player should be presented through the proper channels to the ACSU. Both ECB and Team England view the comments made by Mr Butt as defamatory and not based in fact.
“Hugh Robertson, Minister for Sport and the Olympics, said: “I welcome the decision by England to play the last two games of this tour. It is a pragmatic decision that is in the best interests of world cricket.”
“Media Statement issued on behalf of the England Cricket Team
“The England Cricket team has this morning issued a statement in conjunction with the Professional Cricketers Association (PCA), following allegations made yesterday by the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board.
“The team deplores and rejects unreservedly the suggestion that any England cricketer was involved in manipulating the outcome, or any individual element, of the third NatWest Series ODI at the Brit Insurance Oval between England and Pakistan last week. The players fully understand their responsibilities as representatives of their country, and would not countenance giving less than 100 per cent in any match they play.
“Andrew Strauss, England captain, speaking on behalf of the team, said:
“We would like to express our surprise, dismay and outrage at the comments made by Mr Butt yesterday. We are deeply concerned and disappointed that our integrity as cricketers has been brought into question. We refute these allegations completely and will be working closely with the ECB to explore all legal options open to us.
“Under the circumstances, we have strong misgivings about continuing to play the last two games of the current series and urge the Pakistani team and management to distance themselves from Mr Butt’s allegations. We do, however, recognise our responsibilities to the game of cricket, and in particular to the cricket-loving public in this country, and will therefore endeavour to fulfil these fixtures to the best of our ability.”
“Angus Porter, chief executive of the PCA, added: “The players appreciate the difficult position the ECB finds itself in, and
is fully supportive of the actions taken by the Board, along with the ICC, to ensure all allegations of wrong-doing are properly investigated and acted upon. We will continue to cooperate closely with the ECB, with the aim of ensuring that the work to root out corruption is not derailed by mischievous attempts to detract attention from the real issues.”
This is an amazing document from an organisation that prefers to understate and rarely deals in feelings. After the distasteful events that had Kevin Pietersen (who he?) getting Peter Moores sacked as coach early in the year, it has been a rough 2010 off the field for the ECB. Just as well the boys have won plenty of cricket games.