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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Making an example

In the next few days Kamran Akmal may finally meet the one bullet he can not dodge when the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) self-proclaimed “Integrity Committee”serves judgment on his immediate (and possibly long-term) future. While the inquiry is long overdue, the completely arbitrary initiation of the investigation may be worth questioning since it appears to have been based on no premise other than a combination of international posturing and the overdue realisation that: “You know what, there is something not quite right about these guys”.
Whatever the rationale was that lead to the investigation and however peremptory it may appear, one thing is for sure. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of guys.
For Kamran, such an inquisition is in itself almost delinquent in its belatedness. Before Kamran was everpictured cruising around London with Mazhar Majeed and Salman Butt, there were ample reasons to haul him in front of a tribunal or, at the very least, discard him from international reckoning based on abject performance alone. Yet, the PCB has repeatedly shirked from taking a decisive step as Kamran, in all fairness, is a vital cog in their limited over plans.
All that has changed over the last few months during which the ICC has been ramping up the pressure on the PCB to adopt a tougher ethical and disciplinary stance. Kamran is positioned to be among the first to be subjected to the heightened scrutiny and perhaps, penalties which may come to define a more vigilant era of player monitoring. And for that he has no one to blame other than himself.
At this point in his career, Kamran should have been a shoe-in for the World Cup squad. A veteran of the team for almost a decade, Kamran’s experience would have been priceless in a young team bereft of its strike bowlers and relying on a raw middle order. His last few international innings’ had been solid and he was beginning to form a promising partnership with Mohammad Hafeez. Over the last few weeks he has also done enoughdomestically to warrant a place in the side, even taking six catches, believe it or not. Going by numbers alone, the recent form, experience and the lack of attacking batting options at our disposal, Kamran was an automatic selection.
But then it’s never been that simple with Kamran, has it? No one should doubt that he is talented and is a natural cricketer just as no one should doubt that his erratic career typifies the inconsistency so characteristic of Pakistan cricket. For every Karachi, there are a couple of Sydneys. For every blinder, there are a multitude of dollies. In a way, Kamran’s penchant for thrilling and disappointing in unequal measure is akin to Shahid Afridi’s. But whereas Afridi has been able to successfully channel his mercurial talent as a launching pad to nation-wide hero-worship, Kamran is almost universally reviled. The highs were simply never high enough. The peaks were not sustained enough. And the failures were simply too unforgivable. The country can excuse Afridi his indiscretions because however gradual, there is a visible attempt to better himself, either in the development of his spin-bowling or the relative maturity in his batting. In Kamran’s case, the same mistakes are repeated over and over again. Why root for a guy who does not care enough to put in the hard work in learning how to take a catch off a spinner?
Despite all that, I remained a proponent of his inclusion in the national side. Inconsistent performances notwithstanding, he adds a balance to the side as an opener which Shahzaib Hasan and Imran Farhat simply cannot. Moreover, we are dead in the water with a specialist keeper like Sarfraz in the limited overs squad who adds nothing with the bat. Lacking a better option, Kamran’s “skills” were necessary.
However, if there is even a grain of truth behind the suspicion that Kamran has been profiting under the table through his insipid performances, then this has to be the final straw in his unfulfilled career. It is bad enough that we have had to put up with his flimsy keeping for the last eight years, but to know that there is a possibility that he’s been exploiting his inadequacies to make a dishonest buck at the cost of our sanity, is absolutely reprehensible.
The PCB will now decide whether Kamran is eligible for selection for the World Cup and an adverse ruling would presumably spell a prolonged expulsion from the national side, if not dealt a fatal blow to his career altogether. The question, though, is whether the evidence supports a decision against Kamran.
The ICC has already investigated and apparently, cleared him of any wrongdoing. Also, one has to question the sincerity of a committee charged with defending “integrity” but headed by Ijaz Butt, which is an oxymoron in of itself. The committee may be merely cosmetic; a demonstration to impress the ICC. So Kamran may just find himself back in the fold. A move which may prove to be potentially dangerous, given the current composition of the squad.
Let’s face it. Kamran is a bad influence. Look no further than his little brother for evidence of Kamran’s dubious mentoring qualifications. Umar would probably be much less of a temperamental drama if he had a positive role-model but, as things stand, he too risks being tainted by the specter of match-fixing. The team currently has a bunch of younger players trying to establish themselves and the last thing we need is Kamran doing to one of them what Salman Butt and Asif did to Mohammad Amir. Once was enough, thank you very much. Kamran has flirted along the fringes of our national set-up long enough. For the good of the future, it’s high time to toss him off.
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