mid-day editorial: Demand clean cricket, but don't walk away

Cricket is a noble game. In fact, lovers of the game felt iconic cricket authors Neville Cardus and John Arlott got it absolutely right when they entitled their joint effort The Noblest Game in their 1969 book.

Match/spot fixing is more than a smudge on the sport and we quite rightly say, ‘it’s just not cricket’ when something goes against the spirit of the game. Last week, Pakistan’s one-day international captain Azhar Ali and T20 skipper Mohammad Hafeez refused to train with tainted Mohammad Amir, the young fast bowler who indulged in spot fixing in 2010 and paid the price through a five-year ban.

Whether Amir should have been allowed to return to cricket at all is another matter. However, now that he has been permitted by the ICC to resume his international career, which quite expectedly had the support of his country’s board, Azhar and Hafeez’s refusal to train with Amir was surprising. This refusal could well have meant that they would not play in the same team as Amir. If this doesn’t entail taking a moral high ground, it is surely tantamount to an unwillingness to play for your country, supposedly the highest honour for a sportsperson.

Azhar and Hafeez were apparently convinced by the Pakistan Cricket Board to stay away from taking a hard stand so the issue appears to have simmered down. At a time when Pakistan is not getting an opportunity to host even a low-profile home series, their players must do everything in their power for Pakistan to flourish. By all means, work towards a cleaner sport and spread the gospel of unadulterated cricket. But when individual players start to choose who to play with, they only amplify the turmoil level and this affects team spirit.

Like in life, there is no perfect scenario and one has to play with the cards they have been dealt, as it were, and do your best for your team. This of course doesn’t mean players have to be submissive, but practitioners of the sport they must always be as long as they are fit and able.

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