For a little while there was some hope that Mohammad Aamer might escape some of the worst consequences of his transparent involvement in the Pakistan betting scam.
This was largely because of his age, his scant experience of life beyond an impoverished Punjabi village and models that stretched down from a national president long saddled with the nickname "Mr Ten Per Cent" to the alleged fixer who felt empowered to wake him up in the middle of the night during a Test match and call him "fucker". Yet just how fragile was this possibility of concern for Aamer the victim rather than a sinister young wrong-doer is sickeningly clear now. It depended, after all, on men of age and power who understood the appalling hazards run by this brilliantly gifted, prospective slum-dog sportsman-millionaire.
It seems that such men do not exist in Pakistan, at least in positions of authority or prestige, not even in the iconic person of Imran Khan, who has voiced a few airy platitudes without embracing the greatest human tragedy of the whole affair, the corruption of an 18-year-old.
Aamer may be older than is claimed because of a tendency in some Pakistan villages to be tardy in the matter of registering births and deaths, but he is still plainly lost in an unfamiliar world and without the hint of a fatherly or avuncular hand on his shoulder.
What is certain is that both he and cricket have been disastrously served by the surreal performances of the Pakistan High Commissioner in London and the head of the nation's cricket board. Even as the International Cricket Council was formally leveling charges, and talking of life bans for anyone found guilty, and Scotland Yard spoke about ever more incriminating evidence in the wake of the News of the World investigation, Wajid Shamsul Hasan and Ijaz Butt, were claiming that their innocent crickets had been set up.
It was more than grievous insult piled on the most wounding of injury. It was the most appalling evidence so far that in a game which for some years now has been chasing the fast rupee wherever it can be found, and at any cost to the integrity of cricket, the concepts of shame and reality and some vague sense of responsibility have been steadily ground down.
In Pakistan they have been turned to dust – and severely frayed elsewhere with the fall of the captains of South Africa and India and the suspension of the founder and president of the India Premier League which has been a magnet for the world's stars, excepting those of Pakistan, the poorest of all the leading cricket nations.
In all the rubble and the disdain it is necessary for cricket men of high standing beyond the borders of Pakistan to react to the fact that arguably one of the brightest prospects the game has seen since the rise of the young Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara is in danger of being banished from the moment he became the youngest bowler in history to reach the target of 50 Test wickets.
Already former England captain Mike Atherton has spoken and written powerfully of his horror at the situation of such a potentially gilded youth. It is an example that requires a powerful groundswell of support, an acknowledgement that if Aamer has done wrong, he has also been, we could see clearly enough in the details furnished by the undercover reporters, left horribly abused and unprotected.
The resulting rage in fair-minded people of any station, and any basic level affection for cricket, can only be re-doubled by the refusal of Pakistan's senior representative in this country and their leading cricket official to inhabit the real world.
Perhaps we have seen here more than anything a failure to accept that when corruption takes hold in any society it creates an irresistible force of its own, one which picks out someone like Mohammad Aamer as natural prey.
Certainly a little insight is provided by the Indian Booker Prize-winning novelist Aravind Adiga in his book Between the Assassinations while describing the torment of one of his characters, a Muslim proprietor of a small shirt-making firm after he emerges from a 500-rupee shakedown by a factory inspector.
"Half an hour after the women left the stitching room for the day," Adiga writes, "Abbasi closed the factory and got into his car. He could think of only one thing: Corruption. There is no end to it in this country. In the past four months, since he had decided to re-open his factory he had paid off: the electricity man; the water board man; half the income tax department of Kittur; half the excise department of Kittur; six different officials of the telephone board; a land tax official of the Kittur City Corporation; a sanitary inspector from the Karnataka State Health Authority; a health inspector from the Kanatake State Sanitation Board; a delegation of the All India Small Factory Workers Union, delegations of the Kittur Congress Party, the Kittur BJP, the Kittur Communist Party and the Kittur Muslim League."
In case anyone rushes to point out that Adiga is writing about India's culture of corruption rather than that of their neighbours Pakistan, it should be said that in last year's World Audit anti-corruption league, India were ranked 60 places below the least corrupt nation in the world New Zealand, while Pakistan finished 50 places lower down still, alongside Belarus, the Philippines and Bangladesh.
None of this blurs in any way the difference between right and wrong, or makes the case that Mohammad Aamer should, if he is indeed found guilty, walk away unscathed. But it does give us a little context for the denials of the men who should be facing up to implications of a scandal that has brought cricket so low – and maybe ruined the life of its most brilliant young player.
Villa's vacancy shows up lack of English talent
Whatever Fabio Capello's fate at Wembley last night, it was never going to swing either way the fierce debate between Liverpool's Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher.
Capello-loyalist Gerrard insists that the Italian has better qualifications than any potential English rival, while Carragher says that the job should go to a home-grown candidate, whatever his credentials. Both seem to have dug into their positions with some force, but the feeling here is that if Gerrard wants to step up the argument he is not without considerable ammunition currently being provided by Aston Villa.
As Villa seek to replace Ulsterman Martin O'Neill, Gérard Houllier is reported to be at the top of their wish list, perhaps as director of football working with caretaker manager Kevin MacDonald, who, as his name suggests, is a Scotsman. This would put a French-Scottish duo against the resident cross-town Scotsman, Alex McLeish (below) of Birmingham City.
In Liverpool there is a straight English-Scottish battle between Roy Hodgson and David Moyes, it is true, but only after the lengthy and ultimately counter-productive reigns of Houllier and the Spaniard Rafa Benitez.
In Manchester we have another Scot, Sir Alex Ferguson, vying with an Italian, Roberto Mancini. In London Harry Redknapp salvages a little English pride after succeeding at White Hart Lane a Frenchman, a Spaniard and a Dutchman, but elsewhere in the capital the Premier League challenge is run by a Frenchman, an Italian, a Welshman and an Israeli.
The appalling reality is that in the top flight of the national game not one young English coach has forced his presence, or established anything like a compelling candidacy.
This is the reality that Gerrard confronts and Carragher ignores. It is not one to celebrate, of course, but nor can it be ignored, as the The Football Association did when it announced that whatever the quality of the candidates, England's next coach will be an Englishman.
Meanwhile, the betting is that if Ferguson ever consents to leave Old Trafford under his own locomotion, the club will make Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola their leading targets. Surely no one, including Jamie Carragher, can wonder seriously why.Reuse content