Pakistan enter post-Qayyum denial period

Diary from Pakistan

Whatever Lord MacLaurin says (and in Pakistan they rather wish he had said nothing), this country can still lay claim to having conducted the most thorough investigation into match-fixing. The Qayyum Report, running to 30,000 rational, well-argued words, based its findings on the facts it gathered rather than gossip, supposition and innuendo.

Whatever Lord MacLaurin says (and in Pakistan they rather wish he had said nothing), this country can still lay claim to having conducted the most thorough investigation into match-fixing. The Qayyum Report, running to 30,000 rational, well-argued words, based its findings on the facts it gathered rather than gossip, supposition and innuendo.

Suspicion of match-rigging is one thing; proof is quite another. While most taxi drivers here wink and nudge about, say Wasim Akram (who received a hero's welcome when he went out to bat in the Karachi one-dayer), that is what taxi drivers are meant to do. Mr Justice Qayyum is not a cabbie.

However, it seems that Pakistani cricket has entered a period of denial about the whole affair. Wasim, who was, in theatrical terms, given a poor notice by Qayyum, will barely talk about it. His take is that it simply did not happen. Let's get on with the cricket.

Then, there is Javed Miandad, the national team's coach and perhaps the fiercest competitor to emerge from this hardly timorous country. It is widely circulated - though it is hardly evidence in Qayyum terms - that Javed walked out of the coach's job the first time he had it last year because he was alarmed at what was going on. Getting into bed with bookies is not Javed's style: he is too busy trying to win. He scored 7,381 Test runs - a total which remains easily Pakistan's highest - and 8,832 in one-dayers, and is second only to Allan Border in total international runs.

But he, too, is not slow to obfuscate on the issue. When he speaks it is always tempting to investigate his mouth for the signs of butter refusing to melt. He did not create a reputation for being the craftiest man in world cricket by lacking charm, and he still exudes it.

"As far as Pakistan is concerned and as far as I'm concerned I think that chapter has been closed for a long time," he said. "They don't have anything in their minds and I don't want to talk about this sort of thing because it's not our job. It's between the officials and the board - it's their job."

Which brings us to Lt Gen Tauqir Zia, chairman of the board, a military appointment, a man who has seen action on the front line at the North-West Frontier and is not to be messed with. The feeling is that any players tempted by corruption will do so at their peril.

Say that again

Matters can be lost in translation, naturally, and it is certainly not permissible for the English, a steadfastly, not to say arrogantly, monolingual nation if ever there was one, to point the finger at others.

However, it is intriguing to note that what Pakistani cricketers say about the tourists to the English differs in tone and content from what they say to their compatriots. Take, for instance, Moin Khan, Pakistan's captain who spoke after their victory in Lahore on Friday night. In English, he said that he wanted to field first because of the conditions and the playing of three spinners depended on that. He would not be drawn further. In Urdu he said: "Spin could be our trump card. England were a little bit exposed. Our bowlers were under instructions to bowl tight. England crumbled under the pressure." Of course, something might have gone missing in translation.

Then, there is Waqar Younis, who has an article in the the tour's official magazine. Waqar recalls the controversial 1992 season in England: "I joined Wasim to destruct [sic] the English batting. Amidst charges of ball-tampering and the frequently hurled sarcasm I felt energized, never saying die."

And of England generally: "That peculiar aroma, the monotones, boring ambience and a mechanized life attract you little but the wetness, thick biting air and a 10-over spell at Kennington ensures that you go to cricket." Well, it would.

Soothing field

To the westerner the very name is a deterrent: the Gadaffi Stadium. The Colonel and Libyan leader after whom the ground is now called is a bête noir, a bogeyman second only to Saddam Hussain of Iraq.

But the Gadaffi Stadium, where Pakistan beat England on Friday and where the first Test will be played next month, is one of the most pleasing grounds in the world. Its outfield is a lush green, the middle is true and bare. The playing area is surrounded by circular seating consisting of enclosures named after great Pakistani cricketers - as has become de rigueur here - and the whole is topped by a sequence of arches. It is well equipped and there is a freshness and lightness about it not encountered on English grounds.

The ground was opened in the late Fifties, simply as Lahore Stadium then and was originally meant as the central venue for the Asian Games. It should be a soothing place and indeed the 50,000 spectators on Friday seemed less frenetic than their counterparts at Karachi, though these matters are relative. It turned out that there had been what close observers called "gross mismanagement." Thousands of people who had bought tickets were refused entry because their seats had also been allocated to "administration officials." Elsewhere round the ground prices were slashed at the last minute. The PCB were accused of pitching prices too high. Now, that is something we can identify with in England.

Atherton still there

The electronic scoreboard cranked into life immediately as England were sent into bat in Lahore on Friday. It was new technology but it rolled back the one-day years. Opening the England batting it revealed were A J Stewart and, for a couple of overs at least, M A Atherton. Not so. Athers, always risibly underrated as a one-day batsman, last played in 1998. Perhaps the Lahore scoreboard operators were giving us a hint.

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