Pakistani awards criticised

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The Independent Online

This tour was never meant to proceed peacefully. For that reason, England were probably taking a huge risk by travelling through the Khyber Pass yesterday, though the armed outriders alongside in jeeps considerably shortened the odds of hijack or kidnapping.

This tour was never meant to proceed peacefully. For that reason, England were probably taking a huge risk by travelling through the Khyber Pass yesterday, though the armed outriders alongside in jeeps considerably shortened the odds of hijack or kidnapping.

As it transpired, the trip was uneventful if spectacular and it was left - with Craig White's tight hamstring having cleared up - to the Pakistanis to provide the day's controversial note. Reports have appeared that they are about to award gold medals and inclusion in their newly established hall of fame - an innovation designed to boost further the massive popularity of the game - to four players named in their report on match-rigging.

Saeed Anwar, Waqar Younis and Inzamam-ul-Haq were all mentioned in the 30,000 word judicial report written by Mr Justice Malik Qayyum after his report. But the most contentious award has gone to Wasim Akram, who has still not paid the fine of 30,000 rupees (£450) imposed by the judge for non-cooperation.

The quartet, most vociferously Wasim, have all protested their innocence - none of their names was raised in last week's Indian police report - but on the streets there are not many who would wager that they are all whiter than white.

As the awards are being made by Pakistan's chief executive, General Pervez Musharraf, they are likely not to be postponed. But that has not stopped criticism in the Press. "Another in a long line of ceremonial gestures to establish the innocence of players, who if the public were to be asked, should be thrown out of the team," said Dawn. "The fact that they are being protected says nothing for the acumen of the Pakistan Cricket Board."

England, who are desperately trying to put the Alec Stewart affair behind them, will resume training at the stadium here this afternoon. Stewart was one of the majority of players who went up the Khyber. Only five, including the captain Nasser Hussain, declined the trip, thus spurning the chance to embrace the country's culture as Hussain himself had emphasised the team would do before the tour. For the first time in days, the wicketkeeperbatsman was seen smiling.

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