Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
On Wednesday, Pakistan opener Sharjeel Khan received a five-year ban for his involvement in a corruption scandal in this year’s Pakistan Super League (PSL).
However, two-and-a-half years of the five are suspended, meaning that the 28-year-old will be allowed to return to international cricket in the second half of 2019.
Sharjeel, who represented Islamabad United in the tournament, was found guilty of breaching Article 2.1.1, 2.1.2, 2.1.3, 2.4.4 and 2.4.5 of the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) anti-corruption code.
- 2.1.1 Fixing or contriving in any way or otherwise influencing improperly or being a party to any agreement or effort to fix or contrive in any way or otherwise influence improperly the result, progress, conduct or any other aspect of any domestic match, including (without limitation) by deliberately underperforming therein.
- 2.1.2 Ensuring for betting or other corrupt purposes the occurrence of a particular incident in a domestic match.
- 2.1.3 Seeking, accepting, offering or agreeing to accept any bribe or other reward to (a) fix or to contrive in any way or otherwise to influence improperly the result, progress, conduct or any other aspect of any domestic match or (b) ensure for betting or other corrupt purposes the occurrence of a particular incident in a domestic match.
- 2.4.4. Failing to disclose to the PCB Vigilance and Security Department (without unnecessary delay) full details of any approaches or invitations received by the participant to engage in corrupt conduct under this anti-corruption code.
- 2.4.5 Failing or refusing to disclose to the PCB Vigilance and Security Department (without unnecessary delay) full details of any incident, fact, or matter that comes to the attention of a participant that may evidence corrupt conduct under this anti-corruption code by another participant, including (without limitation) approaches or invitations that have been received by another participant to engage in conduct that would amount to a breach of this anti-corruption code.
With Sharjeel having committed a number of grievous offences and ruining the reputation of Pakistan cricket and the PSL, one has to wonder why he didn’t receive a harsher punishment.
Let’s travel back to 2010 to that infamous Test between Pakistan and England at Lord’s, where it emerged that then-captain Salman Butt and the pace duo of Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif had taken part in a spot-fixing scandal.
The cricket community was rocked to its core and people were questioning why the trio had decided to leave a permanent stain on the sport in exchange for money.
All three players served a five-year ban and spent time in prison for the crimes they had committed.
This in itself should have been a warning while also serving as a reminder going forward, but Sharjeel’s decision to delve into the the shadowy world of spot-fixing and corruption backfired and he now has to pay the price.
However, the PCB shouldn’t have shown him any leniency as not only did he accept a bribe to engage in spot-fixing, but he also withheld information from the board when he had the opportunity to come clean.
With the painful memories of 2010 still lingering like a dark cloud over Pakistan cricket, the PCB should have made an example out of Sharjeel and banned him for life as he did not learn from the episode involving Butt, Amir and Asif seven years ago.
Furthermore, with the players constantly receiving education seminars on corruption and fixing, Sharjeel was equipped with all the knowledge he needed to stop it from happening. Instead, he chose to put himself ahead of his country and the integrity of the sport, and that in itself should have been enough for the PCB to say that he didn’t deserve another opportunity to play competitive cricket.
The PCB also missed out on the opportunity to send a clear and direct message to all the current and future players as a five-year ban with two-and-a-half years suspended doesn’t have the same kind of impact a life ban has.
With Sharjeel being just 28, he can still revive his international career once his ban comes to an end. This doesn’t serve as much of a deterrent for the future generations as they may decide to toe the line, knowing that if they get caught, they still have a chance of donning the Pakistan jersey again in the future.
A life ban, on the other hand, would have been the huge wake-up call Pakistan cricket needed as it would make future players reconsider the idea of getting involved in illegal activities since they are gambling with their entire professional career.
The PCB will, without a doubt, be tired of having their name dragged through the mud due to the action of a handful of players, but they were presented with a a golden opportunity stop the rot. Instead of doing so and standing firm in the fight against corruption, they backed down and let Sharjeel get away with the minimum punishment, thus letting a chance to make an example out of him vanish into thin air.
Feature written by Bimal Mirwani