As the investigation of Pakistan cricket coach Bob Woolmer’s suspicious death continues, the Guardian’s Mike Marquesee insists “the unsubtle innuendo linking Pakistani cricketers to Woolmer’s ghastly murder goes beyond sensationalism. The rush to judgment here is fuelled by that other bane of sports journalism, national stereotyping.”
Pakistan’s shock loss to cricketing minnows Ireland, which led to their elimination from the World Cup, is said to be “under the microscope”. The implication is that the match was fixed and that this is somehow related to Woolmer’s murder. As conspiracy theories go, this one is particularly weak.
Given the team’s abject performance on the day, virtually all the players would have had to have been bribed and the bribes would have had to have been on a colossal scale – sufficient to compensate for the huge financial loss, public humiliation, and termination of careers that would accompany an early exit from the cup. Neither the putative motive nor means are credible here.
There is, to hand, an alternative explanation: in recent months Pakistan has played dreadfully inconsistent cricket. Weeks before the players’ arrival in the West Indies they were beaten by South Africa 3-1, bowled out once for a measly 107 and then for a barely more respectable 153. Ireland had already pulled off a surprise by tying with Zimbabwe days before encountering Pakistan.
The fact that three members of Pakistan’s squad, including the captain, Inzamam-ul-Haq (above), were questioned by police on Saturday was blazed in banner headlines. That police immediately confirmed the questioning was routine and declared that the entire team was free to leave the country was buried in the columns below.
But never mind the facts, it’s easier to stick to stereotypes. We all know that south Asians take their cricket too seriously (which they do), that corruption is rife in these societies (which is true), and that wiliness and duplicity are part of the oriental (or Muslim) character (which is idiocy).
Can I propose a ban on the use of the word “volatile” by British journalists in relation to Pakistani (or south Asian) cricket? Like cliches in general, it’s a tell-tale sign of a failure to reflect, and from a media addicted to the heroes-to-zeroes script, somewhat hypocritical: witness the wild mood swings that accompanied England’s entry and exit from the football World Cup and Freddie Flintoff’s transformation from Ashes messiah to pedalo piss-artist?