Say it ain't so Pakistan!

Salman Butt of Pakistan hits out watched by wicketkeeper Matt Prior of England during day four of the npower 3rd Test Match between England and Pakistan at The Brit Insurance Oval on in London, England.


Kai Ryssdal: There's nothing like a good sports scandal to get you going. Baseball has got doping, basketball's got refs on the take. Even Olympic ice skating judges have been known to cheat. And now though -- and not for the first time, either -- scandal in a cricket match. A big one, too. England against Pakistan -- except the match was thrown. Until the scandal broke, commentators in Britain were waxing prosaic about the amazing quality of play in the game.

Cricket commentator: What a day, what a turnaround. There's only one sport that this could happen in, Geoffrey Boycott, and that's just cricket.

Geoffrey Boycott: What I would say, those of who see a lot of cricket -- and there are a lot of people out there watch cricket all their life, which sometimes you see special days that remain in your memory. And this will be one of them.

I can talk sports all day, but I need help with cricket. So we've called Matt Frei. He's a big cricket fan and also the host of BBC World News America. Good to have you with us.

Matt Frei: Thanks for having me.

Ryssdal: This match, of course, will be remembered not for the quality of the play, but for the allegations against the Pakistani team of this bribery.

Frei: Indeed, and quite lowered they are too. I mean, this all came to light when a famous British tabloid -- and it's always a tabloid in Britain -- basically recorded a Pakistani businessman in London secretly accepting a bribe in return for telling Pakistani players in his pay that they should fix the match. And therefore, people betting on that match, knowing a certain outcome, would make an awful lot of money.

Ryssdal: The first thing I thought of, and I don't know how well you know your American baseball, but the 1919 Black Sox and "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and "Say it ain't so, Joe" throwing the World Series. I mean, that's what this is, in the world o' cricket.

Frei: It is. But for cricket, I don't know if you've been to Pakistan or India, or indeed, any part of the world touched by the British Empire once upon a time. I mean, cricket is really a religion in those places. If you go to Pakistan today, every street corner of dry land will have someone with a cricket bat and a cricket ball on it. It is a sport of the people, even more so than baseball in this country. People in Pakistan, certainly that we've talked to on our program in recent days, are furious. They're saying that shooting isn't good enough for these cricketers who've been caught.

Ryssdal: I was just going to say, let me extend the baseball analogy here. I mean, our scandals in baseball in America are doping, and there've been all kinds of congressional hearings and Roger Clemens has been indicted, and yet, people still use performance-enhancing drugs, and clearly, people in cricket are still betting and gambling.

Frei: They are. And I think one has to say here that cricket and gambling they go together at times a bit like apple pie and cream. And then gambling is illegal in many parts of south Asia, so these are illegal gambling rackets, where you can make an awful lot of money. And there's always been that temptation. The really sad thing is that it keeps cropping back. I mean, it's like a bad sore that won't go away despite all the measures that have supposedly been put in place. And also, to be honest, runs counter with the kind of image of cricket that I grew up with, which was basically the game of gentlemen on a large pitch, everyone wearing white, the soft sound of the bat against the ball. Perhaps someone on the sidelines sipping a warm English beer and chewing into a cucumber sandwich. Well, all that, quite frankly, is piffle!

Ryssdal: About the match itself, just before you go, this was on the most famous cricket ground in the world, Lord's in England. It was Pakistan and England. I mean, this was a big deal even before people started cheating.

Frei: The fact that this scandal was uncovered in the middle of this match, in the most hallowed cricket ground in the world, of course, is brazen beyond belief. It's interesting, they were replaying on British television some of the clips where you saw the Pakistani cricketers bowling a ball. And what they did was they kind of overstepped the line and basically threw a non-ball and the commentators were saying, "Hang on a minute, that was really bad. I mean, how could he do something as awful as that and do it repeatedly?" Well now we know why.

Ryssdal: And I won't even ask you to explain the rules of cricket. Matt Frei is a cricket fan. Also, the host of BBC World News America. Matt, thanks a lot.

Frei: Thank you.

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Irony: Pakistanis upset about corruption involving a cricket team. If only they were just as upset about the corruption in their own government.

if you are interested to see the video of the scandal that the British tabloid broke, you can see it here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8JgM34tvQY
Its such a disgrace to a game that is almost like a religion to many in South Asia, like your guest pointed out.

Dear Kai,
Great job on covering present day Cricket Scandel this evening. I have been following MP on-air coverage for about 5-6 years, and it is indeed refreshing to listen to a news that, I am very familiar with.

It is very unfortunate to the world of Cricket and to die-hard fans like me to learn how inappropriate influence match fixing operations would be for the youngsters growing in southeast Asia and in rest of the world who love Cricket. Match fixing Scandels are not new to cricket. It has been present for decades affecting the some of the best players in the world. I just wish people would not taint the game of Cricket based on their greed to earn money.

As a Cricket player myself part Tennessee Cricket League, Nashville, TN and Georgia Supreme Cricket League, Atlanta Georgia, I am truly saddened by the present match fixing incident in UK, because those Pakistan players involved in the current scandles have just made their debut(recent past) in the international Cricket with great skill levels, who truly has the potential to shape the future of Cricket in Pakistan.

It is indeed unfortunate that money always wins the race against honesty and integrity.

Gideon Packianathan
Originally from India, presently living in Hendersonville, TN).

I believe there was one significant inaccuracy in the story about the bribery scandal tainting the cricket series between England a Pakistan. Everything I have reads indicates that the outcome of the match was not for sale, but only something called spot bets. People bet on the smallest detail of a match (Brits, do anyway), so, with inside knowledge, someone might bet and win heavily on when during a match a bowler might bowl a "no ball" by stepping over the line, or how often this would happen. A baseball analogy would be if, with foreknowledge, I bet and won on Manny Ramirez getting tossed after one pitch in his last at bat for the Dodgers. Which unfortunately I did not. While certainly this taints the outcome - and the whole sport - it is not quite as simple - or as difficult - as throwing a cricket match altogether.

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