Young age, especially the school time, is the most impressionable period in a person’s life. A child always looks for role models who could be among his peers, teachers, etc. but quite often, they idolise sports icons. At the same time, these stars are looked upon to display righteous character. If involved in some turpitude they are no longer considered role models. All over the world, sportspersons enjoy cult status. In our part of the world, cricket is the most followed sport by a mile. Kids simply adore star cricketers. So no surprise that cricketers are often invited as chief guests at the sports functions of educational institutions.
The other day, on television, I was taken aback to see former Pakistan captain Salman Butt at an annual sports day of a school. Moreover, the channel also aired his views about the function. Everyone knows that Salman Butt was involved in the spot-fixing case in the Test match during Pakistan’s tour of England last year. Initially, he was suspended from playing international cricket. After the ICC investigation and hearing, he was banned from the sport of cricket for 10 years. In fact, of the three banned players, charges proved against Salman were most heinous: ordering Amir and Asif to bowl no- balls in the fourth Test.
This scribe was in England when this episode of spot-fixing surfaced. Being a sports journalist, my views about the news were sought by so many of my acquaintances; not only the Pakistanis but also by the English as well as the Indians there. It was a humiliating experience to say the least. Former Pakistani Test cricketer, Wazir Mohammad, the eldest of the famous Mohammad brothers and one of the pioneers of Pakistan cricket, has been living in England for more than four decades. He reflected in a very depressed tone,” Bhai, it has become difficult even to step outside the home. Everyone in the vicinity knows me and I am invariably asked to comment on this spot-fixing saga.” Cricket is more or less an unknown commodity in the USA, yet this incident was in the sports headlines even there. Indeed, this shameful episode has disgraced Pakistan all over the world.
Salman Butt, now proven guilty, who should not have a place to hide in Pakistan, is still being treated as a national star. First, during the cricket World Cup 2011, he was there at a noted TV channel regularly giving expert comments. Then he has been appearing on a fashion channel telling his choices for apparel for different seasons and functions.
But this is too much: VIP guest at a school children’s function.