The excellent article currently on ESPNCricinfo by George Dobell and featuring the story of Ian Pont has shown the darker side of cricket in its entirety.
Not the dark side that we are now all aware of; namely that match fixing is still taking place. But rather that those who are courageous enough to speak out are being vilified for simply doing as they have been told, and what they believe to be right.
Pont’s plight is a curious case; he has become a cricketing pariah simply through his bravery in reporting unscrupulous activities surrounding the Bangladesh Premier League. As coach of the Dhaka Gladiators, Pont was approached by one of the owners of the franchise, with a proposal of fixing the upcoming match. It involved swapping captains, changing the starting XI, and including certain players deemed to be open to corruption.
Coaches and players have been extensively lectured at about the need to report even the merest whiff of corruption in cricket to the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU). What Pont was aware of was more than just a rumour, he had a senior official giving explicit and obvious details of an extensive corruption plan.
After much internal debating, Pont decided that he would do exactly how had been advised, and reported the situation to Peter O’Shea to ACU representative at the BPL.
O’Shea managed to convince Pont to stay on at the tournament, after his initial thoughts led to him, understandably, wanting to leave the tournament immediately. It was agreed that Pont would bug his own room in a bit to catch audio evidence of Shihab Jishan Chowdury detailing the fixing in the upcoming match.
Pont was successful in his aim, and secured a clearly overwhelming amount of incriminating evidence against Chowdury. However, due to a technicality, Pont’s evidence was deemed unsatisfactory and no further charges were brought against any of the corrupt individuals involved.
The technicality was that Pont was paid his salary from the Dhaka Gladiators, and therefore a tribunal ruled that he was in actuality being paid to perform an undercover sting.
The entire situation really is farcical. Here is a man, who in the face of possible danger and much ridicule was brave enough to speak out against the corruption in the BPL.
The fact that his evidence was not deemed useful is quite frankly laughable. Pont made it very clear that the only money he wanted was his Gladiators salary, which he was entitled to and which was overdue anyhow. He then, again at the risk of danger, gathered evidence to convict the individuals involved.
If it is ludicrous that his evidence has not led to any crackdown on corruption, it is unbelievable that he his coaching career has suffered as a consequence. This is a man who is easily capable of coaching in many domestic leagues around the world, and in all likelihood, at an even higher level. However, due to his links to corruption, many sides are refusing to go near him.
Surely someone who was brave enough to speak out against corruption in conditions that were both dangerous to himself and his livelihood embodies the characteristics of an exceptional man and coach.
It is about time that somebody grew up and gave him the job he deserves. As cricket fans, we can’t bemoan the growth of corruption within the game, only to be satisfied that man willing to speak out against it, is deemed as a social pariah within the game.