At Penpoint That Pakistan lost the final and fourth Test against England, was bad enough, for it lost Pakistan the series 3-1, after the Third Test win had raised hopes. But the breaking of the match-fixing scandal showed up the team before the entire world, and made nonsense of the coming one-day international series between the two. The whole affair once again threw into relief the many opportunities for gambling provided by cricket, and not only provided a reminder of the Sharjah gambling which ruined the matches there, but also of the gambling that openly took place in the 18th century in England, in the era of Lord Frederick Beauclerk, son of a duke, clergyman, renowned single-wicket player, MCC President and inveterate gambler. Paradoxically, he was also one of those who took a leading part against match fixing, which was rife in that era also. The ultimate solution was to expel gambling itself from cricket, which happened around that time. Gambling is supposed to be acceptable, but not match fixing. In the first, teams contend fairly, and the result is not known until the end. But when a match has been fixed, certain players, who have been suborned, agree to play in a way that the other team wins. Those who know in advance who will win have an obvious and unfair advantage over those who dont, and any gambling between them will be unfair. Those who act as middlemen in these wagers, the bookmakers or more popularly the bookies, would have an obvious advantage if they knew the result. Not only can they learn the result, but also the cash resources at their command mean that they can buy results of their choice. This set the stage for the return of match-fixing to cricket. Another major factor is that India has been involved in and the Indian populace is addicted to gambling. India has seen itself rise in the cricketing world at precisely the time that gambling has made a comeback. Then there has been the improvement of India, which has come after the decline of the West Indies and the resurgence of Australia, and after a lot of money has come into the game through cable channels via the World Cups. Even apart from the World Cups, cable channels, with their insatiable hunger for sports, needed cricket. Cricket, through its governing body, the ICC, tried to make itself more international, and tried to hurry up the game with the one-dayers and then the 2020s. The abbreviated forms of the game attracted Indians, and Indian gambling syndicates, which soon realised that Pakistani and Indian players were more subject to temptation. India also got heavily involved in the 2020 form, staging flashy tournaments, importing players from round the world, including countries which had previously imported talent, rather than exported it. However, Indian cricket soon became mired in a betting scandal involving no one less than Lalit Modi, the head of The Indian 2020 League, which had stayed separate from the official cricket board. The Indian 2020 game was totally corrupt, and the reason for the corruption was the gambling compulsion. Gambling had made a comeback because of Sharjah, the neutral venue where Pakistan played with India repeatedly, and every year, because of Pakistan-educated Abdur Rehman Bukh-atir and Asif Iqbal, his Chief Adviser, who had learnt his cricket in India, till he migrated to Pakistan, where he had played his Test cricket, rising to captain, though only for one series, a losing tour of India. There only one player distinguished himself, Javed Miandad, whose last-ball six to win a match put the Sharjah fixtures on the map, and whose long and distinguished service to Pakistan cricket included so many Sharjah one-dayers. He was linked to the first match fixing scandal which, among other things, led to the end of the Sharjah matches. Pakistani and Indian cricketers may have learnt to take money from bookies in Sharjah, but the question arises why they were so willing to fall prey to temptation. For that, it is not enough to look into their social origins, for the ability to be an international cricketer will ultimately depend on capability, which will depend on genes and enthusiasm. As a result, the class origins of cricketers are mostly humble, and the cricketers depend not just on ability, but also approval, to keep going. Because of this, cricketers usually belong to the lower middle class, and they usually have a terrific hunger to progress materially. And so do their families. For people from the subcontinent, this is a very strong pressure. The money that has flowed into cricket means that an international cricketer can usually fulfil most middle class dreams for one extended family. The problem with money is that it is never enough. When the bookies stand around offering more money, the players will fall. Especially when seniors are also taking money (and moving upward). And when society as a whole is on the take, when corruption has reached the highest echelons, then players already half-convinced need no further pushing. It should also be remembered that cricket teams mostly consist of sportsmen, who have concentrated on their game at the expense of their studies, and have been admitted to colleges on sports seats, and are not taught to think deeply. Often enough, perhaps too often, their only means of progress, which is automatically taken to mean conspicuous consumption, is through the game. Too often, the only qualification is the sport, which makes it difficult for them to spend their years after 35 or 40, and especially the late 50s, when non-sporting careers mostly peak. Imran Khans desire to reform Pakistani politics is blamed by many on a desire to continue the adulation of his playing days. The propensity of the players to fall prey to temptation is thus understandable. So is the anger of the fans, who number in their millions. The bettors also bulk very large, and they too demand a fair game. After all, the serious bettor wants to beat the book. It should also be understood that whatever action is taken, PCB Chief Ijaz Butt will retain his job, not because he was not involved, but because he is Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtars brother-in-law, which is why he got the job in the first place. Because of Ijaz Butt, the players involved will make it back to playing, but only after they pay a high penalty. Though initially administrators are faulted as much as players, ultimately it is the players who are penalised, as they will be in this case, mainly because they are frightened young men good at a sport which does not help them in the strange situation they find themselves in. Those more aware of what they do, like politicians, would not get caught, and would deny it if they do, and get a family member to replace them if all else fails. (In that respect, tainted wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal having a brother in the team was presciently political.) However, if Pakistanis feel put upon, there is some justification. After all, Australians are also addicted to gambling, and some players were implicated along with Pakistan in a gambling scandal. India is a bigger market than Pakistan, the gambling syndicates are there, and the players have much the same reasons to get involved, as do the Sri Lankans. There needs to be a deeper investigation if the return of cricket to its gambling roots are to be traced. Cricket was originally a gambling game, and only Victorian morality drove gambling out of it. It is making its way back, and the players are just victims of the process. Email:maniazi@nation.com.pk