Since I don’t have any special interest and don’t follow the game of cricket for long, I can neither comment about the role of Minhajul Abedin Nannu as chief selector in the downtrend of team’s performance, nor can I say whether Ashraful really performed in the domestic circuit to be selected for the national team. I don’t even know whether Ashraful performed better and got overlooked in the team’s selection only because of Nannu’s non-cooperation. My interest in the matter is from a different perspective.

It was expected that Nannu’s reaction or explanation to that will also be limited to cricket only. Nannu did that but he did not stop there

Ashraful began the debate remarking about the selection committee in an interview with a private TV channel. What he said was plain and simple criticism from the cricketing point of view. It was expected that Nannu’s reaction or explanation to that will also be limited to matter of cricket only. Nannu did that but he did not stop there. Instead, he attacked Ashraful personally as well and this is the topic of my discussion. He said, “No good advice can be expected from a cricketer who became a traitor and was banned for match fixing.”

Is match fixing treason?

The reason behind Nannu’s terming ‘match fixing’ (though Ashraful was found to be guilty of ‘spot fixing’) treasonous is that there is an established conception in our society which I call “cricket patriotism”. Let’s take a look at a recent incident. There was a raucous debate about a certain player’s “patriotism” in the beginning of 2021. Shakib Al Hasan sought NOC from the board to play in the IPL over national team’s duties. Many people became extremely critical of why Shakib Al Hasan was thinking of playing in the IPL just for the sake of money instead of serving the national team. Almost all said Shakib has been forgetting the country for the sake of money.

The reason behind Nannu’s terming ‘match fixing’ (Though Ashraful was found to be guilty of ‘spot fixing’) treasonous is that there is an established conception in our society which I call “cricket patriotism”

Then the most important question is whether Shakib was playing for the national team without money? Would anyone have agreed to play for the national team if there was not the chance of earning huge amount of money form there? Is it unethical if an out and out professional player tries to boost his income? I know very well that many would say, why did he not tour in Sri Lanka accepting his pecuniary loss and respecting the nation. Shakib could have accepted the loss, many would say.

I am sure Shakib would have coveted to play in the national team if there was not any IPL. When there was no IPL or other franchise leagues, many youth would desire to play for the national team. But would they have desired so much to play if there were not any scope to earn money from remuneration, advertisement and other sources?

Many players have reportedly taken early retirement from international cricket just to play in franchise leagues. This is not connected to patriotism, rather money. Franchise leagues have brought forth the chance of calculating “opportunity costs” and the professional players are just doing that.

There was no problem if sports were mere entertainment to people. The problem is globally sport is nowadays an unimaginably humongous business sector. That’s why its sellers have been marketing many explanations based on the games. Since the game of cricket is the main sport in this region, that’s why it’s easier for people to pretend to be patriots in Bangladesh through cricket.

There are reasons to raise questions about this “cricket patriotism”. There would be queues for the ticket of cricket matches since the early midnight, there will be victory processions, but people would not even talk at the tea stalls and on social media about serious loss of country’s interests let alone taking to the streets. Unbridled corruption has engulfed the country, a whole generation is on the path of going astray because of the drug menace. Rape, murder and other extremely nefarious types of crimes have spread in every nook and corner of the country; a huge economic inequality between rich and poor has risen in the country; above all, voting, the minimum base of a democratic state, has turned into a farce these days. Not many people seem to be concerned about all these.

Unbridled corruption has engulfed the country, a whole generation is on the path of going astray because of drug menace; rape, murder and other extremely nefarious types of crime has spread at every nook and corner of the country; a huge economic inequality between rich and poor has risen in the country; above all, voting, the minimum base of a democratic state, has turned into a farce these days. Not many people seem to be concerned about all these

We remain absorbed in “cricket patriotism” as we do not feel the actual patriotism in these fields. Nannu has specifically taken up this mentality of the people. According to many of us any people involved in the national team’s match fixing could be called traitor. A minimum amount of common sense tells us that match fixing is a crime but not treason.

Will Ashraful be dubbed “match fixer” his whole life?

Following the investigation into match fixing in BPL (Bangladesh Premier League), once a poster boy of Bangladesh cricket, Mohammad Ashraful acknowledged his involvement in spot fixing in an international match. He mentioned names of three more famous Bangladesh cricketers who had shown him the way. None of those three cricketers acknowledged their involvement and that’s why they were not punished. Ashraful acknowledged his responsibilities and accepted the punishment. He served the ban and since returning to the field has been struggling to prolong his career.

The question is why a person will have to hear the allegations of a past crime for which he already has served his punishment? Will Ashraful be dubbed “match fixer” in any debate for his rest of the life?

Our mentality towards criminals

The way Nannu has hit out at Ashraful bringing forth his past crime is actually typical of our society. Almost all of us nurture an extreme level of hatred and vengeance towards criminals.

Crimes are as old as the civilisations. Crime is a common thing in the society and people around us including our relatives commit those. In our country we believe, this could be curbed through exemplary punishment. This is not so simple but that is for future discussion.

The person who has been punished by the judiciary or any other agency for his crimes has paid the toll for his crimes. When that person returns to us after serving the punishment, we should never talk about that crime anymore. Hitting out at that person by mentioning that crime means that society is not even on the way to be civilised.

A civilised state and society should target to create such an environment where people’s proclivity towards committing crimes decrease. Even then there will be some crimes. In those cases, not punishment, rather we need to help those people through different measures to detach them from the criminal tendency. Then they will reenter the society like before. None will hurt them by peeking into their past crimes.

Let all people from petty criminals, who were involved with spot fixing, to people who were involved with big crimes rejoin the society after serving their punishments. We should be able to accept them without any reservation. Otherwise, none will be able to save this society from turning into a haven of criminals.

* Zahed Ur Rahman is a teacher at Independent University, Bangladesh.

* This op-ed, originally published in the online edition of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten in to English by Shameem Reza

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