August 30, 2010

Cricket and Corruption

I literally could not wait for Londonstani's take on this corruption scandal surrounding Pakistan's cricket team*, so I'm jumping the gun here. My father was a sports writer and my mom a basketball coach, so I grew up surrounded by sports, and I am ecumenically enthusiastic about them. I can take as much interest in an American football game as I can in a rugby game and as much interest in a cricket match as I can in a baseball game. A few years ago, I watched New Zealand play England in a cricket test match at Lord's Cricket Ground, which is as hallowed a ground as hallowed gets. (For Americans used to baseball, think Yankee Stadium combined with Fenway Park combined with Wrigley Field combined with Cooperstown and you get a sense of the place's importance in the game of cricket.) So the news that Pakistan's cricket team had possibly rigged the proceedings somewhat last weeked -- at Lord's of all places -- threw the world of sport (outside America) into chaos.

I have wondered, on this blog, whether or not the world has been holding back from donating to Pakistan due to allegations of corruption and terrorism. Were the people of Pakistan being collectively punished due to the culture of corruption in Pakistan's government and the government's ties to violent extremists? I have only anecdotal evidence to support this, including the testimony of one friend who refuses to donate to the relief efforts in Pakistan because, in his words, "At least when a Hatian power broker embezzles my donation I know he's not going to try to kill me with it."

I wonder, though, if this cricket scandal -- which trust me, America, is a big deal in the Commonwealth nations -- will just re-inforce the world's view of Pakistan as a place hopelessly corrupt and therefore not the kind of place we should be giving money to, even for humanitarian purposes. As Steve Coll argued in the New Yorker this week**, Pakistan has a serious image problem in the eyes of the West. (And we the United States in the eyes of Pakistan.) The people of Pakistan might very well be paying the price right now for that image.

(For more on corruption and the floods, check out this post by Max Fisher at the

*Londonstani can still count on me to bowl for Team Khan vs. Team Ms Henley-on-Thames in the much-awaited 20/20 match. But why do I have to tell his "cousin" when I plan on bowling a no ball? ... Too soon?

**I actually did not agree with the general thesis of Coll's argument, which is that economic development would reduce violent extremism. This sounds true-ish, but where is the evidence to support causality between violent extremism and economic prosperity? I have not seen it.