Thursday, 24 November 2011

A day trip to Santiago

Even after twelve years, my company still has the ability to surprise me.
Coming to the end of my Cyprus project, I was asked to join a new one in Santiago, Chile.  Now that is a hell of a long way off my normal European beat, but what the hell….it could be fun.
A first – never been to South America before.
Another: never been south of the Equator before.
And another: with a necessary stopover in Sao Paulo, that’s two new countries visited in one day, to add to my world map on Facebook.
 The problem was at the time I was given the option, I was struggling with some hip problems…..after a relatively short 3 hour flight I was in extreme discomfort and could hardly walk for a couple of days afterwards.  I had no confidence that I would be able to make a journey half way round the world without ending up in a wheelchair or something.  (I subsequently had x-rays and an MRI scan….the hips are in a bit of state, but it’s manageable and no surgery needed – at least not yet.  Another legacy from my footballing days, I’m afraid.)   So I took a punt and told my company I would do the trip, provided I had Business Class travel.  I thought that would be the end of it.
Nope.  I was asked to get a doctor’s note confirming the restriction.  I got one – no Economy Class travel over three hours on health grounds (a very accommodating doctor….).  Surprise, surprise – the company said ok, we’ll do it.  So here I am, some 40,000 feet over the Atlantic en route to Santiago, in an extremely comfortable British Airways 747-400 Business Class cabin, listening to George Gershwin at nearly 5 a.m. CET (whatever that might be local I have no idea).  In about 3 hours we’ll arrive in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where I change flights for the last leg across the Andes to Chile.  It will be my fourth flight in 24 hours – yet another first.
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So far it’s been an entertaining journey.
I got to Warsaw airport quite early, before check-in opened, and made myself comfortable waiting to dump my bag as soon as it did.  I didn’t bother to check the Departure Board – no need, I knew the time of the flight as I’d already checked in on-line, and knew where the desk was.  So I hadn’t noticed my first flight to Heathrow had been cancelled – until I wandered over to the desk when a couple of gate agents arrived.   I was told there was fog causing the cancellation, although it was a beautiful sunny winter’s day there.  The BA people quickly transferred me to a LOT flight departing in 15 minutes, and sent me dashing off to the LOT desk to check my bag.  Too late – by the time I got there the flight had closed.  Back to BA.  More tapping on computer screens, and I’m booked to fly to Dusseldorf (departure in 35 minutes) then on to Heathrow.  So to the Lufthansa check in – no problem, bag checked all the way to Santiago and I’m on my way.  Whether my bag is remains to be seen – with flight changes in Dusseldorf, Heathrow and Sao Paulo (the last two not renowned for their efficiency in baggage handling) it will be interesting when I arrive in Chile….
The flight to Dusseldorf was ok, just about an hour, comfortable enough but no food – I was a very late arrival after the meals had been on-boarded.  We arrived there in thick fog, a quick stroll through the terminal and straight on to the Heathrow flight: not even time for a pee.  Another short one – an hour again – but at least I was fed.  Super.  Heathrow was clear, no fog at all so I have no idea why that was given as the reason for cancelling the BA flight – I can only assume the aircraft to be used was stuck somewhere else that was fog-bound.
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I used to use Heathrow all the time, in my early years in the job, before moving to Warsaw.  Since then I’ve been through a handful of times, and noticed many changes, not least the brand new, BA-exclusive Terminal 5.  But I was surprised at the amount of construction work still going on.  The bus from Terminal 1 to 5 wound its way slowly through what must be London’s biggest building site – never mind the Olympic site in Stratford.  Quite how the airport remains operational with all the work going on I have no idea – it’s a tribute to the staff and management of both the airport and the construction companies that it does so with a quiet efficiency. 
I got my boarding pass for Sao Paulo and headed for the BA Terraces Lounge, a first visit (the last couple of transits have been Economy so strictly no admittance).  It’s pretty good I have to say – very comfortable with several different areas (a bar, a cafĂ© area, a coffee shop, an internet zone…) and a fine selection of hot and cold food and plenty of variety on the drinks menu too.  I had a very palatable plate of chicken korma with rice and some fresh fruit and thoroughly enjoyed it.  The lounge compares very favourably with my favourites in Frankfurt and Zurich (see Lounge Lizard from last year).
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And so to my flight to Sao Paulo.  I have a good seat, the food and service has been excellent so far, and the in-flight entertainment system second to none.  There is a huge choice of movies old and new, tv shows, radio programs (listened to a very good one hosted by Ronnie Wood, ex Faces, now the Rolling Stones, that featured some great live music) and CDs – spoilt for choice is really an understatement.
I’m also in some exalted company.  The Brazilian F1 Grand Prix is this weekend in Sao Paulo, so some of the BBC commentary team is on the flight.  The seat in front is occupied by David Coulthard, a superb driver in his day and one of the best ever not to have won a world title (he was unfortunate to drive fairly uncompetitive McLarens and Red Bulls during the years of Ferrari/Schumacher dominance).  Across the cabin is Eddie Jordan, who was team principal at Jordan racing before selling the team a few years back – a great character who amongst his other claims to fame gave Schumacher his first competitive drive.  I think I spotted the anchorman Jake Humphrey too, but he is one class down in Premium Economy……BBC cuts I assume.  I hope they have a good trip and the race is as good as it usually is there, one of the classics.

Update at 21:00 CET (that’s 17:00 Chile local)

Well, I’ve arrived, safe and sound, as did my bag, to my pleasant surprise. 
We landed half an hour early at Sao Paulo (again, a first – they’re really stacking up this trip!) and the connection was possibly the easiest ever: there was a guy waiting at the end of the jetway asking for passengers travelling on to Santiago and elsewhere, checked my name off on a list on his clipboard, noted my baggage tag number and pointed to a sign for Terminal 2.  I followed it up a flight of steps, across a covered walkway and voila – T2.  Not a security or passport check in sight.  Easy peasy.  The OneWorld Alliance Lounge was still closed so we had a 15 minute wait before free coffee and stuff, but it was comfortable, overlooking the apron which at that time of day was very busy, so it was a nice relaxing hour and a half wait.  Then down a flight of stairs to the gate, another short wait and onto a LAN Chile 767 for Santiago (yet ANOTHER first – a new airline added to the list).
The flight was good, clear skies all the way across the south of Brazil, Argentina and across the Andes.  The service was equally good, extremely comfortable seats, tasty breakfast and as much coffee as I wanted in proper sized mugs rather than the paper cups I’m used to.  I dozed on and off over the four hour flight, and then woke when we were instructed to fasten seat belts while we crossed the Andes – although the crossing  in the event was perfectly smooth and effortless.  But the view!  My word….. It was simply breathtaking.  We were descending from 30,000 feet, and by the time we were in the middle of the range it was as if we were drifting along close to the peaks.  The mountains are spectacular, and make the Polish Tatras and even the Alps seem like molehills.  In this hot summer the peaks are still snow-capped, there were volcano cones scattered here and there (one erupted earlier this year, about 500 miles south and caused huge disruption to flights as far away as Australia and New Zealand), and many glaciers cut their way between the mountains.  Now and again, at the bottom of precipitous gorges were a scattering of small towns linked by twisting and winding roads that must be a joy to drive. My camera was packed in my hold baggage so I got no pictures at all – we were through the mountains and on final approach to Santiago airport before I remembered the camera on my iPhone.  When I fly home next month I have a morning flight out of here, so hopefully it will be another clear morning and I can get some pictures then…….
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Leaving the airport took a while, with a long queue for Immigration to stamp the passport, but when I got to the baggage hall the timing was perfect – my bag was just dropping onto the carousel as I arrived.  I had a car laid on and the drive into the city took about 20 minutes, part of it through a long tunnel snaking for maybe 3 miles under the city centre.  The hotel is ok, about a block from the bank, and I have a small apartment with kitchen and separate lounge and bedroom areas.  It’s comfortable enough, although the balcony directly overlooks the block behind so the view isn’t great.  The 17th floor has an outdoor pool “in season” and a lounge, so I checked it out – the pool is no more than 10 feet from end to end, and the lounge has no amenities to speak of (a few tables and chairs, with sun-beds on the terrace outside).  I was hoping for a coffee but no.  It will be ok to relax in the sunshine at weekends I guess.
I had a stroll around the neighbourhood, mainly to find a bank and get some cash.  There seem to be plenty of restaurants with outdoor terraces, including one that was an echo of home.  It’s called Fragola and is basically an ice-cream parlour that also does pastas and salads and coffees.  We have one very like it in Warsaw that does the best ice-cream sundaes I’ve ever eaten – we visit every time we go to that particular Mall (which is often).  I tried the one here, and had a pleasant enough quiche and salad and a latte – I’ll save the ice cream for another day.
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So here I am.  The journey was long, door to door just about 27 hours, but bearable by my elevated passenger status.  I go to the office tomorrow and we’ll see what happens with the project……but if nothing else I’ll make sure I enjoy the Chilean experience for the weeks I’m here.

Then home for Christmas.

Friday, 11 November 2011

The Year Round Island - Part 3

So as this was my last week in Cyprus, I figured I should wrap it all up with a third report, just some final thoughts on the place.   So here goes….
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Well, the advertiser’s tag line of “The Year Round Island” does indeed seem to be accurate.  We’re into November now, and the holiday season is well and truly over – the beach umbrellas and sun loungers have mostly been packed away and the beach front bars are much less crowded – but the weather is still lovely.  It was cooler last week, around 20C and obviously lower than that in the evening, but I was caught out flying down this week.  In Warsaw now, the early morning temperatures (around 5:45 when I leave for the airport) are hovering around freezing, so this week I wore a tee-shirt, a casual shirt, a sweater over them and my Barbour coat.  Plus my usual cap.  As we approached Larnaca airport the captain came on the PA – “It’s a lovely day in Cyprus, no cloud and 25 degrees Celsius.”  So a striptease in the baggage hall as the coat and sweater went into my suitcase, and I was still hot in the 2 casual shirts.  It’s been the same all week, shirt sleeve weather – no jacket required.  It actually makes packing a little tricky – you need to carry stuff with you to wear back home at the end of the week, when it could be cooler still, mixed in with what is still essentially summer clothing for here.  It’s easy to get caught out – I remember us coming home from a holiday in Malta one October about 7 years ago, where the weather had been similar to Cyprus now, very hot and sunny, and landing in a blizzard in Warsaw.  We were being picked up by my brother-in-law and he was stuck in traffic, so we shivered in light shirts and summer clothes for half an hour waiting for him to arrive.  At least global warming seems to be making a difference and October snow in Warsaw seems a thing of the past…..

Driving in from the airport this week, we were diverted off the motorway for some reason, and ended up driving into Limassol along the old road that runs the last few kilometers along what was once clearly a beach side road, but the sea-view is now largely hidden by a succession of hotels great and small.  It’s called now the Tourist Area, with good reason.   Between some of the buildings the beach is in view, and it was largely deserted.  But in a few places there were people still relaxing and taking some late autumn sunshine, and even a few people swimming in a still sparkling blue Mediterranean.  I would love to have joined them……it was like a summer’s day back home in Poland or the UK.
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The tourist demographic has noticeably changed as well.

When I came here in August, there were legions of the young and the beautiful, parading around in the briefest of swimwear, shorts and sarongs and flimsy dresses leaving little to the imagination.   It was indeed a fine sight.  But as the weeks have passed, the body beautiful has given way to the body saggy, as the average age of visitors has gone from maybe 25 to three times that.   The Saga Louts are in town, big time (I should explain that to non-British readers – in the UK there is a holiday company, Saga Holidays, that specializes in package tours for the over-60s, and their behaviour can be a little less than appealing too, given a few sweet sherries).   So it’s now closer to my age group sitting around the hotel pool, or visiting the sea-front restaurants for lunch and a burger in the evening…….   And good luck to them!   I hope I’m still able and affluent enough to travel to beach resorts like this in my 70s and 80s as well, to get some late sun and ease the aches in joints that have seen better days.
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You may have noticed from some of my other blogs that I have a love of the sea and island communities.  It has always been in my mind to retire one day and buy a little place on the coast somewhere, a little cottage to relax in, read my books, listen to my music, watch tv, write that novel and biography I’ve been planning in my mind for years, all the time listening to the wind buffeting the trees outside and the surf crashing on a nearby beach.   Cornwall was always a favoured spot, especially the Roseland Peninsula around St. Mawes – less wild than the more northerly Atlantic coast and the westerly tip of the county, with more green woodland and hedgerows and lovely sheltered little coves and fishing villages like Portscatho and Veryan.  I haven’t been there for many years now, since my First Family’s adolescence, so it’s probably changed a lot now – which would be a pity – but for me at least it’s one of the most beautiful places in Britain.  I must take Ania and the kids there too – I’m sure they would love it.

The Polish coast as well has some lovely little villages, completely different in character to anything on offer in Britain – or indeed anywhere else that I’ve been to – and besides still offers great opportunities to buy land and property at reasonable, almost bargain, prices.  

But Cyprus, on what I have seen during these last three months, is a place I could happily retire to.  The climate is lovely, the people, at least those I have come into contact with (and I discount completely here the people in the bank) have been warm and friendly, whether British ex-pat or locals.  There is a great variety of shops and restaurants, prices seem to be reasonable in most of them, and in the supermarkets and stores food and household goods seem cheap enough.  As I wrote before, it’s very English in character, even down to driving on the “correct” side of the road.  I’ve felt more at home here than most other places I’ve visited.
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The last couple of weeks, the inbound flight from Vienna has taken a more westerly route.  This has afforded a couple of splendid aerial views of another old stomping ground of mine, Sofia in Bulgaria, nestling as it does on a plain surrounded by mountains that are now showing a first dusting of snow on the highest peaks.   From there, the flight clips a corner of the Sea of Marmara, then crosses Turkey, hitting the Med around Antalya, flies down the west coast of Cyprus and along the south coast to Larnaca airport.  As the weather has been brilliant, it’s given a superb view of the island’s landscape that I hadn’t appreciated before.  On the more easterly route, the flight crosses Nicosia and straight south to Larnaca, and that end of the island, though hilly, is largely arable – plenty of farms and olive groves visible as you come down.  But the western end of the island is much more rugged.

There is a mountain range, modest, not even alpine in its height, but big enough.  There are a couple of spectacular looking gorges carved through them just to the north of Paphos, running down to the sea,  that look as though they would be an entertaining hike, as well as some quite sizeable lakes in the highlands.  I’d like to return for a few days someday, rent a car and explore these highlands more thoroughly.  The exercise would do me good, I’m sure.

By staying to the coasts around Limassol, I’ve really limited myself very much – even though I thoroughly enjoyed lazing on the beaches and swimming in the Med on the weekends when I stayed here, early in the project.  Clearly, there is much more to Cyprus than I have seen, a much bigger variety of scenery and attractions than I had realized.  I think a spring visit would be good, or again at this time in another year, out of the blistering summer heat……with the Year Round Island tag proven it’s something to plan for the future certainly, with the family next time.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Pakistani spot fixers

Pakistan is a country I’ve never visited, and one I’ve never wanted to go to.   The great England all-rounder Ian Botham once memorably described it, back in the early 80’s, as the “sort of place you send your mother-in-law on holiday.”  For that little gem, just before an England cricket tour there, the great man was severely reprimanded by the game’s then governing body, fined by the team’s management and roundly condemned by the British and Pakistani press, whilst at the same time having many a glass raised in his honour in pubs and clubs throughout the country.
Since then, it has suffered a decline in standards that were clearly already low.  It has suffered many natural disasters, most recently wide-spread flooding that ruined a large percentage of its arable land and caused billions of dollars-worth of infrastructure damage, including entire villages washed away leaving much of its population homeless and living in tents.   It has lived through a military dictatorship, then a more even-handed military rule and is now, technically at least, a democracy – although one that is accused of widespread corruption and human rights abuses.  Its northern provinces border Afghanistan, and are a lawless mountainous wilderness where the tribal elders rule rather than any elected representatives.  The region is recognized as a safe haven for Taliban “freedom fighters” – for which read Islamic fundamentalists who wish to regain control of Afghanistan and re-impose the brutal regime they governed the country with before being forcibly evicted by US-led forces as part of the War on Terror ten years or so ago.   It is also a haven for al Qaeda extremists, and indeed Osama bin Laden, that organisation’s leader, was holed up quite openly in a small town only about 50 miles from Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, within yards of the nation’s police academy, for many years, until he was killed by US forces, earlier this year – much to the outrage of many Pakistanis.  
So not a very nice place then.

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But throughout all this, its cricket team has been highly regarded, and at times rated the best in the world in one form of the game or another.  At times brilliant and at others rubbish, it has been as erratic as, say, England…….but because the sport is so popular in Pakistan (far more so than in England, if a little less than in India, where cricket is a religion) its players have always been considered national heroes and afforded a lifestyle beyond the wildest dreams of the vast majority of the population. 
Unfortunately, with that elevated status has come greed.  The vast riches (at least by Pakistani standards) and adulation has been insufficient for some players, and there have been allegations of match fixing and corruption for years.  Gambling is endemic throughout the sub-continent – as prevalent in India as in Pakistan – but illegal, and so this huge industry has grown under the control of criminal syndicates.  But the betting is not merely on the result of any given match: you can bet on pretty much anything.  How many wides will be delivered by the bowlers between lunch and tea intervals, for instance, or how many sixes a particular batsman will hit during the match.  Even whether the opposition captain will wear a cap or a sun hat when coming out for the coin toss before start of play.
With such a wide range of possible wagers, and such huge numbers of people willing to take a punt on them, massive amounts of money can be made by these syndicates, and with more money on the table comes of course a desire to “influence” the betting.  Enter the players.
Cricket is team sport, and I don’t believe it is possible for an individual to win a game on his own.   There are just too many variables that are beyond the control of even the best players – the performances of 21 other players, to start with, plus those of three umpires.  The weather.  The state of the pitch.  No, it’s just not possible to “fix” an entire match and guarantee a particular result, no matter how much cash is at stake.  However, if a syndicate can buy off a player or two, paying them to take particular actions – dropped catches, for instance – then huge amounts can be made without necessarily changing the result of a match, and hence without drawing much attention to what is going on.  
But cricketers talk to each other – it’s a great part of the game, even at the highest level, two teams socializing in the dressing rooms and the bar after the day’s play that is missing in most other sports – and rumours of “spot fixing” (as the practice is known) have been around for years.  Pakistan and its cricketers have always been at the forefront of these rumours, but nothing has ever been proven.    There was one wicket-keeper, several years ago, described by a Daily Telegraph reporter in a pre-tournament preview as being “excitable but poor, given to appealing every time he finds the ball lodged in his gloves, whether or not it has gone anywhere near the bat.”   A perfect candidate for the spot-fixer – no-one would be surprised if he spilled the odd chance.  The rumours swirled around, he dropped as many chances as he pouched, but nothing was ever proven one way or another.  There were other players implicated over the years, but no proof.
Then last year, the team toured England, and it all fell apart.  In true British tabloid fashion, the now defunct News of the World mounted an operation that resulted in the agent of three of the team’s leading players, including the captain, being filmed receiving GBP150,000 in cash, in return for no-balls being bowled at specific times during the Lords test.  The man paying over the money was a NotW reporter (who had pulled off other stunts in the past, including one on the England football manager Sven-Goran Ericsson).  Some of the money (marked of course) turned up in the hotel rooms of the implicated players.
Sure enough, the next day at Lords, the three no-balls were delivered right on cue.  They weren’t even subtle – overstepping the line by a foot is not something that will happen accidentally at that level of cricket (and is unlikely even on the village green) – and some of the commentary team made statements that suggested something might be amiss, but without stating any clear accusations (as of course they couldn’t, without proof).

The story broke, ruining the entire series as the players, predictably, denied everything.  It rumbled on, and eventually the Crown Prosecution Service charged them.  They were all banned by the International Cricket Council pending resolution of the case.   The court proceedings have just finished in London and all three have been found guilty – it transpired that one of them, the youngest, a mere 18 years old at the time of the match, and an exceptionally talented fast bowler, had admitted to the offence before the trial started.  All three now face jail terms, their careers over.

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In a sense, it’s a disappointing ending to the affair, as the only people involved who have been caught and punished are the three players, and the agent, who it turns out pleaded guilty before the trial commenced and in so doing implicated a number of other players in the Pakistan team as well as in others.  The syndicate that bought them remains intact (and unknown).
The hope is that, by imposing a strong sentence on them a warning will be sent to other cricketers (or indeed other sportsmen) that if you get mixed up in this sort of thing and get caught, you will be hammered by the law and your career ruined.   But I’m not so sure that will happen – ten years ago, South Africa’s cricket captain Hansie Cronje owned up to match fixing, but without implicating other players specifically (although stating the practice was widespread).  He was of course banned from all forms of cricket for life but escaped a jail term.   He ended up topping himself, his life in ruins.    If an example like that failed to curb the involvement of players in match fixing then frankly I can’t see that banging up three Pakistanis in Brixton nick (or wherever) for a few years is going to make much difference either.
No-one knows still how widespread this issue is, and the ICC’s Anti Corruption Unit (charged with investigating all accusations of match or spot fixing and basically breaking the syndicates) is pathetically under-funded and under-resourced and seems to be making no real progress.   Pakistan’s cricket authorities, beyond making statements about how these players have disgraced not only cricket but the country itself, do not seem to be doing a lot about solving the problems either.  Nor does the country’s government.  Not, for that matter, any other government , beyond the UK, which at least brought this case to a successful conclusion and has three brand new prisoners to show for its efforts.
The problem, of course, is where to start, when the leading syndicate members are still largely unknown or protected.    There are such vast sums washing around that players will always be tempted to take the money in return for a simple dropped catch, especially those from the more impoverished nations, like Pakistan, and Bangladesh, and even India.  But no country and no player is immune from the temptation – there have been statements implicating Australian cricketers as well.  Perhaps legalizing betting in the sub continent, moving it out of the underworld and legislating and controlling it, might be a start, but my feeling is that it will make little difference – the big money will still remain in the control of the spot fixers who will continue to find ways of operating outside the law of the land.   Paying the players more is unlikely to make a huge difference either, at least at the top of the game – they are all richly rewarded in any case, not only contractually by cricket’s governing bodies but from lucrative advertising endorsements too – but there will still be those who want more and are prepared to run the risks for it.  It’s human nature, I’m afraid.
The cricketing authorities certainly need to do more to address the problem.   Look in any commentary box at any test match anywhere in the world, and you will find teams of people, ex-players, with years of experience at the highest levels of the game, watching and commentating on the play.  They see things that do not look right that might be missed by the average punter, and could be a valuable first line of defence if proper reporting lines and, more importantly, follow up on their suspicions were put in place.  But this seems not to be the case: one of the BBC’s leading commentators has stated that he reported the three no-balls in the Pakistan case at the time to the ICC Anti Corruption Unit as being suspicious, but never even received a call back as acknowledgement, never mind a request for further information.    Which is disgraceful really.
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I used to play cricket, as I’ve written on here before.  Not to a particularly high standard, admittedly, but it has given me some kind of an insight into all this. 
We used to play on village greens, very picturesque, some of them, with an old churchyard on one boundary, the village pub on another boundary, maybe the village shop or school there too.  The games were always competitive, but also fun – win, lose or draw you enjoyed it and the after match socializing perhaps more than the match itself.
But the thing is, we always played to win.  The idea of throwing away our wicket, or deliberately dropping a simple catch, or overstepping on purpose just did not exist.  It was cheating.  Pure and simple.  We paid good money to play this lovely, quintessentially English game, and most of us probably would love to have been good enough for it to be the other way around and be paid to play.    Most of us were upset when Australian tycoon Kerry Packer bought the best players in the world and created his own World Series Cricket – mercenaries, we cried, only in it for the money!  Which was true, actually, but when you looked at the money some of the best players in the world were being paid by their counties it was understandable.  Here were players respected the world over whose contracts only covered the summer months, and who were therefore unemployed during the winter months (unless of course they were selected for overseas tours, but even that did not compensate financially for several months with no real income).  They were family men, with mortgages to pay and children to support who were earning not a lot more than I was.  There was no sponsorship in those days to supplement the income, and the after-dinner speaker circuit still its infancy.  So Packer’s offer was quite naturally tempting to any player and no surprise that so many players signed on the dotted line.   Now if any players could be expected to succumb to the idea of match fixing for money, it was these guys – but it just didn’t happen.  First and foremost they were sportsmen – poorly paid, perhaps, but sportsmen nevertheless and the idea of cheating for money wasn’t there – at least as far as this rose tinted spectacled observer is concerned.
But the Packer era brought about a sea change.  More money came into the game, in match sponsorship and eventually individual player sponsorship.  Ultimately it led to the lavishly rewarded players of today.  And this is why I find it impossible to understand the behavior of these three Pakistani players.  I can accept (or at least understand) the greed in any individual in seeking a quick and easy buck, but I just cannot understand why someone would be prepared to cheat in this way to do so.  It’s not only letting down your teammates or your club or country or whatever, but it’s letting down the entire sport and all its followers and all it has stood for down the years.  It’s a betrayal of every six or seven year old, playing in the back garden with his first cricket set and his doting parent.  It’s a betrayal of every old pro, retired at 40, to a postman’s life or whatever.   
There is no excuse for it.   And these three greedy men make me sick.