The sentencing of convicted Pakistan cricketers, former captain Salman Butt, and fast bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir, to prison terms ranging from six to 30 months was expected after their conviction in a court in Britain on charges of involvement in fixing outcomes of matches. That three former Pakistan cricketers, all stars in their own right, will be spending time in jail in a British prison will rankle many a Pakistani, regardless of whether he follows cricket or not. But one needs to look at this dispassionately and from the point of view of whether justice has been done, and what this unpleasant and unsavoury episode means for cricket. Clearly, the judge felt that there was enough evidence to convict all three players. Amir, who is a teenager, had appealed for leniency citing his lack of experience and age, however, it seems this was ignored by the judge who said that sending him to jail would be a deterrent to other budding cricketers. Also, evidence may have come up in the court hearings suggesting that Amir had been involved in another incident related to spot-fixing, so his plea that he was coerced on this particular occasion may have been undermined by this. However, lawyers may argue that this other instance wasn’t proven and the judge should have asked the jury to disregard it and should not have considered it when sentencing him.
Has justice been served? Partly. The Pakistan Cricket Board should now wake up and ensure that all its players know what is expected of them as far as match-fixing and spot-fixing are concerned. Of course, the ability to choose between right and wrong is something that is usually instilled in all of us from our early years, but there is a need now to ensure that our cricketers are made aware of the consequences of actions such as trying to fix outcomes of matches when they are contracted to play by the board. Beyond Pakistan, the issue needs to be thoroughly investigated by all Test-playing nations because the betting networks have spread their tentacles far and wide and in the past allegations have been made against players from other countries as well.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 4th, 2011.
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