Weeks after the youthful Muhammad Amir was released from a juvenile detention centre in Dorset, the second Pakistani fast bowler, Mohammad Asif, caught up in the 2010 spot-fixing scandal has also been released from behind the bars of Canterbury Jail and deported to Pakistan. Asif was made to serve half the 12-month sentence awarded to him.
What is upsetting is that the bowler seems unabashed by his experience. He continues to deny guilt, insisting that the fateful no-ball he bowled at a specific moment in the match came as a result of directions issued to him by Captain Salman Butt to run in faster. The latter, himself, is currently serving a two-and-a-half year sentence. Frankly, Asif’s attempt to affix all blame on Butt is hard to believe. While Amir had the cover of youth, making it easier to believe he may have been coerced into wrongdoing, this does not hold true for the more experienced Asif. The hearing of the case had also tersely noted that he may well have been involved in past fixing scandals even though there is no proof of this. In such a scenario, focusing on legal flaws in the case and pointing fingers at others seems like an act of cowardice. Asif’s past records also include involvements in drug scandals, which do little to build credibility for the talented bowler.
The release of Asif and the consequent refocus on the fixing business should be seen as a wake-up call for cricket in Pakistan. During the months spent in detention by its cricketers, the Pakistan Cricket Board should have been putting in place a long-term strategy to tackle the problem. The issue is, of course, an international one; the lust for money is universal. But we can make some effort to avoid future embarrassment against this menace and also setting in place mechanisms to both inculcate values in youthful cricketers and offer them an escape route when they find they are being pulled into the fixing trap by forces within or outside the team they represent.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 7th, 2012.
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