With the reputation of the game already plunging to previously unexplored depths, the International Cricket Council must waste no time in rooting out the complex webs of corruption that allow agents such as Mazhar Majeed to offer international cricketers bungs. That such criminal networks exist is assured, with Sir Ronnie Flanagan, head of the ICC’s Anti-Corruption and Security Unit admitting last year that this case is merely “the tip of the iceberg”. Indeed, the jail terms handed to Majeed, along with Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif can be seen as an opportunity to usher in a new age of aggressive action against cheating and illicit payments.
The jail terms, only available to the judge since the 2005 Gambling Act, should act as a strong deterrent to any players thinking of accepting payments in the future. The idea that playing bans would deter potential offenders has been shown to be false, with banned players finding income through agents, ‘friendly’ matches and other avenues. However, the prospect of jail adds an extra dimension to potential punishment for match-fixers.
The long-term suspensions of the three players, meanwhile, are a rather more cloudy issue. A ten year ban for Salman Butt is likely to function as a de facto retirement for the 27-year-old former captain, who can happily retreat to his family’s large estate in Lahore after his eventual release from prison. Mohammad Asif, meanwhile, seems unlikely to play again after his latest transgression, which follows previous allegations of doping and even an assault on an international teammate. A fast-medium bowler, his pace is likely to have diminished after seven years without competitive cricket, and he was a divisive figure in the Pakistan dressing room even before the spot-fixing scandal erupted. The only player who can rightly feel hard done by is Mohammad Amir, who has been banned for five years. A supremely talented left-arm pacer in the mould of the great Wasim Akram, the nineteen-year-old was coerced into accepting payments by his captain and his agent. While the judge recognised this, the teenager from the impoverished Sheikhupura region was nevertheless sentenced to two and a half years in a young offenders’ institute.
Although the gifted Amir may struggle to reignite his promising career, the sentences are on balance a good result for the sport. A robust punishment must be set in place for those tempted to spoil the game of cricket, and the game’s reputation can now begin to be rebuilt.
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