Cricket in a right old ‘fix’

Salman Butt. Photo: courtesy AFP

Disgraced former Pakistan Captain Salman Butt and promising 19-year-old sensation, Mohammad Amir, lost their appeals yesterday when the Lord Chief Justice dismissed their claims of disproportionate sentencing in the Lord’s spot fixing case.

On November 3, Pakistan’s Butt, Amir and Mohammad Asif were convicted of spot fixing and sentenced to prison. Butt was given a 30 month sentence and Amir was charged to spend six months at a youth correctional facility. The bookie, Mazhar Majeed, was handed a sentence of 2 years and 8 months.

Asif, who is facing a one-year sentence, is also scheduled to appear. Balham Chambers, a London-based lawyer will be representing him. Unlike his fellow disgraced teammates though, Asif is appealing against the conviction itself.

The Incident

During the course of the fourth and final test match between England and Pakistan, at Lord’s from 26-29 August, it was proved that Butt influenced Asif and Amir to bowl no-balls to signal to Majeed that ‘everything was going according to plan’

Had he not been caught, Butt’s pocket would have been ₤150,000 heavier.

Deadly Impact

Any illegal activity in sport is disastrous, let alone players accepting money to underperform. They represent their country when on the field.  Is ₤150,000 enough justification to betray one’s motherland?

At a time when the International Cricket Council (ICC) is looking to widen the reach of cricket around the globe, the poison of match fixing is the last thing they want. As seen by the misdemeanor of the Pakistani trio, something as small as a no-ball has caused widespread havoc: young talents ruined; old cases dug up; fingers pointed; administrations in uproar. Would someone new want to pursue a sport in such malady?

And what of the loyalists?

The thrill of watching a ‘good game’ is now diluted with persecuting doubts. ‘Wait, this is too spectacular. Could it have been fixed? they wonder.  ‘Can I ever watch a game without being paranoid?’

But it is the players who are true to the game who bear the worst impact of match fixing.

They adhere to rigorous training, tackle overwhelming pressure and display inspiring human toughness to bring glory to their country. But instead of the recognition they deserve, their efforts are rubbished in one simple phrase: ‘Oh, it’s obviously been fixed!’

Change in attitude

Cricket is already suffering from a lack of fan involvement. People are starting to prefer the comfort of their homes to the excitement of the stadiums. Add in the needless Umpire Decision Referral System (UDRS) controversy and the ICC has more than enough on its plate already without having the bane of match fixing threatening to destroy the credibility of the sport.

Punishments and procedures can only go so far in curbing cricket’s worst illness, as seen from previous cases (Salim Malik’s life ban being removed, Marlon Samuels’ light sentence). The incentive is on the players themselves to resist temptation and it isn’t that hard. All one needs to do is remember the pride of wearing the national crest to spit in its face.

Wanting a little extra on the side doesn’t give anyone the right to cheat.

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