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January 5, 2011

Pakistan cricket

Forsaken trio face toughest test

Kamran Abbasi
Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif leave the team hotel in Taunton for London, Taunton, September 1, 2010
Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Amir and Salman Butt shouldn't be expecting friendly verdicts in Doha  © Getty Images
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In the middle of last year, three men held the future of Pakistan cricket in their hands. A young captain in command of possibly the most compelling new-ball partnership in world cricket. A triumverate that might save Pakistan cricket from implosion. Instead Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif, and Mohammad Amir face calamity. Pakistan cricket is once more on the brink of disgrace.

The three players have responded to adversity in very different ways. Butt has been most vocal with shifting statements of bravado, innocence, and counter accusation. Amir has spoken up too, but generally to extract sympathy for his plight, describing the current proceedings as the toughest test of his career. Meanwhile, Asif has been monkish in his silence. The differences reflect their personalities to some degree but are probably most indicative of the legal advice they have received.

Their cricket board, for its part, after an embarrassment of bluster has virtually abandoned the defendants. Bluster comes easily to Pakistan cricket administrators and politicians, hence this dramatic change, after the intervention of the ICC to improve anti-corruption mechanisms within Pakistan cricket, presents a bleak outlook for Butt and his fellows. The present and future of Pakistan cricket forsaken on a nod, wink, and slap from the ICC.

With the reputation of Pakistan cricket about to be dragged through another gutter, whatever the outcome of the Doha tribunal, the cricket board should not be allowed to slip into the shadows so easily.

Players are responsible for their individual actions and, at the very least, for the friends they choose and whose advice they follow, but it is the PCB that facilitated the creation of a necrotic environment around the national team. The PCB and its chairman have survived this scandal relatively unscathed. Ironically, the instability of the current Pakistan government is a bigger threat to the current PCB regime than any sanction from ICC.

The Doha tribunal is the first test of the ICC's new anti-corruption code. Video recordings present worrying evidence against the players. Haroon Lorgat, ICC chief, is determined to flex his muscles. His organisation has never deviated from its determination to prosecute. What would be the ramifications for the integrity of international cricket of a failed case against spot-fixing? The ICC must have thought this one through, and supporters of the three cricketers should not expect good-news verdicts.

On the face of it, Butt is in the deepest trouble. He was the closest associate of Mazhar Majeed. Pakistan's bowlers were under his instruction. He had the most money in his room. Subsequently, Butt has made the most noise. His is the key verdict. If Butt is cleared then so must be his fellows. Equally, Butt could fall alone or earn the harshest punishment.

Asif's record of previous indiscretions, one of which is the reason why the hearing must be held in Doha and not Dubai, places him in a precarious position. Serial offenders, whatever the offences, can expect to be more severely punished. A further ban could leave Asif with insufficient time and heart to stage another comeback.

Which leaves Amir with the best prospect of leaving Doha with an opportunity of resurrecting his career in international cricket. Leaked testimonies of Waqar Younis and Shahid Afridi certainly suggest that possibility. The ICC can deliver life bans or less severe punishments depending on degree of involvement, and Amir will probably seek to argue complete ignorance of any spot-fixing arrangement even if that charge is proven against others.

Yet no true cricket supporter should seek clemency simply because of affection for Pakistan cricket or any individual cricketer. Nor should people seek punishment for the forsaken trio because of any distrust of Pakistan or its cricketers. A just verdict based on the evidence and devoid of emotion is essential.

Indeed, the three players are not the only ones on trial in Doha. By proxy, the PCB's failed system of governance is under scrutiny, as is the fairness of the ICC's new anti-corruption code. Whichever way Michael Beloff's hammer falls, one conclusion is predetermined: the integrity of cricket can only be further damaged by the events that will unfold in Doha.

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here

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Keywords: Corruption

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Posted by Shafiq on (March 6, 2011, 10:57 GMT)

There are so many different strands of opinion in this case. In my view the right course is to see the evidence and then decide on the guilt in a proper forum. The author is right in his view of the PCB. One thing is certain that PCB and the Pakistan High Commissioner are not going to have any influence on the case that is going to be decided in the UK. That is the real crunch decision. It has nothing to do with one's sympathy or favour. First thing first. Are they guilty. My view after looking at the situation is that they are, albeit, to varying degrees. Worst still, they are not going to escape justice in the UK, because the people involved are hard headed professionals and they do their job well. The Police investigates, the Prosecuting set up looks at the evidence and decides if there is evidence to warrant conviction. I do not expect them coming out of the court smiling. I do not think they will appear in front of the court in the UK. If they do,the writing is on the wall. Shafi

Posted by fazal on (January 12, 2011, 18:13 GMT)

It appears that gulf between players and PCB is wider then anticipated. PCB under the leadership of current chiarman has touched the zenith of the depths ever imagined. It is the duty of PCB to nurture the players and be responsible for their actions. Secondly if needed PCB should assume the role of umbrella to cover their players as the other boards do. But neither PCB could brought up the players to play gentlemen game nor been able to protect their players in hour of need. So much money is utilized on up keep of the board and all the people working in it, but we dont invest in up bringing of the players to instill a sense of pride and honour in them. The race to become rich over night has simple decimated any kind of honour in most of our players and PCB is directly responsible for this situation.

Posted by Imran on (January 11, 2011, 17:36 GMT)

Hope and pray, our cricketers understand that playing for your Country is a great pride. It is not a free pass to anything and everthing. Some day we will set good examples to the World also and I truely hope so. Yes we love to see atleast Aamir in the World cup for Pakistan, one last chance should be given to him.

Posted by wazim on (January 7, 2011, 16:00 GMT)

I'm a Srilankan....saw Aamer bowling and I went mashallah..please save this talent from whatever calamity that can befall.... I guess this is a test for Aamer..may Allah help him...he had pace , touched 150kph, he had swing, he wasn't a bowler who bowled the same delivery over and over again....he was versatile....had a good cricketing brain... :(

Posted by M.Adeel on (January 6, 2011, 17:40 GMT)

the statement of amir that he's expecting to receive some sympathy from the hearing committee, said it all. i think this is a great setback to pakistan cricket and its preparations to WC. but as right put in the article, why the PCB administration can't be held responsible for any of the wrong doings. that is something that i just can't understand at the movement

Posted by Sajid Rana on (January 6, 2011, 17:15 GMT)

As a Pakistani, I need a fair hearing, nothing else. However, if we Pakistani felt that there is some politics involved in the verdict then India knows so does the rest of the world that we can get even.

Posted by mandi on (January 6, 2011, 16:42 GMT)

i hope for a fair judgment, if players found guilty award them best possible punishment

Posted by Ali on (January 6, 2011, 15:49 GMT)

i dont fnk thr'l b a positive result for trio nd if thy hv done some wrong doing thy shld be punished ... but i wld like to ask Mr. abbasi if he can answer me (which i'm sure he wont) ... y thr's no suspension/punishment or hearing for Raina ? as to my knowledge there was a proof against him for a match fixing but we never heard nyfng on the news nor hv i seen you writing a blog or article abt it ..

Posted by Irfan on (January 6, 2011, 15:05 GMT)

If found guilty, these 3 players should be given life bans at the very least.

Its a shame some of the great Pakistan players form the 90's who were notoriously involved in match fixing have not only got away with it but are treated like heroes and hold responsible jobs in cricket (Wasim Akram, Ijaz Ahmed, Mushtaq Ahmed, Waqar Younis).

If these guys were punished back then, maybe Pakistan cricket might not have been in such a sorry state as it is now.

Posted by cricinfofan on (January 6, 2011, 14:59 GMT)

Guys, do you really think these trio deserver any sympathy? Are they babies with feeding bottle up their mouth for not knowing what is right or wrong? You don't sympathize 'coz someone is talented. They brought disrepute to the lovely game of cricket. ICC should beat the shit out of these guys and the jokers at the helm of PCB. Even then there is no guarantee that another offence will not be committed by the players and I only wish that they don't, during the world cup games.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kamran Abbasi
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He was the first Asian columnist for Wisden Cricket Monthly and wisden.com. Kamran is the editor of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. @KamranAbbasi

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