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November 1, 2011

Spot fixing

A deterrent, nothing more

Kamran Abbasi
Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif leave the team hotel in Taunton for London, Taunton, September 1, 2010
The issue is so complex and fault lines so many that a root and branch reform of Pakistan cricket and its governance is mandatory  © Getty Images
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Southwark Crown Court has a functional feel to it, hidden behind Tooley Street's chic shops and restaurants. No marble steps or sweeping staircases to lead you to the scene of possibly the most momentous trial in the history of cricket; a quick bag search and body scan bring you straight to a lift that deposits you outside courtroom 4, a judge's lair that damned three famous Pakistan cricketers.

I didn't know how I'd feel, a voyeur at the prosecution of Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif? There was no thrill at being party to historic events, only sadness, regret -- how did we come to this? Butt, Asif, and Mohammad Amir, the third man, were young men of dreams, hopes, and ambitions; to serve their nation and delight their countrymen on fields of cricket that might seem prosaic to most but represent the struggle of millions.

Those emotions remain with me after today's verdicts. Butt and Asif face jail terms. Amir might too, depending on his lawyer's ability to negotiate a reduced sentence in exchange for an admission of guilt. We will soon discover what will become of the men who confirmed the shameful indulgences of Pakistan cricket.

I was in Multan at Salman Butt's Test debut in 2003. Pakistan's 18-year-old left-handed opener made 12 and 37 in a dramatic Test that Pakistan saved thanks to a defiant hundred from Inzamam-ul Haq at his home ground. It was a special moment for Inzamam but equally special for Butt, who played fluently with the extra time that only a batsman of genuine class possesses. His future looked bright, an opening problem solved.

Three years later, Mohammad Asif raised his mastery of the bowler's art to a new level on another controversial tour of England. That 2006 series pitted Asif against the unofficial batting champion of the world, Kevin Pietersen. Asif made Pietersen his bunny, sending the champ back to his hutch almost the minute after an arrival at the crease. The McGrath of Sheikhupura we called him. Asif's metronomic deception was surely set to mesmerise the world for years to come?

Another three years ushered in the World Twenty20 in England. Pakistan shorn of hope, international cricket and, unusually, bowlers looked grateful to be mere participants. Also-rans became World Champions, in a dramatic tale of defiance and dazzling cricket. At the heart of the victory was Mohammad Amir, a 17-year-old fast bowler with the world at his feet and magic in his left arm, who started his career as if greatness was his birthright.

Now those dreams, hopes, and ambitions of the players and their supporters have ended in disgrace in a London courtroom. It took an English jury and a discredited British newspaper to confirm the failures of the Pakistan Cricket Board and the ICC.

There have been instances of corruption in cricket extending beyond Pakistan, and corruption in sport extends beyond cricket. Anybody who believes that we can now draw a line under spot-fixing and move on is delusional. Hansie Cronje, Mohammad Azahruddin and Marlon Samuels are just a few of the names that remind us that international cricket has a major problem. All that the London case has established is that the cricket authorities have failed to address this issue adequately despite thousands of words and millions of dollars. A fake Sheikh proved smarter than Interpol.

But that should not be used to deflect criticism from Pakistan cricket, which might not be the only culprit but it could be the most culpable. Corruption in cricket is an extension of the failures of Pakistani society. The proceedings in Southwark Crown Court paint a picture of arrogant disregard for morals and standards. The Pakistan Cricket Board is a failed institution that has declined to address the evident issues of corruption among its cricketers. The ICC has failed in its duty to protect international cricket from bookies and match-fixers. They have both missed opportunities to pursue leads and intervene.

Today's spot-fixing verdicts have provided a deterrent against future corruption, nothing more. They should force the ICC and cricket boards like the PCB to address this danger more pressingly and ruthlessly. In Pakistan's case, the issue is so complex and fault lines so many that a root and branch reform of Pakistan cricket and its governance is mandatory.

In the same week that Pakistan's great captain talked about his beloved country rediscovering its ideals, his successors are damned for corruption in an English courtroom. These young men have shamed a proud nation and an honourable sport. They have also cruelly epitomised the crisis at the heart of Pakistan: as a cricket team, a nation and a people we are full of dreams, hopes, and ambitions, but crippled by corruption. Dreams, hopes, and ambitions are better served by deeds of pride and honour.

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

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Keywords: Corruption

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by bob ryman on (November 9, 2011, 12:54 GMT)

Sad to think that players who cheat should be sent to prison for such a long time, whilst MPs who cheat the taxpayers get off with a slap on the wrist. Excellent law we have in this country. When are we going to move forward?

Posted by fhs on (November 4, 2011, 17:43 GMT)

I wish to know the 'end to end game'. The agent (Majeed) was the middle man. How (and where) he was getting the money? Who was funding (actual bookies who were paying the agent)?

Posted by Irfan on (November 4, 2011, 3:57 GMT)

Any thoughts about the remuneration these players have received over the time period and under contract. Now, when their guilt about their involvement in this racket is proven beyond reasonable doubt, PCB should seek to recover the amounts of money which were paid to them as match fee or any other payment made in lieu of during that time period. Their assets should be evaluated and ceased. It should be seen to it that they are made an example which can make any other future fixer quack in his boots.

Posted by aftab on (November 4, 2011, 0:51 GMT)

As painful as it is, the Pakistan Government should make it look like a job half done (or less), and start investigation of the issue inside out with the World Press as witness. This will restore the pride of the nation. There is one guy who can help immensely and can be granted immunity for that. He will be available in 3 months.

Posted by Irfan on (November 3, 2011, 15:37 GMT)

No need to wax poetic. Both Mazhar and Salman should be put through lie detector to find more out about other rival rings with in the that team of 2010 English summer. The "other" player should be found out and named. ICC and PCB should be able to see to it that, that other player is not swept under the rug. If this is the tip of the ice berg then few statements regarding the shameful conduct of the sentenced players will not do. There is so much more to discover and see where this rabbit hole goes.

Posted by VSD on (November 3, 2011, 15:06 GMT)

Corruption cannot be routed overnight from the subcontinent. It is there in India and its there in Pakistan. The only difference probably is that difference in the administrators of both the countries and to a greater extent, the lack of basic education in Pakistan. The whole incident should now be investigated and any player with the remotest of involvement with the bookies should be banned for life!

Posted by Nisar on (November 3, 2011, 14:34 GMT)

It’s good to know that criminal must be sentenced, but I was expecting that through this we will try to catch those sharks who really trying to involved them, and sitting in Dubai, Lahore, India in every cricket nation. It’s not the game of Just 4 persons, it’s a chain linked with one and one… ICC must need to think in that way…. Surprisingly not, A big Q on ICC. Waiting for Answer...

Posted by Sarik on (November 3, 2011, 6:51 GMT)

@Ali: Amir didnt ball those noballs because his captain told him to bowl it during the match. He was told to bowl it before the match even started and he took a payment to bowl those noball.

Posted by Agha Hussain on (November 2, 2011, 12:08 GMT)

Lets please stop saying "Oh Pakistan is doomed". PLEASE. Pakistan cricket is at an all time high this year since 2007. We've won against equal and greater opponents than ourselves and the present team has avoided controversy and done exceedingly well under harsh circumstances.

Who cares about Asif and Amir now? The best opening fast bowlers in modern day cricket, but the ICC won't ever let them come back. I believe it is bias, but come on we do not need them that much.

Posted by M. Nawaz Janjua, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on (November 2, 2011, 11:46 GMT)

It is just very hurting. Salman & Asif have let us down not only in the cricket field but also in front of the whole world. They should never show up their faces in Pakistan and especially around cricket. Salman & Asif have corrupted Amir too. I hope that Amir has learnt his lesson and he should be punished lightly on his admission of guilt. He is such a nice young player an asset for Pakistan. Hope for least best.

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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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