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November 11, 2011

Pakistan cricket

Jail isn't the answer

Kamran Abbasi
Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif leave the team hotel in Taunton for London, Taunton, September 1, 2010
Is prison the right place for Amir, who Justice Cooke admitted was young, uneducated, coerced and threatened?  © Getty Images
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Spot-fixing is already yesterday's news but let's not forget that three former international cricketers have been confined to English jails. The convictions of Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif, and Mohammad Amir are no surprise, and their incarceration is nothing unexpected.

Many cricket fans and international cricketers believe the sentences to be appropriate, some wished for harsher punishment. Yet as much as the tainted trio deserve condemnation, fines, and lengthy bans from cricket-related activities, I worry about these sentences.

Prison is a place for criminals who are a danger to society or mastermind amoral crimes. Is it the right place for Amir, who Justice Cooke admitted was young, uneducated, coerced and threatened? He was caught in a sting. No bookmakers were defrauded, were they? Nobody's money lost except that belonging to the News of the World, whose own reputation is in the gutter.

English prisons are overcrowded. They are an unlikely place for rehabilitation, an education in criminality more usual. A custodial sentence is best avoided when it does not serve the better interests of society or the individual. What societal or individual benefit does the confinement of these cricketers serve?

While Messrs Butt, Asif, and Amir adapt to their new lives in prison, the Mr Bigs, the 'persons unknown' at the end of long distance telephone calls remain untraceable and untraced. It was possible to decipher every deleted text and message from the phones of our misguided cricketers but sleuths and software experts are unable to offer any clues about the mafia men of Mumbai, Karachi, and Dubai.

For a week I've tussled with the conclusion that jail isn't the answer when it comes to punishing these sportsmen, thinking it was a temporary sympathy that would abate. Instead, I'm even more persuaded that in this instance suspended sentences, fines, and bans from cricket would have been punishment many times over. A guilty verdict itself was utmost humiliation.

As much as I condemn his role in spot-fixing, Butt is right to appeal his sentence. Asif and Amir should follow suit. Even convicted criminals deserve justice that is appropriate.

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

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Keywords: Corruption

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Posted by hira shoaib on (January 3, 2012, 15:17 GMT)

i think it is somehow a pre planned but the best think is that it cannt effect so much on our cricket team i think this is the best thing and now its atime to forget our mistakes and come forward and focus our next target

Posted by kamkhan on (December 25, 2011, 2:34 GMT)

i wonder if the punishment would have been same, if those players were from England team.

Posted by Darold on (December 23, 2011, 23:09 GMT)

That's a smart way of thinikng about it.

Posted by Rizwan Shah on (December 15, 2011, 8:27 GMT)

Well said Kamran, i would like to add and i quote myself " If you as a spectator do not have any qualms about betting on the outcome of the match then why should any player have a qualm on fixing / spot fixing it !!! " Its simple, the root cause is betting, obviously some people made money on these bets this is the reason it happened. Even in a simple tape ball match every one bets, it is in us, the people, we are at fault !!! Cricket needs cleansing as in 'charity begins @ home' Legalized gambling should also be banned in sports else its no more a sport but a form of entertainment. I have lots to say on this but this may not be the right platform, hope the point gets across.

Posted by AJS on (November 29, 2011, 8:41 GMT)

I believe jail is the only solution....I am happy that their appeals have been turned down,,,being a Pakistani whose living abroad in a multicultural society, its extremely shameful for us to face our friends/colleagues of other nations, cricket playing or otherwise. On the other hand, these guys and their families are showing no remorse and pretending to be victims...Its good that they are in Jail and I hope they are never allowed to wear the Pakistani Outfit again.....The jail terms maybe sufficient....however, the bans MUST be for LIFE.

Only this can serve as a future deterrent for others coming into the sport.

Posted by Jamal Hyder on (November 22, 2011, 4:15 GMT)

We should learn from history about Cricket Authorities and controller's mentality. Pakistan team would have become top team in a couple of years if these bowlers had bloomed to their best. These players were framed. If the team managers, captain and players stick to the principals of ethics and sporting spirit, they will avoid any pitfalls in future.

Posted by s.lakhani on (November 13, 2011, 22:06 GMT)

Punishment in the form of community services will be more adequate,apart from the cricket playing ban.

Posted by raza on (November 13, 2011, 17:37 GMT)

Mr kamran, If i am not wrong 100 plus of cricket history, this is first time a players are behind the bars. what about south afrcian hansey cronnie he was guilty, i dont recall he was sent to jail.

Posted by Farrukh Usmani on (November 13, 2011, 5:55 GMT)

I am not surprized with this article as this is the dilema with us Pakistanis. We immediately rush to find conspiracies behind every wrongdoing and try to portray that the whole world is against us. Mr. Kamran, if you are already not aware, please just go and have a look on the careers of these players and their assets which definitely have no comparison. Secondly, do you remember what was their reaction after they were just caught. Specially Asif and Butt kept denying every thing till the very end. Finally do not forget we have to set an example for future or else we will surely breed crimnals in our cricket.

Posted by Venky on (November 12, 2011, 20:43 GMT)

By this logic the likes of Bernie Madoff should not in prison and should have a different treatment. Yes, the trio are not hardened criminals that have heinous human crimes like murder, torture or rape, but they did break the law. Maybe the answer is a low security prison which has some development opportunities. Irrespective of anything, these guys (Amir being a kid) can use the time to introspect and learn to trust carefully.

I am pretty positive Salman will be back in the team at some point. I predict he is back as captain in 5 years. Amir will be back sooner.

What they did was wrong, no ifs or buts.

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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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