Spot-fixing controversy February 9, 2011

'Lack of remorse' swung verdict against players

A lack of remorse and contrition from three Pakistan players over the spot-fixing charge levelled against them were among the key factors in the tribunal's decision to impose the sanctions they did. Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir were banned for ten, seven and five years respectively by a three-man tribunal led by Michael Beloff QC after a six-day hearing in January led to a verdict on Saturday; the sentences for Butt and Asif include a five-year suspension clause but the same factors may affect that process too.

ESPNcricinfo also understands Amir refused to cooperate with the ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) despite repeated, private attempts by PCB officials at convincing him, in a bid to lessen sanctions.

The full judgment of the verdict, the sanctions and the reasoning behind them are expected to be made public by the ICC on Wednesday, despite complications arising from the criminal case against the players in the UK, which begins from March 17. But one of the main conclusions of the judgment is expected to be that the three players showed no sign of remorse at their actions, either during the hearing or after the verdict was announced.

This is likely to have quite a tangible impact on any hopes Butt and Asif may have of returning. The suspended sentences mean that, if certain conditions are met, both could theoretically be clear to play competitive cricket again in five years.

But the first step of any rehabilitation programme as prescribed by the tribunal - believed to involve the two players giving lectures on the dangers of corruption - must include a show of remorse of their actions. Only then will the rehabilitation begin and, thus, a possible chance for the suspended sentence to kick in. Any such action, however, could also have an impact on the criminal case the UK's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is now pursuing against the players.

Amir's five-year ban has been criticised in some quarters as being too severe, particularly as his age and past disciplinary track record were thought to be possible mitigating circumstances to secure a lesser term. However, the tribunal is believed to have found no exceptional circumstances that would afford such leeway in his case, particularly as he showed no contrition or remorse through the hearing.

Amir's lawyer Shahid Karim, and Butt's lawyer Yasin Patel, have since said that the tribunal's hands were tied by the code which prescribed a minimum five-year sanction; the implication is that lesser punishments would have been given out. That, it appears now, would also have partially depended on the players showing some remorse.

ESPNcricinfo also understands that PCB officials, privately, tried repeatedly to convince Amir, who has been the main focus of public attention, to "cooperate with the ACSU" in a bid to have his sentence reduced. Three or four of the top board officials held several one-on-one meetings with Amir in the run-up to the January hearings but he refused. "Until the very last minute there were one-on-one meetings with Amir at neutral venues, trying to get him to cooperate with the ACSU," a source privy to the meetings told ESPNcricinfo. "People tried repeatedly and very hard but he just didn't agree." Even his lawyer Karim is said to have tried to convince his client on several occasions but without success.

Officially the PCB pulled back any support of the three players soon after they were provisionally suspended by the ICC. Additionally they suspended their central contracts and refused them permission to train or practice at PCB-affiliated ground. The moves came after the ICC warned the board in October to distance itself fully from the players so as to keep the game clean. It has been indicated that the meetings only came about on the prompting of higher political authorities and were not instigated by either board or player.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of ESPNcricinfo