Saad Shafqat
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Writer based in Karachi

No sympathy for Amir

All the talk of his naivety doesn't wash: Mohammad Amir must pay for his crime, but he must also be given a shot at redemption

Saad Shafqat

March 29, 2012

Comments: 39 | Text size: A | A

Salman Butt offers some support to Mohammad Amir on a tough first day for Pakistan, England v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Edgbaston, August 6, 2010
It's likely Butt approached Amir in the first place because he saw in him a susceptibility to temptation © PA Photos

If the spot-fixing saga were ever made into a Bollywood film, you can be sure that the centrepiece will be a hushed scene in which Salman Butt coerces Mohammad Amir. In his interview to Michael Atherton, Amir spoke of being duped in a hotel parking lot, but for Bollywood a more appropriate setting would perhaps be a dark alley. There would have to be a build-up, with sinister camera angles and a creepy musical score, as Butt takes pains to get himself and Amir well away from earshot. Then a whispered conversation would ensue.

The scriptwriter would have to decide how much guilt to ascribe to Amir. In this he or she would hardly be alone, for it is something the entire cricket world has been struggling with. After his confession and conviction, there is no longer any doubt that Amir committed the act. But was he a reluctant and naïve pawn in Butt's manipulative hands or a willing participant eager to cash in?

Ambiguous characters often make for great cinema, so the scriptwriter might get away with infusing Amir's character with tantalising hints of both postures. Yet in real life this would be most unsatisfying. Where Butt carries a perpetual smirk on his face and Mohammad Asif comes across as a bit of a seasoned jailbird, Amir's youth, talent and innocent looks appeal to the nurturing streak within us. We want a precise assessment of his guilt and intentions. We want to read his mind. If he did indeed rush into the spot-fixing scam with excitement and glee and the smell of money overpowering his senses, then we'll spare him no mercy. But we want to be absolutely certain before we take that step.

People keep pointing to Amir's humble background as an explanation for why he might have succumbed to the temptation of quick riches. But corruption is hardly a monopoly of the poor; the wealthy fall prey to it just as much. There are also suggestions that Amir somehow did not appreciate the scale and significance of his act, that the bowling of two deliberate no-balls in exchange for money did not strike him as being particularly criminal. This is laughable, because by the time of the ill-fated Lord's Test, Amir had already been in the thick of international cricket for over a year, having played 13 Tests, 15 ODIs, and 18 T20 internationals.

In fact, like all international players, Amir had been explicitly communicated the ICC's code of conduct by the PCB, and been lectured on it at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore. He had played under the captaincy of Younis Khan, a scrupulously honest role model. If he still did not realise that deliberate underperformance was horribly wrong, it shows callous arrogance, insensitivity and cold-heartedness, not naivety or innocence.

There is no question that Butt was the mastermind. He could have picked others for accomplices - and may well have tried - but in all likelihood he solicited Amir because he sensed the right of kind of permissive ingredients in Amir's character. To understand the psyche of these spot-fixers, it helps to refer to the context of Pakistani society, which is deeply permeated with a culture of corruption. "Innocent is he who does not get caught," go the lyrics of a socially conscious song that is a favourite of local FM stations. The subtext is that there are many visible examples of people who bend the rules, get rewarded, and get away with it. This is probably why Butt's approach appeared attractive and Amir did not rebuff him.

To understand the psyche of the spot-fixers, it helps to refer to the context of Pakistani society, which is deeply permeated with a culture of corruption. "Innocent is he who does not get caught," go the lyrics of a popular song

Amir's mindset is also betrayed by the fact that he passed up opportunities to come clean. He could have confessed right away, called a friend in the media, spoken to someone in the family, opened up to his boyhood coach and mentor. He did none of that. Even during the ICC hearings held in Doha early last year, he chose to plead innocent. He lied well and with conviction.

If we are fair and do not allow ourselves to be charmed by youthful looks and boyish manners, we will not shed any tears for Amir. We should appreciate that he does not deserve sympathy and concessions any more than do Butt or Asif. There should be no lessening of his sentence, no shortcut for his return to international cricket. The value of deterrence in this scenario cannot be underestimated. No stone should be left unturned to ensure that would-be spot-fixers are not seduced by the possibility that they might get away with it.

At the same time, cricket as a sport owes it to Amir to keep the door open for his rehabilitation. In psychiatric medicine there is a fine tradition of drug addicts becoming addiction counsellors after getting treatment. This is an ideal parallel for Amir, in that he could become a crusading champion in the fight against cricket corruption. The ICC, the PCB, and the cricket establishment generally would do well to embrace him as such. Mohammad Amir the confessed spot-fixer, who was once a celebrated heir to Pakistan's fast-bowling dynasty, now going around warning young talent to stay clean: his credibility will be unmatched.

Let us therefore forget about hastening Amir's return to the bowling crease, for he must be fully punished if the gains from the spot-fixing convictions are to have a lasting impact. But we must give him this reforming opportunity to contribute to the health, welfare and future of the game. Amir had ambitions of joining the ranks of Pakistan's grand masters, but this alternative legacy will be no less important.

Saad Shafqat is a writer based in Karachi

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Posted by   on (March 29, 2012, 20:39 GMT)

he must be forgiven as he is needed by our team and cricket

Posted by SteelBeatle on (March 29, 2012, 19:38 GMT)

This is the best and most balanced article 've seen on this subject. I love watching the guy bowl but he must be made to serve his whole sentence and then be welcomed back into the fold. One would hope that he will be watched very carefully on his return.

Posted by   on (March 29, 2012, 19:27 GMT)

Amir must be given a chance, I have a young brother couple of years older than Amir and I fully understand how youth of Pakistan behave, how they see thing and how lightly they sometimes take serious things. For sure Amir committed a crime, for sure he got punished, he should stay away for cricket till full realisation but this period should not be full five years, but may be at least one year max two, but after that he should be allowed to come back and play his part in this beautiful game of cricket.

Posted by   on (March 29, 2012, 19:14 GMT)


Posted by Saeed.Lodhi on (March 29, 2012, 19:11 GMT)

AGREED ! Amir is guilty cause he confessed ... it takes lots of guts to do so, to admit one's mistake ... I bet none of you have ever done so cause none of you are no angels ... everyone makes mistake

Have some Epathy ....

I am strong believer that everyone deserves a SECOND CHANCE .....

The point is if one makes a mistake, and he is punished for it, thats it, end of story, get a life you all rather then Scathing away at Amir ...

Posted by   on (March 29, 2012, 18:44 GMT)

A talented young cricketer but He was involved in big controversy. Sympathies of many people are with him but this is a sore fact that He was involved in Spot fixing which ruined his name as well as Pakistan reputation. When u r representing ur country then u becomes an asset and u r not bigger than ur country's reputation. V need him back but I think it shouldn't happen for the sake of game.

Posted by msq3761 on (March 29, 2012, 17:36 GMT)

Tell me honestly how many of us are not susceptible to temptation? Amir was a young kid who was new to the big stage. As for Salman Butt, is he Professor Moriarty who immediately perceives who can be his partner in crime? He just saw a young kid and 80% of the people belonging to Amir's then age group would have fallen. We are talking about "no mercy" and "country's integrity" but how many are talking about "repentance" and "forgiveness"? He is already being penalized and he acknowledged it himself that he should be. How much extra punishment do we have to lash at him by berating him in public forums?

Posted by hamqad on (March 29, 2012, 17:29 GMT)

Saad, though I agree with a lot of things you've said here, I have issues with the convenient 'logical' conclusion you have reached from scratching the surface alone, and not trying to go beyond what is visible. For instance, you say "If he still did not realise that deliberate underperformance".. i do not remember him deliberately under-performing; the two no-balls came in the midst of his best bowling efforts (perhaps a spell that even Wasim would be proud of).

The point here is, teenagers at his age are vulnerable; especially given the society they grow up in. You painted the perfect picture of that society, though you came out with a different conclusion. Butt needed two bowlers to ball no-balls. He picked two: Asif, a seasoned crook.. and Amir, the most vulnerable and naive. Go back to when you were 18 and how border line misdemeanors were perceived by the youth. The episode highlights the frailties of our larger society; yet the blame is firmly being placed on Amir alone.

Posted by Desihungama on (March 29, 2012, 15:56 GMT)

Shafqat - I generally agree with the theme of your article but please note that sportsmen around the world are ordinary people like us and many like us do not necessarily possess great moral characters, though we love them for what they do on the field. Cricket, a multi dimensional game, the game itself will always be threatened with one kind of menace or other. As a cricket fan, let us love Amir for what he has done on the field so far.

Posted by   on (March 29, 2012, 14:29 GMT)

There is no black and white as you have pointed out. It's nice to see some level headed commentary on the issue. He did what he did, he paid for it, can he learn from his mistakes and make a comeback? That's one prediction most palm readers wouldn't want to make.

Posted by Tnreddy521 on (March 29, 2012, 14:07 GMT)

Nicely written article, i agree with Saad in all aspects.

Posted by   on (March 29, 2012, 13:34 GMT)

I cant help but agree completely,

Posted by aksharsh on (March 29, 2012, 13:32 GMT)

This Amir guy is a chor. Wait till we get the Butt's version. Asif is anyway getting what he deserves.The FAMED amir-atherton interview was a stage managed plot to get sympathy for Amir (sponsered by PCB). One should check when do Mike Atherton learnt the URDU, whom Amir was so passionately telling his side of story. How can one speak so passionately and with conviction in front of someone who do not understand a word being said? It was stage mannered, and Amir was told in advanced to act the way he did. It seems that he can be a great actor playing innocent victim. I don't believe that he didn't know what was happening. He is quite mature for his age (if he really is 19 or 20) and he is a clever guy. This is not the end of the story as we know it. We should wait for Butt to give his side of story. But alas, Butt is already discredited enough by Amir, as Amir knows that his only chance stands if he make Butt the Super villain before he spills the beans on Amir's innocence.

Posted by RiazQamar on (March 29, 2012, 13:07 GMT)

Can't agree more. Amir must serve his sentence. This is a great opportunity for PCB/ICC to make use of him as a deterrent towards spot fixing.

Posted by   on (March 29, 2012, 12:51 GMT)

i appriciate the effort, although amir is being under icc punishment. but soooo many other players get away with it. it seems to me that justice was done with pakistani players but not done with international cricket. By punishing pakistani cricketers ICC just posed a threat to other spot fixers but a reall step is yet to be taken against them. ICC should also make sure that senior players should not force to their juniors 4 doin such dirty crimes. after all juniors feel that their place in the team is safe only if they obey seniors, performance is secondary in teams like pakistan. guys like suleman butt and Aasif should banned for life time, but certainly aamir deserves relaxation.

Posted by   on (March 29, 2012, 12:51 GMT)

Why the heck should he NOT be shown leniency in his sentence when even the most hardened of criminals are? And what was his crime? A lot has been made of this "horrible act of corruption". But once again, I ask, would we find it as horrible if he'd received, let's say, $50 for bowling a couple of No-balls?? Let's be honest, it's more the fact that he was getting oodles of money, rather than the impact of his -- yes, unfair -- actions on the game that drive us, the ICC and even the Crown's Court to righteous and other indignation. Why, anyway, did the Crown's prosecutor comment on the putative corrupting value of the action on CRICKET? Was that within his writ??

Posted by Umer012 on (March 29, 2012, 12:50 GMT)

I do not agree with the submissions of Mr.Saadat as it negates the natural law of con donation and forgiveness.An addicted criminal deserves no mercy but a person like Aamir who was a naive and must be given an opportunity to rehabilitate himself and he must have seen the light by the music he has faced in terms of humiliation.

Posted by Manso on (March 29, 2012, 12:48 GMT)

Well written article! And after reading Amir's interview, it palapbly clear " he still did not come CLEAN'. No joker, would have so Naive, as Amir professes to be. It is v clear, he went into the fray, knowingly, gleefully, to make money!!

Posted by   on (March 29, 2012, 12:42 GMT)

i agree with you because he should be ashamed of himself in letting his country down on the world stage and we as a nation should make sure that we should reject all those traitors of the game and the country.There should not be any mercy for them.we should show the world that there is a zero tolerance in case of any corruption by us.whatever the talent he has he should not step into that crease which he disgraced.

Posted by nkkashmiri on (March 29, 2012, 12:27 GMT)

great article - very balances. After the artherton interview I am more sure that Amir is indeed guilty. Also lets not forget that there were text messages found on his phone to fix earlier mathces in australia too, though they were beyond the scope of the police investiogation in london. If the sydney match was probed seriosly I am sure there will be more culprits ( read kamran akmal) that would come to light. Its high time that strict punishments are carried out fully, and any talk of rehablitation or joining back pak team should be after that, not before.

Posted by   on (March 29, 2012, 12:19 GMT)

I am for Amir i am little older then him. I can understand what he went through at that time i know how old conceive young to to do things. i am waiting for his return and i am his fan still like i am of cricket Butt and Asif should not be allowed to play again please understand and put your self as his place 18teen against a international captain and well settled bowler. Please have some mercy on this talented boy.

Posted by JamesTHEwalldravid on (March 29, 2012, 11:53 GMT)

@Nabeel Hasan What is the name of the song and the singer? thanks

Posted by doosra95 on (March 29, 2012, 11:45 GMT)

Where is the deterrence for criminal minded cricketers and youngsters who want to indulge in such corrupt activity's, if this young Crook is allowed to continue to come back in to the game than lot of people will start to loose interest in the game and confidence in the administrators to run the game clean.

Aamir is a crook and he bought so much disgrace and humiliation to the Pakistan,along with his other two co-conspirators.Pakistan cricket lurches from one controversies to another like it is going out of fashion, if this convicted criminal is allowed back in to the game it open the doors for more future cricketers to think they can get away and make a come back in to the international cricket with not much of a punishment, not a great GREAT EXAMPLE OR ROLE MODEL,AAMIR IS A CONVICTED CRIMINAL, KEEP HIM OUT FOR THE SAKE OF CRICKETS INTEGRITY.

Posted by   on (March 29, 2012, 10:58 GMT)

if he wasn't being caught , he would have done no pity on him...if he is honest himself ..he should have apologized soon or later without being caught only he accepted his crime after he was caught and nothing to lie as there was nothing to hide the fact....

Posted by   on (March 29, 2012, 9:54 GMT)

ICC verdict was fair and square. Amir must serve the ban and PCB must not try to bring him back early. Its not about one talented cricketer, its about cricket, what the game stands for.

Posted by   on (March 29, 2012, 9:06 GMT)

Well I totally agree to Saad and well written again except this: "Innocent is he who does not get caught," the Correct Lyrics are:"Innocent is he who does not get CHANCE" not get Caught. Hope nobody will mind this :)

Posted by   on (March 29, 2012, 8:46 GMT)

Being a great talent is not that much of a plus that you can afford to be characterless. So he must be banned for the double the period by PCB that ICC banned him for bringing the repute of a Cricket Loving Nation down to the ground.

Posted by   on (March 29, 2012, 8:23 GMT)

great article Amir is young and is not new in international cricket he should have known what he is doing because corruption in cricket is not new and he should have herad about Hansie Cronjie, Azharuddin and Saleem malik these names are not new for any cricketer throughout the world, I don't think that he is toatlly innocent he should be smart enough to know what he has been asked to do and he should have taken someone in confidence before doing the stupid act furthermore if he was toytally innocent he should have accepted it in the very first hearing instead of that he kept on denying it and when he saw that threre's no way out he acceped his crime. Amir no doubt is a great bowler but in my opinion no leaniency should be done in his case as he is not all that innocent as he is pretending to be. He should go through complete rehabiltation and if he passes that period without and more stupidity then he should come back otherwise the gentlemen game is much important than personalities.

Posted by KhalidKhan.Jeddah.Arabia on (March 29, 2012, 8:16 GMT)


Posted by Vindaliew on (March 29, 2012, 8:10 GMT)

While his alternative legacy will be important, do not write off his original ambitions of joining the Pakistan legends - he's young enough to still do that.

Posted by HEARTOUT on (March 29, 2012, 7:45 GMT)

wel I ma partially agree with writer for being not on Amir sight but i have a feeling the that theif is one who is caught and there have been many many others in international cricket who have been doing wrong and get away with that due to strong boards and within board connection..........Suresh Raina get away with what could have been a big scam reported by Sri Lankan .......Kamran Akmal still showing innocence by playing domestic cricket after Sydney and Dinesh Kaneria have been named by so many still have a chance to play for Pakistan.......Ban may set an example for others' but its not the guarantee for any player to stay clean for a safer oppertunity arise against him and for that reason other measure then ban must be taken by cricket authorities to save cricket from fixing.

Posted by timmyw on (March 29, 2012, 7:11 GMT)

"At the same time, cricket as a sport owes it to Amir to keep the door open for his rehabilitation." - Ummm No. As soon as I read this I knew where this article was going. Amir should be banned for life, as should everyone involved in fixing of any kind. Truthfully that is the only way we are ever going to stamp it out. The game doesn't owe any one anything. It's the players who must uphold the virtues of this great game. The players are the ones doing the owing, and the administrators. If they don't stand up tall then they're out, simple. Don't start saying things like this please Mr. Shafqat, use your power as a journalist responsibly. It's true Amir was a prodigious talent. I don't care. I want him gone from the sport for good, along with anyone else who is involved in match fixing of any kind so that the game can become what it's meant to be, a pure skill based contest played by two teams of the highest order. He MUST NOT be given another chance.

Posted by MAD-1 on (March 29, 2012, 6:25 GMT)

Let him serve his ban out and undergo rehabilitation. after that he should have the opportunity to return. His ban isnt a life ban.

Posted by smalishah84 on (March 29, 2012, 6:05 GMT)

brilliant article and very well written

Posted by   on (March 29, 2012, 5:54 GMT)

Thats kinda Harsh Man!! You dont have to blame Him anymore ..Everyone commit mistakes.. No one is god so Come on He deserve a chance..

Posted by   on (March 29, 2012, 5:01 GMT)

"Mohammad Amir must pay for his crime, but he must also be given a shot at redemption" - Totally agree!

Posted by funnykid on (March 29, 2012, 4:27 GMT)

One of the best articles on the subject, well done Mr. Shafqat. It couldn't have been written better. If anyone is reading this in PCB?

Posted by   on (March 29, 2012, 4:17 GMT)

He must be given another chance. A wonderful bowler...

Posted by Rajdev on (March 29, 2012, 4:05 GMT)

Mr. Shafqat: I agree with you 110%. A very balanced and even-handed assessment of Amir's situation. Rajan

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