Mike Brearley, the former England captain, has said that Mohammad Amir, the Pakistan fast bowler currently in prison for his role in the spot-fixing scandal, should be treated more leniently. Brearley said the pressure put on young players to fix spots or matches can be "appalling" and, should they admit their guilt and be willing to play their part in the fight against corruption, they ought to be given a second chance.

"We also need to recognise that the pressure put on the young player by criminal bookies or their agents, or by their corrupt team-mates, can be appalling," Brearley said in his Voice of Cricket Lecture at the Raj Singh Dungarpur World Cricket Summit in Mumbai. "As a result, some of those involved might need to be treated with compassion, especially if they admit their guilt and are willing to be enlisted in the battle against corruption. Deterrent and retributive justice tempered with mercy and discrimination is vital in sentencing and punishing.

"I don't think the whole truth has been told yet, or can be told. The 18-year old Mohammad Amir, who was subject to pressure and was, I believe, uninterested in any illegal financial gain, should have been, and I think should now be, treated much more leniently."

Amir was sentenced to six months in jail after pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy to accept corrupt payments and conspiracy to cheat during the Lord's Test in August last year. The case was brought to court following a sting operation by the News of the World newspaper, which alleged that player agent Mazhar Majeed had arranged for Pakistan captain Salman Butt to ensure Amir and Mohammad Asif would bowl three pre-determined no balls.

Unlike Butt and Asif, who were found guilty after a 21-day trial, Amir had pleaded guilty before the trial began. Justice Cooke, who presided over the trial, said the early admission of guilt played a part in the reduction of Amir's jail term from nine to six months. Amir's appeal against his sentence, however, was subsequently dismissed.

"Like all secret organisations that recruit the naïve for illegal activities, the criminals linked to gambling draw people in by involving them first in activities that seem of a minor importance," Brearley said, adding that such activities could include information about the pitch or fitness of players in the dressing room. "And once in, threats against the player or his family may make it extremely difficult to get out. In the strenuous search for exemplary punishment, there has to be room for giving a misguided young player a second chance."

Brearley said cheating was cricket's most important issue and called for stakeholders to speak out against it. "Whistleblowing should become an absolute duty for everyone in the game."

Siddhartha Talya is a sub editor at ESPNcricinfo