Just punishment

The exemplary punishment handed out by Judge Jeremy Cooke to the three Pakistani cricketers involved in last year’s spot-fixing imbroglio is the biggest victory to date in the fight against corruption in cricket. Having sold themselves for the lure of a few thousand pounds, Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer can hardly have cause for complaint, saddled as they are with jail terms ranging from 30 months for the former captain to six months in a correctional facility for the teenaged Aamer, hailed as the most promising talent to emerge from Pakistan in recent times. The man responsible for entangling the trio in the unsavoury episode that has come as another blow to Pakistan cricket, bookmaker and supposed player agent Mazhar Majeed, has been slapped with a 32-month sentence, perhaps not commensurate with the enormity of his crime.

Cricket, it has to be stressed, is not the only sport that has been hit by the fixing bug, but the mountain of evidence collected by the now defunct News of the World’s reporter Mazher Mahmood in a sting operation last year has made this the most high-profile case against corruption in sport. The International Cricket Council had acted swiftly in the immediacy of Mahmood’s revelations by imposing bans of varying lengths on the three Pakistani players, but a new law in Britain introduced towards the middle of the last decade ensured that they were also liable to criminal sanctions.

Had the ICC embraced a strict policing role in the aftermath of the 2000 Hansie Cronje match-fixing saga and taken stringent action then, the present episode would not have happened. At least now, the ICC’s Anti-Corruption and Security Unit should be equipped with the right technology to strictly monitor the players so that the ugly spectre of fixing is permanently eradicated from the sport.

Needless to say, it’s also the responsibility of the ICC’s member boards to educate impressionable young cricketers about the pitfalls of associating themselves with dubious characters who dangle the carrot of easy money in front of them. Butt, Asif and Aamer have plenty of time to ponder over their future, which is at best bleak now. In their plight lies a lesson for the rest of the cricketers. Cutting corners never pays; the rewards may be immediate, but there is always a heavy price to pay in the end.

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