Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cheats Never Prosper….Hopefully!

Mother always told me “cheats never prosper”, and yesterday in Southwark Crown Court, Salman Butt and Mohammed Asif learnt that lesson the hard way.
Guilty of cheating and accepting corrupt payments the two, along with young Mohammed Amir, who pleaded guilty to the same charges before this trail started, have reminded us all of the perils of corruption in professional sport.
Perhaps the most worrying aspect of the whole case was how orchestrated and widespread this particular fixing racket allegedly was, with Mazhar Majeed, the 3 players agent, supposedly the ring-leader, taking requests to fix aspects of test matches that Pakistan played against Australia and England during the summer of 2010, from clients all over the world.
Requests that were placed as casually as social plans are made between friends, Majeed seemingly had control of half the Pakistani team, with Kamran Akmal and Waheb Riaz also implicated by evidence deemed inadmissible for this trial.
This trial centred on the bowling of three no balls, but this could potentially be a small drop in a rather large and murky ocean, if the other evidence now in circulation is to be believed.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan has spoken since the verdicts were handed down of his concern around suspicious events that occurred whilst he was still playing. This trial has resulted in 3 convictions, but there are almost certainly more skeletons in the cupboard.
Nick Hoult, cricket writer for the Telegraph newspaper and present in court throughout the trial has since written about evidence, text messages, from and to Majeed, talking about fixing set periods of play (“brackets”) during test matches last summer. It is alleged that the requests from clients would go on to determine who would bowl for Pakistan and when, and how many runs they would concede off their own bowling.
If this was not delivered to order, Majeed would get complaints from angry punters – the game merely a vehicle to facilitate a book of illegal orders, the ebb and flow of test match cricket reduced to inconsequential farce.
How, if these additional allegations are true, could then Pakistan captain Butt focus on setting fields and building pressure on batsmen to take wickets whilst at the same time remembering how many runs were required from specific overs in a bracket to facilitate his agents orders?
This is a major moment for the future of all forms of cricket. Illegal betting isn’t just restricted to test matches, T20 cricket has spot betting too, and given the size of the enterprise that is the IPL for example, we would be foolish to believe other forms of cricket are immune to corruption.
The ICC need to make a stand on this immediately. The News Of The World brought evidence of this practice out of the shadows and onto crickets main agenda, and the authorities in the UK have built a case, the effect of which will reverberate around the cricketing world, but now the ICC has to continue to investigate suspicious patterns in betting and on-field activities, and hand down the most severe penalties to anyone found guilty.
But players need to take responsibility too. Salman Butt has earned £1.7mm from playing cricket over the past few years. It’s not a bad wage, one that he surely could have survived on without plunging into the depths of an illegal spot-fixing syndicate.
I read this morning how Mohammed Amir had terrorised the England batting lineup last summer, taking 19 wickets from 4 test matches played. He was a revelation and was made Pakistan’s man of the series for his efforts.
The waste of talent in his case in particular is extraordinary, and perhaps the best we can hope for is that he returns to cricket one day a reformed character, realising his potential as an exceptional bowler whilst at the same time educating young cricketers against the dangers of getting involved in the illegal spot-fixing under-world.
It may take a role model like Amir to fully deter young players from ever doing something as greedy and foolish as this in the future.
Tom Huelin for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow Tom on Twitter @tomhue1

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