By Rashid Ali Siddiqui, President, PSWF, KARACHI, Pakistan November 3, 2011: Cricket, the gentlemen’s game is meant for records, statistics and achievements by players and teams but November 3, 2011 will be remembered in history of cricket as the ‘blackest day’ when three Pakistani cricketers –former captain Salman Butt, fast bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir –created a history for bad reasons because they are the first cricketers, sent behind to prison after being proved guilty of spot-fixing (blackest chapter cricket history).
According to the verdict, announced by Southwark Crown Court, Salman Butt received a two years and six months jail sentence, Mohammad Asif one-year and Mohammad Amir six months, whereas Mazhar Majeed, the players’ agent, has been sentenced to two years and eight months. Thus the curtains fall on one of cricket’s most sordid and shameful scandals. Soon after the court’s verdict was announced, Salman Butt, Asif and Mazhar Majeed were driven away in police vans to prison while teen aged Amir was sent to a young offenders’ detention centre.
According to reports, the judge Jeremy Cooke began proceedings with his summation of the case of each of the four found guilty, reading out their sentences one at a time, and his initial words suggested jail terms for all four guilty.
“Now, when people look back at a surprising event in a game or a surprising result or ever in the future there are surprising results, followers of the game who have paid to watch cricket or who have watched cricket on TV will wonder whether there has been a fix or what they have watched was natural.”
“It’s clear you were the orchestrator of these matters,” Justice Cooke told Butt.
“You had to be to make sure these two bowlers were bowling at the time of the fix.”
To Asif he said: “Whilst no money was found in your possession, it’s clear that you conspired to bowl a no-ball. There’s no evidence on your part of prior fixing but it’s hard to see that this could have been an isolated incident.”
Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif were found guilty of conspiracy to cheat and conspiracy to accept corrupt payments by a jury on Tuesday, while Majeed and Mohammad Amir pleaded guilty at a pre-trial in September. It all followed the now infamous three pre-determined no-balls that were delivered in the Lord’s Test match last year, two by Amir and one by Asif, orchestrated by Butt and arranged by Majeed.
The decision brought a wave of shock across the cricket world and Pakistani nation specially cricket fans were stunned. Former cricketers termed it the ‘blackest day’ for Pakistan cricket and felt it a ‘humiliation’ for the whole nation while all were unanimous that the trio deserved the punishment.
Pakistan Cricket Board, sport’s governing body in country considered it a “sad day” for Pakistan cricket. In a calculated statement, issued to media, PCB says “Instead of having pride in playing for their country, these players chose to disappoint their supporters, damage the image of their country and bring the noble game of cricket into disrepute. There is little sympathy in Pakistan for the sorry pass they have come to.”
Pakistan’s cricket community today described the punishments handed out to Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir as a “black day” for the nation and hoped that the jail terms for the trio will serve as a deterrent.
Former Pakistan captain Imran Khan, who led the team for 1992 World Cup title, was pained to hear the news of trio being jailed for fixing parts of a Test match against England. He says: “The verdict is a wake-up call for Pakistan cricket and from now on we should be ultra careful and like we did in the past, should never allow corruption to set in.” He criticized the previous PCB for sweeping the matter under the carpet.
Former Captains Rameez Raja and the then coach Waqar Younis, who was at the helm when spot-fixing saga surfaced also felt sorry for the cricketers and said that they deserved for it what they did. “It is a black day for Pakistan cricket. It is the worst day of my life as a Pakistani player.
But they deserved the punishments for letting the nation and the sport down,” said ex-captain Rashid Latif, who was crusader for corrupt practices including betting, bribery and match-fixing. He hoped that the historic judgments passed by the court would deter the next generation of players from getting involved in corruption.
“One does feel sad but when you try to corrupt and deface a lovely sport this is what happens. Today these players are crying but they should have thought about what they were doing when they were doing it,” Latif said and demanded of Pakistan government and the PCB to take action against the players.
Former Test batsman, Basit Ali said the judgments and the spot-fixing trial itself posed serious questions about the role of the Anti-Corruption Unit of the ICC. “What is the ACU doing that is the question that such a big scandal could break out and happened under their noses? The ICC and member boards need to review their working,” he added.
Basit said the judgment passed on the players was a stigma on Pakistan cricket and would not be washed away for a long time. Cricket fans across the country have shown anger over the shameful act by three cricketers.