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Mohammad Aamer has said that he backs a jail term for anyone who has indulged in match-fixing. Coming from a youngster, who has already served a small term after a court found him guilty of spot-fixing, the statement does make the cricket fan think. Nishad Pai Vaidya writes why prison terms would be a useful deterrent to curb the scourge of match-fixing.
Look at the young Mohammad Aamer. The 22-year-old regrets his involvement in spot-fixing and is waiting to return to the field of play. At the age of 18, his world had turned upside down when allegations surfaced that he had bowled no-balls for money during the Lord’s Test of 2010 — conspiring with his captain Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif. A year down the line, the trio was sent to prison after a London court found them guilty of the whole scheme. That was easily one of the darkest days in cricket history.
Aamer has since featured in candid interviews, expressing his regret and hoping for a new direction in life. His voice is that of a man who has repented his wrongdoing and seeks redemption in the eyes of the world. While this young kid was kept away from the game he loved, he served his time in prison at the raw age of 19. This boy had seen it all — success and ignominy. And now, as he prepares for a possible comeback next year, Aamer voices his support for a prison term against match-fixing.
Though match-fixing is a serious offence in any sport, it isn’t exactly a crime in most parts of the world. Aamer and his two teammates were tried under a gambling law and were imprisoned for cheating under its provisions. In India, the spot-fixing accused have been charged with cheating under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crimes Act (MCOCA), there isn’t any law that punishes someone guilty of it. And when there isn’t any specific law and you cannot prove that the offence falls within the charges, the accused can be acquitted.
Cheating in any form in sport — spot-fixing or match-fixing — should be made punishable under law. New Zealand is taking its first steps in that direction with the introduction of a new law that punishes the guilty of a seven-year jail sentence. This comes in the wake of Lou Vincent’s admission of his wrongdoing — something that came as a huge wake-up call for the sporting fraternity in the country. New Zealand states that its intent is to curb such activities in the light of the growing betting industry in the world, which is also accessible through the internet.
Cricketers who have indulged in such activities in the past have obviously been lured by money. There are no structural fears as such. Even if he is caught, he may only face a ban. A few years down the line, people may also forget about it. The public does want to move on.
But what about the sport itself? Shouldn’t there be a punishment? A term like a seven-year jail sentence can certainly be a huge deterrent. An accused, if found guilty, risks losing his personal liberty for a long time, away from his family and the world. One cannot get back that lost time; to add to that, the more they are in prison, the more they would repent their act.
People may argue that though we have criminal activities, some people do indulge in crimes. It doesn’t stop them, does it? But, if you didn’t have those laws, the world would descend into anarchy. If there are no structures in place against match-fixing, what would stop the malaise from spreading across the world? We need to act now and place such laws that entail serious punishment. There may be a few who may still indulge, but they shall do so at their own risk.
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