It’s exactly one year since Salman Butt, Mohammad Aamer & Mohammad Asif were sentenced to prison for their involvement in spot-fixing during the 2010 Lord’s Test. Nishad Pai Vaidya looks at how life has panned out in the last one for the tainted trio and what the future looks like for them.
The date November 3, 2011 was one of the darkest days in modern cricket. For the first time, cricketers were sentenced to prison for their corrupt practices that brought the game into disrepute. Salman Butt, Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif’s involvement in spot-fixing during the 2010 Lord’s Test against England not only cost them a chunk of their respective careers, but also their honour, liberty and freedom. A year down the line, the trio are out of prison, but they seemed scarred forever.
The prison sentence was the first of its kind and is set to act as a deterrent in the future. A number of cricketers have been banned for their involvement in match-fixing in the past, but never had such a severe penalty been inflicted. Some of those players returned to cricket after the ban, while others were even accepted again in public life despite the taint. The prison sentence, however, changes things as it has stained them for life. The trio didn’t put the result of the match at stake, but merely their temptation to earn some money by bowling a few “harmless” no-balls was enough.
Butt was handed out the harshest sentence amongst the trio – a sentence of two years and six months. He appealed against the verdict within days and that was dismissed. Many viewed him as the ring-leader along with Mazhar Majeed – the man who was caught on tape in the sting operation that exposed the controversy to the world. Butt was released from prison in June this year after serving seven months. He returned to Pakistan and cried foul over the verdict in the United Kingdom. With the ten-year ban imposed by the International Cricket Council (ICC), Butt’s career is effectively over.
The former Pakistan captains still maintains his innocence and has stated that he has new evidence to support it. Butt had asked the Chief Justice of Pakistan to review his case and had also written to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). However, Butt’s biggest crime was said to be his act of misleading young Aamer. The left-arm pacer was a very promising talent and was only 18-years old when the controversy came out in the open.
Aamer was getting into his own that summer and it is ironical that he recorded his career-best figures of six for 84 in that very innings and was named the man-of-the series. In a land that has produced a number of fast bowlers, Aamer was said to be the next big hope as he had shown great promise at the tender age. To watch his name in the controversy was painful – not for the Pakistani fan alone, but any cricket fan. There was a presumption of innocence and the blame fell on his seniors of showing him the wrong way.
There were a number of people who suggested that Aamer should be dealt with leniently, given his age. As it turned out, he was released from prison in February this year having served half his sentence. Subsequently, he made an appearance in an educational video for the International Cricket Council’s Anti Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU). He was also interviewed at length by Michael Atherton and the youngster maintained that he had committed a grave error and advised his contemporaries to avoid the same. He hasn’t even appealed against the five-year ban imposed on him by the ICC.
Off the trio, Aamer still has a shot at redemption as he would only be 23-years old when he completes his ban. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) are trying their level best to keep him on track and to ensure that he makes a return then. They have also hired a psychologist for his rehabilitation process and that shows that they value this talent. Perhaps Aamer’s honest admission has made a difference and he may be more acceptable in the eyes of the public when compared to the other two.
A lot of the focus has been on Butt and Aamer, Asif has been away from the spotlight. He has been controversy’s favourite child as the spot-fixing episode wasn’t the first time he found himself in a muddle. The previous offences were drug related, but this one had a completely different tone to it. He was awarded a sentence of one year and he served half of it by the time he was released in May this year. Like Butt, Asif had filed an appeal in the CAS and is ready to pursue it. His appeal is against the seven year ban imposed on him by the ICC.
The last one year has been very eventful for the trio. While Aamer seems to be the one on the road to recovery, Butt and Asif are pursuing other legal remedies, but their chances at resurrecting their respective careers look very slim.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site's YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar's dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)