Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt apologise, but is the delayed confession enough?

Mohammad Asif (left) and Salman Butt were involved in the spot-fixing scandal in 2010 © AFP

Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt recently apologized for their role in spot-fixing. Nishad Pai Vaidya asks if it that will absolve them and help them win the trust of the fans.

Is an apology enough for a disgraced cricketer to regain the trust of his people? They say that repentance can set a person on the road to redemption. However, considering cricket’s value in the sub-continent, can the fallen heroes ever rise again? Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt recently asked the fans for forgiveness for their role in the disgraceful spot-fixing episode. Three years on, it may seem a delayed call given the fact that they fought the allegations all along.

It is quite astonishing that the two cricketers have changed their tune suddenly. It may seem to be a move towards resurrecting their international careers. The International Cricket Council (ICC) does drop suspended bans only if the accused cricketers share information about the whole fixing issue, apologise and participate in rehabilitation. Asif is already on a mission to co-operate with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and the ICC. However, the question we must ask is: Where was the guilt all the while and why is the apology coming almost three years after the incident?

Here is what Butt said on his return to Pakistan after being released from prison in 2012, “Of spot-fixing or any fixing, I never asked anyone to do anything or bowl any no-balls, I am not associated with it.” He even went on to express regret, but only because he “failed to report it in advance.” A year down the line, he admitted the ICC’s decision to ban him and his statement was in complete contrast to the one he made earlier. “I said it before and am saying again, that to all those who have been disappointed by my actions I do apologise for them. Also, the effect it had on cricket’s integrity, I would like to apologise for that,” Butt said.

On the other hand, Asif accused the ICC of being unfair and said, “I can never think of staining my country’s name and I did nothing wrong.” Today, he is apologetic about disrespecting his country.
Isn’t all this baffling? Isn’t the change of tune all too obvious? If they did feel guilty, why were they fighting the allegations and pleading their innocence for three long years?

There is a popular belief that a timely apology makes all the difference. Asif and Butt have clearly delayed their confessions and it will do them no good given the fact that they were in denial all the while. As it seems, the cricket fans are still angered with the whole issue, particularly because of the audacity of it all. The 2010 spot-fixing case is unique in its own ways mainly because it exposed this new form of manipulation. While there may have been talks of unfair deals and match-fixing in the past, this was something novel and stunned the imagination of the fan. Since 2010, we have seen other incidents of spot-fixing coming to light, but Asif, Butt and Mohammad Aamer will have that extra ignominy attached to them — being the first cricketers to be convicted for an act committed on the field of play.

Through all that Aamer’s case is different. He pleaded guilty in the court in England and also went on to feature in educational videos about the episode. His admission may have come some time after the controversial Test, but being a young boy, who was possibly “misguided”, is what made the fan sympathetic.

Having said that, public memory is short lived and they often tend to forget things. It is particularly true in the sub-continent as numerous cricketers accused and penalized for match-fixing returned to public life and took on various roles. Most of them continue to maintain their innocence and one may say that Asif and Butt have been different on that front. Fate has probably handed them a shot at redemption and they may have time to set things right.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)