Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt was found guilty of breaching the ICC’s Anti-Corruption Code © Getty Images
Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt was found guilty of breaching the ICC’s Anti-Corruption Code © Getty Images

 

By Aziz – ul – Qadir

 

The gentleman’s game, as it was called, is in disgrace yet again. Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt have been found guilty of breaching the ICC’s Anti-Corruption Code and, consequently, handed sanctions by the independent Anti-Corruption Tribunal.

 

The ICC has said that the decision will help eradicate corruption in the game. Former and current players and cricket pundits have generally hailed the verdict as an exemplary precedent that should deter other cricketers from succumbing to unacceptable temptations.

 

The PCB is dumb, as usual, and does not know how to respond. The chairman issued a statement, “The PCB has no jurisdiction to challenge the bans as this is a matter between the ICC and the players.” Any matter which relates to players and ICC, one should tell Mr. Ijaz Butt, comes directly under the jurisdiction, if not control, of the PCB. Rather than commenting on the verdict itself you are talking of challenging the bans instead. You have to answer a number of questions first.

 

If Amir, Asif and Salman Butt have done anything wrong, what was the PCB and its security wing doing to spot or prevent it? If News of the World had known all this why PCB did not have a clue? When the tour management had openly accused some players of wrongdoing on the tour Down Under and then subsequently the Disciplinary Committee had handed bans or fines to those players, why did Mr. Ijaz Butt co-repeal those punishments? Who is responsible for mishandling the whole case when the accusations had been made? Why were we Pakistanis made to look like fools in eyes of the world? Why did Mr Ijaz Butt first accuse the English team and then shamelessly retract? Why did the PCB first support the players blindly and then slept over the case to go to the other extreme? The PCB was never an organization to be proud, but ever since Ijaz Butt took over as chairman, it’s in shambles.

 

Anyone who cherishes and loves this beautiful game of cricket will not tolerate corruption. Nobody should be allowed to deceive the fans and the nation he represents. In that respect, the decision to ban the trio cannot be questioned. It will certainly deter others from indulging in such malpractice. But will it eradicate spot and match fixing altogether? It may, for a while, help in controlling corruption, but the problem, in my opinion, will resurface with a graver magnitude. The reason is simple: The ICC is dealing with just the tip of the iceberg. The mafia and the chain of command have successfully evaded the ICC radar and its member boards. Ever since the menace of match-fixing came to light in 1994, the ICC has failed to get rid of it completely. The Anti-corruption Unit of ICC has proved to be a total failure. The three players were, if we consider the enormity and extent of the menace, unlucky to have been nabbed. They are just the tools; the real nexus needs to be unearthed and wiped out. We need to reach the core. The culprits should be taught a lesson, but merely punishing the players will not eradicate the problem.

 

Pakistan cricket is not the only one which is corrupt. Match-fixing is controlled by mafias in India and Dubai, and to a certain extent in London and Lahore. Can we enter those corridors and destroy the roots, or will we just keep cutting the branches? Furthermore, the ICC has failed to impose itself on stronger boards and stakeholders. It has withdrawn or backtracked on several occasions which indicate internal weakness in the ICC structure. Many players who were found guilty by their respective boards or ICC were handed lighter bans or got away with fines. And then there are events like Indian Premier League which are an attraction for the betting and match-fixing mafia. ICC’s jurisdiction and control over IPL is a big question mark.

 

There is talk of some leniency towards Amir considering his age and clean past record. The Tribunal has asked for certain changes to the Code with a view to providing flexibility regarding minimum sentences in exceptional circumstances. Will ICC consider? That is another subject. We do not know on what evidence and basis the ICC has declared the trio guilty of spot fixing. Whether the verdict coming just the day after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) charged the players was merely a coincidence or not. But the saga will not end here. The CPS criminal investigation has to reach its conclusion. They have charged the players already and advised them to report voluntarily. Further, the banned players would surely land in the Court of Arbitration for Sports as a last chance to clear their names. So the cricket world is not going to heave a sigh of relief any time soon. We hope for the best.

 

(Aziz-ul-Qadir, from Rawalpindi, Pakistan, is a physician by profession, who suffers from incurable disease called cricket! A nomad in the world of literature, especially poetry, his passion is to live, love, discuss, watch, listen, read and write cricket)