Spot-fixing scandal: Why Butt and Asif don't evoke sympathy like Amir

Published August 21, 2015
Looking at the amount of money spent by the two players on their legal defense, it is apparent they were paid well. — AP/file
Looking at the amount of money spent by the two players on their legal defense, it is apparent they were paid well. — AP/file

Five years have passed since that fateful Lord's Test, yet the events from the fourth game of Pakistan's 2010 tour of England stand out like a vivid nightmare.

Pakistan were 2-1 down in the series and the prospects of levelling the four-match series appeared bright, when the News of the World sting operation shook the cricketing world to its core.

Captain Salman Butt, star seamer Mohammad Asif, and young prodigy Mohammad Amir were banned from all forms of the game for arranging deliberate no-balls during the Lord's Test in return for money in a deal with an undercover reporter from News of the World.

I distinctly remember, the news spread like wildfire in the middle of the night.

To me, it was almost surreal to watch the faces of these three sportsmen plastered all over international channels such as the BBC, as well as those which did not cover cricket. As I absorbed the reports, my heart grew heavier.

It was difficult to sleep that night.

I have always been a loyal supporter of the Pakistan cricket team, even rubbishing most rumors of corruption, perhaps to a fault.

Yet, at that moment, I couldn’t help but recall three moments in my life; arguing against my friends in high school in 1996, who after the eventful quarterfinal defeat to India, claimed that the captain had sat out of the match at the last minute due to a payout; arguing with different friends, this time at university in Canada, who were attacking the same captain for fresh allegations; finding it hard to defend the same skipper after it was leaked that Justice Qayyum had only taken it easy on the legend because he had a ‘soft spot’ for him.

Perhaps, had justice been served when Rashid Latif and Basit Ali had started making noise in the 90s, Butt, Asif, and Amir would not have risked maligning their country for some extra money in 2010.

Also read: Butt, Asif eligible to return to international cricket in September: ICC

But, as can be deduced from the amount of money spent by Butt and Asif on their legal defense, these modern cricketers were well paid. While the legends of the game often had to scrap by (in 1992 the Pakistani World Cup team struggled to maintain their own upkeep), these men were earning well, maybe not as well as their peers from across the border, but earning decently enough.

Aside from the reputation of their nation, the tainted trio had also hurt the reputation of the sport. As the expression goes, cricket is a game of finer points.

Small, naturally occurring, random, and unpredictable events can change the course of an entire game to the glee of those watching.

Timeline of the spot-fixing case: How it all unfolded

As a result of their actions, numerous serendipitous cricketing moments which have occurred in matches involving Pakistan, were called into question.

Was one wicketkeeper really capable of missing dozens of catching, stumping, and run out opportunities in a match? And, if he was so incompetent why was he still part of the playing eleven?

One could recall the name Ata-ur-Rehman, not exactly the best of seamers in the world, who the board fought to have removed, but was kept only on the insistence of the captain. Later, the same seamer provided a testimony against the captain, claiming he was only kept in the team to help fix matches.

A few months from now, Butt and Asif will once again be eligible for international cricket, and they desperately want in.

I believe in forgiving those who have carried out their punishment and are truly remorseful, but I must side with legends such as Javed Miandad when they say that Butt and Asif must be kept as far away from Pakistan cricket as possible.

Also read: Miandad asks PCB to keep tainted trio away from the game

On the other hand, I feel Amir can be given a second chance. He was young, impressionable, and should be rewarded for coming forward so that other young cricketers will also encouraged into coming clean without fear of bringing their careers to a complete halt.

Ata-ur-Rehman, after blowing the whistle in the 90s, instead of being treated like a national hero, was reportedly hounded and threatened with violence, and ended up relocating to another country.

No sympathy for Butt or Asif

While Amir immediately came clean, (though, who knows, it could have been a legal strategy), Butt and Asif continued to toy with the sentiments of the nation by claiming it was a conspiracy.

It was only after they had exhausted all legal options did the two utter shallow apologies.

Also read: Repenting Amir urges youngsters not to destroy their lives

Personally speaking, I was not as angry at Butt and Asif for committing their crimes, as much I was for the media circus they initiated afterwards. Butt made repeated appearances on television pleading his innocence, in a performance which can only be describe as shameless.

The only cricket Butt and Asif should play now is in a Lollywood film.


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