The shame of Cricket and Pakistan’s spot-fixing scandal

Usually at the end of a court case one side or the other can claim victory or closure in the matter.

Usually at the end of a court case one side or the other can claim victory or closure in the matter. At the end of the Spot Fixing case at Southwark crown court there were no winners only losers. Cricket’s reputation has been greatly tarnished, the game has lost its brightest star for the future and Pakistan as a nation has once again had its name dragged through the mud. And the worst part for all involved is that we will all be back here again in the future.

Such is the minutiae of individual events in cricket it is impossible to convincingly say that spot betting is not still prevalent. It is undoubted that illegal bookmakers still have a powerful hold over players around the globe. In 2010 fifty-six players reported that they were approached by ‘fixers’ looking for information about games. The illegal betting market in India, where cricket is a religion, is worth billions a year. Anyone who thinks that case is anything more than the tip of the iceberg is unfortunately deluded.

There is much about the state of Pakistan itself that can be seen in this case. Some commentators have said, somewhat harshly, that corruption is rife in Pakistani cricket because corruption is rife in Pakistan in general. Whilst there may be some truth to that, it does appear to be a slightly simplified and generalised viewpoint. 

More crucially though for the case, it shows the power that elder statesmen have over the young players. A lot has been made of the pressure put on young Mohammed Amir to bowl no-balls. The hierarchy of Pakistani society and the cricket team in particular places a great emphasis on looking up to and respecting the elders. 

It is perhaps best to say that Mohammed Amir is the innocent party in a case that has no innocent parties. Being young and under the influence of peer pressure is one thing, but Amir simply cannot be naïve enough to not realise the repercussions of his actions. Especially seen as he appears over time to have become more of a driving force in the spot fixing allegations, he went from following orders at Lords to seemingly negotiating his own fix at the Oval. Once he was in, it appears he too became caught up in the greed of the situation. 

Amir had the potential to be a global superstar of the game. He was the great bowling hope of a game that has seen genuine fast bowling talents disappear. Financially, he could have earned millions. In twenty years’ time his name could have tripped off the tongue alongside Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis as the greatest Pakistani pace bowlers ever. Yet he threw that all away for a few thousand pounds.

And it is for these reasons why Amir’s ban will not be enough to act as a deterrent in the battle against corruption in cricket. When Amir’s ban runs out he will be 23, an age at which most people are only breaking into test cricket. If cricket is genuinely interested in sending out a message that spot fixing in cricket does not pay, Amir’s success will always fly in the face of this message.

Amir’s case is a no win situation for cricket in reality. If he is allowed back into cricket at the end of his ban then the ICC will look toothless to truly eradicate the scourge of illegal betting in cricket. Yet kicking him out of cricket all-together will deprive the game of a potential superstar.

In the end though the game has to be bigger than one potential superstar. Amir’s presence on a test pitch again in the future will be a permanent reminder of cricket’s seedy surrounds. While the ICC continues to embark on a program of rehabilitation for match fixers, which has seen convictions quashed and sentences reduced, the game’s greatest devil will continue to sit on the shoulder of players whispering poisonous thoughts into their ears.

For its own sake cricket’s administrators must start to make examples of players to act as a future deterrent. The rules themselves are clear. Youthful naivety is one thing but breaking fundamental rules of the game is quite another.