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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Salman Butt and Mohd Asif convited in Court for match-fixing !

Skirmishes and crossing the Line of Control have always given rise to conflicts !  - only now read that there is the  Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS],  an international arbitration body set up to settle disputes related to sport headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland.

A sad day for the ardent follower, who still believes that matches are played and won on the Cricket field.  The recent happenings tell us that the establishment has failed (is that limited to Pakistan alone !).  Sure these would make many speak out of turn – already Michael Vaughan is reported to have stated that he suspects a Test match in 2000 might have been fixed.  It was won by England, Pakistan had surrendered from a strong position….   – the fickleness of the game, the fact that positions could change vastly too soon, have all added glamour to the game – but are they real ?

In a much publicised statement attributed to the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice – she had told Pakistani Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani - "Mr Prime Minister...either you're lying to me or your people are lying to you, - on his statements about the Mumbai terror attacks.  Is it that everything brews in Pakistan !!

Now a case of decision of occurrence on field by a Court, that too UK Court and the  convictions mean the trio would  become the first sportsmen convicted for on-field corruption in a UK court since the 1960s, when three footballers, including two from Sheffield Wednesday, were jailed for throwing matches.  Last year, “News of the World” had unravelled a serious allegation that brought the roof caving in….  it was about  3 deliveries that were recorded in statistics books as extras – but will remain greased for ever. Mazhar Majeed had reportedly assured that these would happen with precision. The first ball of the third over of the innings, Amir is to bowl the first over & then the last ball of the tenth over to be bowled by Asif.  Read my earlier post on this :  overstepping LOC

Now the Court has pronounced that 2  Pakistani cricketers  are  guilty of a match-fixing plot during last year's tour of England.  They are former Test captain Salman Butt, 27, and fast bowler Mohammad Asif, 28,  who plotted to bowl deliberate no-balls in the Lord's Test as part of a lucrative betting scam.  The scandal came to light  after an undercover reporter recorded UK-based sports agent Mazhar Majeed, 36, boasting of how he could arrange for Pakistan cricketers to rig.  It was the 2010 Test at Lords when Majeed promised the reporter that Asif and Amir would deliver 3 no balls at specific points…. They were delivered as promised !   The probability of someone predicting this by chance was estimated by a cricket statistician as 1.5 million to one.

Butt and Asif both strenuously denied any involvement in match-fixing at that stage.   After 17 hours of deliberations,  a jury at London's Southwark Crown Court unanimously convicted the pair of conspiracy to cheat.  The jurors also found Butt guilty of conspiracy to accept corrupt payments by a majority of 10 to two.  The jury has not yet reached a verdict on whether Asif was also guilty of conspiracy to accept corrupt payments, and is continuing its deliberations.  Newspapers report that the pair did not react to the news but sat expressionless in the dock.   The judge, Mr Justice Cooke, extended bail for them until sentencing later this week.. The maximum prison sentence for the acceptance of corrupt payments is seven years in jail, while 'conspiracy to cheat' carries a maximum two-year sentence.

The players have already been punished by the ICC after a disciplinary hearing in Doha, Qatar, earlier this year. Each was banned from the sport for at least five years. Butt received a further suspended five-year ban and Asif was handed a further two-year suspended sanction. All three players have filed appeals against their bans at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.  Years back, there was the  Justice Qayuum report  which gave  a warning and cautioned the PCB- nothing happened as a fall out !

The judgment has done irreparable damage to Pakistan Cricket, to its credibility and has also shaken that of other Boards – will this act as deterrent spreading the message that short-cut methods would only end us in losing respect, career and value.

Mohammad Amir had earlier whilst pleading guilty to spot fixing had stated that there was extreme pressure and threats to his place in the side, if he did not participate in the fixing.  He had made this plea in the pre-trial itself.   Amir had pleaded that his  involvement was limited to the final Test match at Lord's between August 26 and 29, 2010.  and that it was the defendant's first and only involvement and was, therefore, an isolated and one-off event. 

Though Amir was only 18 at that time, whether it would be viewed as a confession of innocent naïve rookie or would turn to be a willing conspirator remains as there are reports of text messages of fixing. 

Action replays were once brought in to enable Umpires and TV Umpires to decide on a wicket.  Now the Jury  watched footage on TV sets in the court of Amir's behaviour after his no-balls. He repeatedly checked his spikes and Butt placed sawdust around the crease.  The prosecution called this  "a performance".  Amir was the Player of the Series for the Tests in England, having taken five-wicket hauls in his last two matches. His involvement in fixing cost him an ICC Emerging Player of the Year nomination.

Just think of those days of West Indian speedsters, who played their heart-out on the Cricket field, bowling fast, hurting the batsmen but off the field they remained most gentle.  They played for the Countries, for the sake of the game and bowled mad even on batsman-friendly wickets which offered no assistance..

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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