Monday, 7 February 2011

ICC right with trio's punishment with World Cup looming

The ghastly spectre of match-fixing, that hovers menacing in the background of all major cricket matches, has been in the centre of attention again this week when punishments were finally handed down by the ICC on three Pakistani cricketers - former captain Salman Butt and the fast bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir.
Butt was banned for 10 years with five suspended if he undergoes anti-corruption education, Asif was banned for seven, two of them suspended for the same reasons as Butt.

Amir, just 18 years old don't forget, was banned for five years. They were all for incidents during the fourth Test between Pakistan and England at Lord's last August.
They were accused of spot-fixing - the pre-planning of individual events in a cricket match, such as no balls or batting out a maiden over for the purpose of illegal betting scams. The problem when trying to spot such incidents is that they are insignificant to the pattern of the game (unlike say giving your wicket away or dropping a catch) so are virtually impossible to recognise as being deliberately pre-planned. No one watching the goalwire livescore wants to have these sorts of doubts in their minds.

The story has rocked Pakistan cricket, already bruised from a series of other scandals in recent years. There is also the individual tragedy of three young cricketers careers permanently tarnished after succumbing to the temptations of quick cash offered by shady businessmen lurking in the shadows.

The ICC hope this sends out a strong message that they will not deal with match-fixing lightly, especially with the World Cup in the horizon.

The tournament, held in the cricket mad sub-continent, will be examined closely by officials and fans alike for more instances of apparent spot-fixing and those keeping track of the live cricket scores will hope nothing is uncovered.

Who knows how many incidents have gone unnoticed in the recent past and whether, despite these punishments, it will continue.

It is a shame that we are talking about things like this at all on the eve of what should be an exciting tournament. But it is at least encouraging to see the ICC take a defiant stand against corruption rather than bury their heads in the sand, which I feel has been the case in years gone by.

Let's hope the reviews of the World Cup will be about dramatic wickets and last-gasp runs, not deliberate no-balls and pre planned batting strokes.

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