The fight for cricket’s soul

An International Cricket Council tribunal has handed down five-year bans to Pakistani cricketers found guilty of spot-

Over 50 hours of testimony and argument, thousands of documents, countless witnesses. The sum total? A minimum five year ban for three Pakistan players convicted of corruption.

Was this the strong message the International Cricket Council (ICC) wanted to send out?

Speaking on Sunday the ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat said:

Corruption in our game will never be tolerated and, once again, I reiterate our zero-tolerance approach. I hope this investigation, and the verdicts delivered, makes that message crystal-clear.

Back in August when a British newspaper released an undercover video report showing an agent accepting money to arrange the deliberate bowling of no-balls during a test against England, many thought life time bans would soon follow.

Instead Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammed Amir may still play cricket once their bans are over, although in the case of the 26-year-old Butt and the 28-year-old Asif this is highly unlikely.

As I watched Butt and Amir try to leave the hearing in Doha amidst a scrum of journalists and fans, there seemed little doubt that all the players – who have been found guilty of corruption, remember – are still regarded as heroes by the vast majority of people in Pakistan.

For them the ICC is an organization that is pro-Indian and is biased against their country.

Therein lies the problem.

Corruption is a issue in cricket. Automatically assuming that every allegation is part of an anti-Pakistan conspiracy fails to address the deeper issues.

For the players themselves they still have to appear before a UK magistrates court on March 17 charged with conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments and also conspiracy to cheat.

If found guilty they could be imprisoned for up to seven years.

This story still has some way yet to go.

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