Every week Geoff Boycott updates his site with fresh views on the world of cricket. Don't miss it.
Posted on | September 8, 2010 | 3 Comments
People close to the Pakistan investigation say that the three players might not have committed a criminal offence, because you can’t lay bets on no-balls in the UK.
But I will tell you this – what they did looks like a crime against cricket. And if there is no firm response from the Anti-Corruption and Security Unit, we might as well disband it.
As for the Pakistan High Commissioner, he should get off his high horse. Spot-fixing cannot be condoned. There is no conspiracy against Pakistan here, and by claiming that he is “100 per cent convinced” that the players are innocent, he is not looking at the evidence.
I am particularly concerned about the size of the no-balls sent down by Mohammad Amir. Professional cricketers play the game within small fractions. It is hard to see how he could have run up and bowled a no-ball by 12 inches without realising he is going to overstep. In normal circumstances, he would know at least two strides before he gets to the crease, and would abort his run-up.
As for the captain, he is the person who decides who will bowl the next over. So if the fixer is saying “the third ball of the first over”, the bowler can’t do it without having the captain onside. The evidence looks so bad that, whatever the police make of this case, the ACSU will be under pressure to take strong action. Within the disciplinary hearings, the burden of proof might as well be reversed: it is up to the players to prove themselves innocent.
Because it is so crucial for cricket, I think the ACSU should offer Mohammed Amir a plea bargain. Tell us the truth about what took place and he can get off with a lighter sentence. If he won’t play ball, then make an example of him. I feel for Amir, because any 18-year-old is likely to get dragged along by his seniors. But I still believe that he deserves a lengthy ban – seven years, perhaps – if he is shown to have bowled no-balls to order. As for the others, they should be treated even more harshly, because they have no excuse.
It is no coincidence that Pakistan are repeatedly implicated in these scandals, because they never deal with them properly. People might get suspended or banished from the team, but within a few months the regime changes, and they are back again, as if nothing had happened.
We saw a typical example with Mohammad Yousuf on this very tour. I am not saying that he was kicked out for match-fixing – we don’t really know – but that the to-ing and fro-ing was typical of Pakistan cricket. One minute he’s in disgrace, the next he’s on the field.
Now look at the Indians and their response to the revelations surrounding the Hansie Cronjé affair 10 years ago. Mohammad Azharuddin and Manoj Prabhakar were among the players implicated. They were never convicted in a criminal case, but the Indian board was strong. They never played for India again, nor did Ajay Jadeja, even though his ban was quashed in 2003. The selectors cannot be forced to pick people they don’t want to pick. Having these sort of players in your dressing-room can damage the team’s morale, as well as its credibility.
Pakistan must join the rest of the cricket world in deploring what happened at Lord’s. There is no point them trying to turn a blind eye.
The PCB has been treated with a lot of sympathy since the terrorist attacks, just over 18 months ago, which meant that they were unable to host international cricket. But that will dry up very quickly if they fail to address what has been going on. No one will want to host their matches.
Shakespeare wrote that Caesar’s wife must be above reproach. The same must be true of cricket. And that means dealing harshly with anyone who casts a shadow on it. If the ACSU aren’t prepared to take this case seriously, they should hand this case over to the former players – people like myself, Ian Botham and Michael Holding, who played tough, competitive cricket throughout our careers. I can promise you, we wouldn’t mess about.