Cow Corner

Where does cricket go from here?

Cow Corner

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Justice has been served, but where does
the game of cricket go from here?

Three former Pakistan international
cricketers were escorted from the dock by prison officers on Thursday
after
being handed combined jail sentences totalling four years for their part in the
spot-fixing plot in their Test match against England at Lord's last year.

Salman Butt, the disgraced Pakistan
captain during that Test and a man described by Mr Justice Cooke as "the
orchestrator of this activity", was jailed for two years and six months.

Mohammad Asif, who bowled one of three
prearranged no-balls at the centre of the conspiracy, was given a year in
prison. Mohammad Amir, who at the time of his
crime was only 18 years old, was handed a six-month sentence.

They must serve half of their sentences
before release on licence, and must do so in English prisons - a galling
reality for three men who, as the judge recognised, had until last year been
"heroes" for their nation and icons in their sport.

"The [essence] of the offences
committed by all four of you is the corruption in which you engaged was in a
pastime the very name of which used to be associated with fair dealing on the
sporting field," said Justice Cooke. "'It's not cricket' was an
adage."

Butt's agent, Mazhar Majeed, was
described by the judge as being equal to Butt as one of two "architects of
the fixing", and was given a 32-month sentence, the heaviest handed down
in courtroom four of Southwark Crown Court on Thursday.

In cricketing terms, the three former
Pakistan players are serving minimum five-year bans from the International
Cricket Council. "That is the punishment imposed by the cricket
authorities," said the judge, "but these crimes of which you have
been convicted require that a sentence be imposed which marks them for what
they are and acts as a deterrent for any future cricketers who may be tempted.

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"These offences, regardless of
pleas, are so serious that only a sentence of imprisonment will suffice to mark
the nature of the crimes and to deter any other cricketer, agent or anyone else
who considers corrupt activity of this kind, with its hugely detrimental impact
on the lives of many who look to find good honest entertainment and
good-hearted enjoyment from following an honest, albeit professional sport.

"Now, whenever people look back on
a surprising event in a game or a surprising result or whenever in the future
there are surprising events or results," said the judge, "followers
of the game who have paid good money to watch it live or to watch it on TV will
be led to wonder whether there has been a fix and whether what they have been
watching is a genuine contest between bat and ball. What ought to be honest sporting
competition may not be such at all."

What kind of state does this leave the
game of cricket in?

Depressingly for cricket, the judge gave
a hint to his belief that the four men's crimes were probably not isolated but
could have been "the tip of the iceberg" and "part of the common
culture".

Because fixing is so difficult to establish beyond
reasonable doubt, the best weapon available to the cricket authorities is a
combination of deterrence and education. And this case should both deter and
educate every young cricketer who hankers after a professional career.

The trio's guilt comes as no surprise to former
players. Indeed, a "not guilty" verdict from Southwark would have
been far more depressing for the game. A simple photo from that Lord's Test
match of August 2010 was as eloquent as any barrister's summing up.

Inevitably,
and very sadly, there will be a long, dark shadow cast over the world game and
no series will be as heavily scrutinised and cynically analysed as Pakistan's
forthcoming series with England in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab
Emirates.

The
desperate hope from all cricket fans who love the game is that the ICC's Anti
Corruption and Security Unit can finally make significant inroads in
eradicating such activity. There is no time like the present.

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Reaction to the jail terms from some very grumpy sources, and Bob Willis...

Former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif

They deserved this punishment, they had it coming. But now the Pakistan Government and Pakistan Cricket Board should also take action against them. These convictions will hopefully serve as a deterrent to others in future because cricket should not be allowed to be corrupted by anyone.

Former Pakistan captain Imran Khan

I feel very sad today not only for the players but for Pakistan and its cricket. But the fact is that when these players see corrupt people flourishing in our society they think they can get away with anything. It is a shameful day for Pakistan cricket today. I feel very bad for Amir in particular because he still very young. I think he saw others doing it and thought he could get away with it as well.

Salman Butt's father, Zulfiqar

My son has been implicated and made a scapegoat. I will produce evidence and documents to prove what is really happening in this case.

Former West Indies bowler Michael Holding

I hope this acts as a deterrent for others thinking of doing the same thing, not just in England but in the rest of the world.

Former England all-rounder Ian Botham

We know it is all over the place, we know it is endemic, now is the time to attack it.

Former England fast bowler Bob Willis

This will certainly help to eradicate spot-fixing and match-fixing in the UK, as for the rest of the world I'm not sure.

Former Pakistan captain Moin Khan

It is a sad and tragic day for Pakistan cricket but one hopes it will also result in a new beginning for [it].

Former Pakistan manager Intikhab Alam

Today is a black day for Pakistan cricket. I feel for these boys but what they have done they must pay for it. They let their families and nation down, which is terrible.

Former England pace bowler Darren Gough

I'm pleased, I would have liked to see the [sentences] longer to be honest.

What is your reaction to the jail terms? What effect do you think it will have on cricket? Post your views and comments below...

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