My Two Hundred Dinars: The spot fixing arrests.

Posted on November 4, 2011

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As the spot fixing court case came to a climax yesterday, prison sentences were handed out to the three Pakistan players in the dock. Salman Butt, who was captain of the Pakistan side when this all came out, was given a 2 1/2 year sentence. The two fast bowlers at the centre of the controversy, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir, were given one year and six months respectively. This is either a great step on the road to cleaning up cricket, or a dark dark day for a proud sport, depending on your point of view. My two hundred dinars? It’s a bit of both. The entire spot fixing scandal leaves a sour taste in the mouth, but there is also a lot more to this.

‘Spot fixing’ is a term that has been coined purely from the outing of this case. What it means is that the three players mentioned above were charged with conspiring to carry pre-determind actions on the pitch at a pre-determined time, on the insistence of a bookie. Betting on individual moments, to be simple. Such as a particular ball (say, 14th over, 3rd ball) bringing no runs. Or, as was the case here, no balls to be bowled. The players were offered astronomical sums of money, and they carried out the plans on the pitch. The no balls themselves would have had next to no influence on the outcome of the match, but its still conspiracy to cheat. This illegal betting market is reportedly worth around $1 billion annually. I don’t think anyone believes it is healthy for the sport. It should be stamped out, and the harshness of the punishment here is maybe a good thing, to deter others from doing it.

It is the case of Mohammad Amir that makes this slightly more complicated. Only 18 years old at the time of the test in question, Amir was but a child. 18 year olds are younger than they have ever been, and as we see with celebrities worldwide, easy to lead. For a boy from modern day Pakistan, the amount of money he was offered would have allowed his family back home to revolutionize their own lives. What he did was silly, very stupid, but his context should be taken into account. As his brother said yesterday after the sentencing, 6 months is a lot for an immature kid.

It also seems very convenient that these 3 players at the heart of this controversy are from Pakistan. Pakistan has long been a sort of pariah on the international cricketing stage, mainly because of its political instability. It seems a lot easier to accuse Pakistan of wrong-doing than any other test playing nation. Match fixing is rife all over the subcontinent, this can’t be denied, but would the same punishments been handed out had the 3 men in question been MS Dhoni, Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma? What if it had been Ricky Ponting, Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson? Andrew Strauss, James Anderson and Steve Finn? Pakistan is an international cricketing scapegoat. For the record, I am by no means claiming that any of the above players have ever been involved in this sort of thing, they are merely hypothetical examples. There is an anti-Pakistan feeling in world cricket, which is something that people know but dare not say.

To sum up, three men were very immature and extremely stupid, and have received a punishment for their crimes. Whether the ICC goes further in investigating this, and I wouldn’t hold my breath, remains to be seen. The claim that it is a $1 billion industry suggests that it goes much deeper than Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and young Mohammad Amir. It is vital now that investigations continue, and that the ICC don’t consider this one example making enough.

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