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AFP
June 6, 2020

Match-fixing haunts Pak cricket even after a decade of Lord’s Test

Sports

AFP
June 6, 2020

KARACHI: When Mohammad Amir bowled a no-ball against England on the opening day of the 2010 Test at Lord’s, no one could have imagined his long stride past the crease marked the first step in a historic fixing scandal. Two days later it was revealed that three no-balls -- two by Amir, and one by his pace partner Mohammad Asif -- had been part of a shady betting deal.

Pakistan’s captain Salman Butt had orchestrated the deliberate no-balls in return for money offered by undercover journalist Mazhar Majeed posing as a bookmaker. The scandal, exposed in the sting by Britain’s now-defunct News of the World tabloid, rocked the cricketing world, and aftershocks can still be felt a decade on in Pakistan. Not only did that dark morning at the revered ‘home of cricket’ derail the careers of three players who were banned and jailed, the saga also led to calls for Pakistan to be booted from international cricket. Butt, Amir and Asif were tried in a London court for offences under the Gambling Act and were jailed in November 2011.

Announcing the sentences, the judge underscored the severity of the crime. “The image and integrity of what was once a game, but is now a business, is damaged in the eyes of all, including the many youngsters who regarded three of you as heroes,” Justice Jeremy Cooke said. It marked a new low for Pakistan cricket, already reeling from the aftermath of terror attacks in Lahore on the Sri Lankan team a year before, which triggered the suspension of home internationals. Because he pleaded guilty earlier than his two teammates, and on account of his youth, the 18-year-old Amir received worldwide sympathy. He was allowed to play international cricket again in 2016 and, now 28, has been successfully reintegrated into the Pakistan team.

Asif, who received a seven-year ban and a one-year prison sentence, is now 37 and in the twilight of his career. Butt, 35, still harbours hopes of an international comeback after consistent domestic performances. As the orchestrator of one of the darkest episodes in the cricket-mad country’s history, that seems unlikely, especially with match-fixing still haunting the game.