Not only was the conviction of three Pakistani cricketers for their participation in spot-fixing scam a dark day for Pakistan cricket, it was also a very dark day for the sport in general, and for that matter all sports as a whole.
Corruption in cricket has probably been around a lot longer than any of us imagine as it was only following the Hansie Cronje corruption case 12 years ago that the eyes of fans and the authorities were opened to the existence of corruption in the game. Whether the jail terms handed out to Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir will reduce the threat of future incidents of corruption remains to be seen.
What could happen from now on is that cricket fans will view unusual decisions made by players, officials and others who influence a match with considerably more suspicion and scrutiny than previously, which ultimately could jeopardise the growth of the sport throughout the world.
It is fortunate that we live in a digital age and that respectable bookmakers at least can see irregular betting patterns in an instant. But of course not all bookmakers are respectable, and many hide behind facades that have yet to be uncovered.
We are told that many of these so-called bookies operate in the Far East, but with the proliferation of the Internet, the Far East becomes a lot closer, giving these unscrupulous people easy access to any sport and thus increasing the risks of corruption.
This is probably the reason why the ICC’s Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) were not able to identify this latest scam and its existence was actually made via an undercover newspaper report, ironically, by the now discontinued and disgraced News of the World, who were commended by the judge on his summing up. Not only did their revelations expose the scam, they also exposed the ACU as an almost useless investigative arm which has now been operational ever since the "Cronje case."
Surely it is a matter of grave importance for the ICC to now make this so called ACU become the deterrent it was set up to be, and not the "toothless tiger" that England Test captain Andrew Strauss described as so accurately the other day.
They should have been provided with enough "intelligence" material from this latest case to build a global picture of how corruption works in this most traditional of sports. Their inactivity and lack of positive results only assists the corrupt. It is no good for the ICC, no good for the game and most importantly no good for the players.
The three convicted players will never play for their country again, they will be unwelcome at any club and will be jeered by anyone who turns up to watch them. Their shame will know no end and will be with them until the end of their days, which is a huge pity as all three were gifted players and would have formed a strong backbone to the re-emerging Pakistan cricket team.
Hopefully the one legacy that can leave on the game is one of improved integrity in the future.
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