In the summer of 2010, three Pakistani players; the captain Salman Butt and fast bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir were accused of spot fixing by the now defunct News of the World. The news broke out during the fourth test match of Pakistan’s tour to England. Reporters from News of the world secretly filmed Mazhar Majeed accepting money and informing reporters that fast bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir would bowl No balls deliberately at certain points in their overs. After investigation, all three cricketers were found guilty and on 5/2/2011 it was announced all three players would be banned by the International Cricket Council. Salman Butt was banned for 10 years, Mohammed Asif was banned for 7 years and Mohammed Amir was banned for 5 years. Furthermore all three players were given prison sentences ranging from 6 to 32 months.
Five years later the ICC suspended 5 years of Salman butt’s ban and 2 years of Mohammed Asif’s ban, allowing both players to play domestic and international cricket once their ban ends on 2/9/2015, while Mohammed Amir was allowed to play domestic cricket earlier this year.
Immediately after this news fans of the Pakistan Cricket were divided in to two groups. One group was in favor of selecting these players for international cricket while the other group against it. All the fans of the team currently have one question on their mind, should the players involved in spot fixing scandal play for their country again?
There are a lot of arguments in support of these players; many fans argue that these players were punished for their actions and now they should be allowed to come back. Some fans also support the idea that these players should be judged on the basis of their domestic performance, while other fans simply argue that the team needs all three players. Taking all these factors in to account, there are still certain negative aspects that all fans need to understand before supporting these players.
Mohammed Asif made his international debut in 2005 and since then has been widely considered by many analysts as the best new ball bowler to ever play for Pakistan. While he has performances to back up that claim, nobody has been more prone to controversy and scandal than Mohammed Asif. He has been tested positive for steroids twice and he was also caught with a recreational drug at the Dubai airport once. After all this controversy ended, Asif again found himself involved in the spot fixing scandal. Looking at his record it is clear that Asif’s controversies have overshadowed his performances. He has been given chances before to redeem himself however it has only resulted in further controversy and further damage to the reputation of Pakistan cricket.
Salman Butt had a clean record before the spot fixing scandal tarnished his image. After the scandal, for a year, Salman Butt maintained the claims that he was innocent during several interviews. He purposely used the media to manipulate the fans and convince them that he had done no wrong. After a year when he realized that he wasn’t getting a lot of support he finally admitted that he was involved in spot fixing and apologized to the fans. In the past cricketers like Shane Warne were also involved in accepting money from the bookers in exchange for information of the pitch and weather, but they immediately apologized for their offences because of which they didn’t lose respect in the eyes of the fans. On the other hand Salman Butt tried to convince the fans that his case was mishandled. Furthermore there are a lot of good openers currently in the domestic circuit and in the team. Azhar Ali, Mohammed Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad, Shan Masood and Nasir Jamshed are all openers who have given good performances in the past. There are other up and coming players like Mukhtar Ahmed and Nauman Anwar who are trying to cement their place in the team. Also Sarfaraz Ahmed can always be trusted to open the innings in One day and T20 cricket. Thus under the current scenario Salman Butt doesn’t fit in the squad because there are already a lot of openers who have proven their capability and have done nothing wrong ethically.
Mohammed Amir is someone who has received the most sympathy from the fans because of his young age and the fact that he immediately accepted his offence and apologized. Amir’s case has also been treated specially by both PCB and ICC and he was also allowed to play domestic cricket 6 months before his ban officially ended. Many fans believe that at least Mohammed Amir should return immediately after his ban ends, however since 2010 Pakistan cricket team has avoided controversies in the dressing room. Part of this is due to Misbah ul Haq who took the charge of the team when the dressing room morale was low and he helped restore stability in the dressing room. Allowing Amir to come back might result in a negative environment in the dressing room which would in turn affect the performance of the team in the ground. On top of that Pakistan currently has an army of left arm fast bowlers that includes Wahab Riaz, Muhammed Irfan, Rahat Ali, Sohail Tanvir, Junaid khan, Zia ul Haq and Mir Hamza. There are also other fast bowlers like Sohail khan and Imran Khan who have performed well whenever they were given opportunities in the past. Furthermore Pakistan also has all-rounders like Anwer Ali and Billawal Bhatti who can bat as well. In such case there doesn’t seem to be a spot available for Mohammad Amir on the squad.
Considering all the factors, at the present moment it would be better in the interest of Pakistan cricket that PCB restricts all three players to playing domestic cricket. This would ensure that the positive environment of the dressing room is maintained. In contrast to what many fans believe Pakistan Cricket currently doesn’t need Mohammed Asif, Amir and Salman Butt.
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By Abdul Basit Yousuf