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Thu 3 Nov 2011 07:17 PM

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Pakistan cricket trio jailed for spot-fixing

Ex-captain Butt handed down 30-mth term for part in gambling-inspired plot

Pakistan cricket trio jailed for spot-fixing
Former Pakistan cricket captain Salman Butt arrives at Southwark Crown Court in London

Pakistan cricketers Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad
Amir were jailed on Thursday for their roles in a spot-fixing scandal which the
judge said had damaged the integrity of a game renowned for its fairness.

Former captain Butt was sentenced to 30 months, while Asif
was given one year and fellow pace bowler Amir six months as the sporting world
was given a strong message that corruption would be punished by much more than
fines and suspensions.

The trio were part of a gambling-inspired plot to bowl no-balls
at pre-arranged times during a test match against England at London's Lord's
Cricket Ground in August 2010.

"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 you as heroes and would have given their eye teeth to play at the
levels and with the skills that you had," judge Jeremy Cooke told the
courtroom.

"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, followers of the game who have paid good money to
watch it ... will be left to wonder whether there has been fixing and whether
what they have been watching is a genuine contest between bat and ball."

Sports agent Mazhar Majeed, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy
to cheat and conspiracy to making corrupt payments at a pre-trial hearing, was
jailed for two years and eight months at London's Southwark Crown Court.

Majeed, who implicated another unnamed Pakistan player in
court, was trapped in a sting by former UK newspaper the News Of the World
which broke the spot-fixing story.

The cricketers, already banned from playing by the
International Cricket Council for a minimum of five years, showed no reaction
as the sentences were handed out amid strong words from the judge who said they
had tainted a game known for its fairness.

"'It's not cricket' was an adage," Cooke said.

"It is the insidious effect of your actions on
professional cricket and the followers of it that make the offences so
serious."

The age-old sport of cricket has much stricter rules than
many other team pursuits with a shake of a head at an umpire's decision often
warranting a fine for ungentlemanly conduct.

Butt, 27, and Asif, 28, were found guilty on Tuesday of
taking bribes while 19-year-old Amir admitted his part in the scam before the
trial started and had also offered a heartfelt apology during the sentence
hearing.

The case has prompted calls back home in Pakistan for the game
to be radically cleaned up.

"It is a shameful day for Pakistan cricket today,"
the country's former captain Imran Khan told Geo News.

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While Butt's father Zulfiqar said his son - who faces a long
wait to meet the baby his wife gave birth to earlier this week-  had been made a scapegoat, others said the
players had deserved their punishments.

"These convictions will hopefully serve as a deterrent
to others in the future because cricket should not be allowed to be corrupted
by anyone," said former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif.

Some thought the sanctions had not been harsh enough with
corruption suspected in Pakistani cricket for years.

"They should have been given a stricter punishment.
These people should be made an example for others. I think the punishment they
got was much less then what they deserve," said Noman Saeed, a telecoms
official in Karachi and a cricket fan.

"Now that they have been proven guilty, there should be
no sympathy for them. And now a proper investigation should be launched and
others involved should also be apprehended."

Butt, Asif and Majeed are expected to begin their sentences
at Wandsworth prison in south London, while Amir is due to be sent to a young
offenders' institute in west London.

Lawyers for Butt and Amir have said they will be appealing
the sentences.

Pakistan cricket was already suffering from the team having
to play home matches away from the country because of security concerns there.
The team are this week playing Sri Lanka in a "home" test in the
United Arab Emirates.

The Pakistan cricket board (PCB) distanced itself from the
convicted players, saying the trio had let the country down.

"It is a sad day for Pakistan cricket that these
players instead of having pride in playing for their country chose to
disappoint their supporters and let their nation down," PCB official
Nadeem Sarwar said.

The PCB also reiterated its support for all anti-corruption
measures taken by the International Cricket Council and member boards and said
it would be recommending to the government to draft laws against corruption and
fixing in cricket.

Fighting corruption in sport has become one of the
International Olympic Committee's main goals.

The world's most popular sport, soccer, has been besieged by
corruption allegations in the past year and now cricket is fighting to maintain
its integrity.

Corruption in cricket famously hit the headlines in South
Africa when former captain Hansie Cronje received a lifetime ban from the game
in 2000 for his part in match-rigging.

"The reality is that, maybe 10 years from now, we might
still be talking about the same issue," South Africa team manager Mohammed
Moosajee told a news conference in Johannesburg.

"Greed and corruption is a reality of the modern world
that we live in. For us it is about minimising the risks and exposure to
players."

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abdul hafeez sheikh 8 years ago

This is justice Done with these cricketers who have ashmed our country and cricket

leo50 8 years ago

a sad day for cricket, and the players who were corrupted. I hope after their jail terms they are allowed a chance to show they have reformed their characters. Everyone deserves a second chance.

Yousuf K 8 years ago

As a Pakistani I am so ashamed, corruption has pervaded all our lives and relationships and sports.

Vikram 8 years ago

Cricket will never be the same again and I am afraid that "fixing" in cricket has been endemic from time immemorial. Salman Butt for me was the ringleader despite his accusations that Mazhar Majeed instigated the scam. He was in a position of authority and knew he could easily manipulate certain elements of the game through tactics, fielding positions or simply ordering a player to do his bidding. It was also documented how he ousted former captains Younis Khan and Shahid Afridi from the position of captain. This shows real malice and intent to profit on another individuals downfall. I do not want to see such men playing cricket EVER.