There should be no such thing as ‘tragedy’ in sport unless it involves death.
Describing victory and defeat as such is sporting blasphemy – that’s what sport is about, deciding and defining winners and losers.
But when 18-year-old Pakistani fast bowler Mohammed Amir agreed to bowl a no-ball at a predetermined moment during the fourth Test match against England at Lord’s last week, it was as close as you could get to a sporting tragedy in which everybody remained alive.
The money that was offered to and allegedly taken by Amir, fellow fast bowler Mohammed Asif and recently appointed captain Salman Butt was part of a ‘sting’ operation carried out by British tabloid newspaper News of the World.
Butt, Amir and Asif have been suspended by the International Cricket Council (ICC) after being charged under the corruption code.
Now Amir and Asif have been removed from the list of ICC Awards. The awards honour the best international cricket players of the previous season.
Pakistan has endured a reputation as cricket’s most corrupt nation since the mid- 1980s when illegal bookmakers and gamblers were known to have profited by betting on some highly improbable results.
The right-wing newspaper went ‘undercover’ to prove that Pakistani players are still easily corruptible and easy to ‘buy’. Cricket’s international laws and
playing conditions make it clear that Asif and Amir’s offence is punishable with a life ban.
In Asif’s case, having already served a suspension for the use of steroids and spent time in detention in Dubai for possession of a recreational narcotic, the 27-year-old cannot claim to be an innocent.
But Amir, who took 19 wickets in four Tests against England and was named man of the series, will be left with nothing. He comes from an impoverished background and had miserable life prospects until his chance discovery as a young teenager with talent.
The newspaper secretly filmed their reporter handing over £140 000 (about R1.5 million) to an ‘agent’ who then ‘fixed’ the moments when the bowlers would deliberately overstep the crease.
Amir was, allegedly, presented with £5 000 when asked to bowl the no-ball.
But it is not just Pakistan’s players who have taken “money for jam” as Hansie Cronje infamously called bookmakers’ bribes more than a decade ago.
The problem has never gone away and SA’s youngsters are just as likely to be targeted as any others.
“It would be naive for any of us to think that the problem is limited to certain players in certain areas of the world,” SA Cricketers Association chief executive Tony Irish told City Press. – MWP Media