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Should 18-year-old Aamer be treated with leniency if proved guilty of spot-fixing?

Monday, September 13, 2021
Shirin Sadikot

Until last month, Mohammad Amir was known to the world as a prodigious fast bowler from Pakistan, an 18-year-old who made the best of batsmen hop and jump with his menacingly bouncing and swinging deliveries, the young man who became the fastest to reach 50 Test wickets.

But that fateful day at the Lord’s changed it all for Amir. A tremendously promising cricketing career suddenly got engulfed in the gloom of spot-fixing allegations. Amir, along with his two senior mates, Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif, has not yet been proved guilty, but the proofs dished out by the British tabloid are damning. The smoke is too strong and widespread for us to believe there was no fire at all.

So, what if the investigations prove that Amir had indeed over-stepped on purpose when he bowled ‘that’ rather huge no-ball? It’s a thought that gives jitters to anyone who loves the game of cricket. But it’s also a decision that will probably determine the fate of cricket.

There are plenty of suggestions voiced by various former and current players, administrators and writers on what should be done with Amir if he’s found guilty. There is a school of thought which says his tender age must be taken into consideration while deciding his fate. After all, he’s only 18, and it would have been extremely difficult for him to say ‘no’ to an approach made by his captain and senior bowling partner.

As Mike Atherton said, in this case, the kid needs help and not punishment. The former England captain called for Amir to be rehabilitated and educated against the vice of match-fixing before reinstating him back into the team. ICC CEO Haroon Lorgat too stated that Amir’s age will be a factor in deciding his punishment. There were also reports the young man has been offered a bargain to let out the truth about his teammates and escape a harsh punishment. The people who support this argument feel cricket must not lose an outstanding talent to match-fixing.

But if the above course of action is implemented and Amir is allowed to play for Pakistan again despite being guilty of trading his integrity for a few easy bucks, what message will it send out to the other players?

In the future, if a young player is approached for getting involved in such deals, won’t he say to himself, ‘he got away with it and so will I’? Besides, everyone knows, once you fall into the trap of the betting mafias, you’re caught in a vicious circle you can never escape from. What is the guarantee Amir will not do it again in the future?

It can also be argued, if a player is ready for international cricket at a young age, he is also expected to have to maturity and character that needs to be had at that level. As admitted by current players like Michael Clarke and Stuart Broad, the ICC thoroughly educates a player against corruption even before he dons his national cap. Every player is provided with a pile of books which clearly mention the do’s and don’ts. In that case, age is immaterial.

Also, as Ian Chappell argues, if the fixers are let off easily, the honest players will think they’re fools to have rejected heaps of money for just overstepping the line by a few inches. If the ICC wants to clean up the game from the core, there’s no room for leniency. They need to crack the whip and make it crystal clear to all and sundry that if you cannot protect the integrity of the game, if you ‘cross the line’ of honesty even by a small margin, you have no right to be associated with cricket in any smallest possible way.

Which thought process do you agree with? If found guilty, would you give Amir a second chance to redeem his morality? If he oversteps the bowling crease in future, would you let it go off your mind without a hint of suspicion?

Or are you of the opinion that he, like any man who sells his conscience and betrays the game which earned him the respect and fame, should be thrown out of cricket forever? Do write in your views…

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