Date added: November 10, 2011 Category: Mike Harfield
It’s interesting to note the many similarities, and one or two differences, between the betting scandals involving Salman Butt and Hansie Cronje. Both men captained their countries and both were well respected within the game. Both came from educated backgrounds and were comfortably off. Each of them succumbed to greed.
Cronje covered his misdemeanours with a cloak of sanctimonious piety. A ‘born again’ Christian he wore a bracelet inscribed with WWJD – What Would Jesus Do? I haven’t read the bible for a while but I certainly don’t remember anything about taking money to fix cricket matches or targeting teammates who look up to you and persuading them to join in your crimes.
Although he received a lifetime ban from cricket activities, Cronje was granted immunity from criminal prosecution when he gave evidence. He was successfully rebuilding his life when he died in a plane crash in June 2002. Most South Africans were, and still are, in total denial about Cronje. They only saw the charismatic leader of their country’s cricket team and many seemingly could not accept that he had a ‘dark side’.
The prospects for Salman Butt are bleak. Banned for five years by the ICC, his cricket career is effectively over. Unlike Cronje, he has not been forgiven by his fellow countrymen. Sentenced to 30 months in a UK jail, his life is in ruins all for the love of money. Just as Cronje persuaded his two most vulnerable teammates (both non-white) - Herschelle Gibbs and Henry Williams – to take money to underperform, so did Butt recruit two of his more susceptible players to join him in the betting scam.
Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir have paid a high price for their involvement. It is hard not to feel a smidgeon of compassion for Amir. From an impoverished background and only 18 when he was enticed into the scam by Butt, he must have felt under immense pressure to do what his captain asked. A five year ban seems about right; he alone of the three will have a chance to resurrect his cricketing career. Whether six months in jail is appropriate is open to debate. As a deterrent to others – maybe yes. As a punishment for an 18 year old who pleaded guilty, unlike the other two, I’m not so sure. To my mind, a suspended prison sentence would have been fairer in his case. I have no sympathy for Salman Butt but do hope that Amir will be treated sympathetically when he returns to first class cricket.
Agreed regarding Mohammed Amir, although his attempt to play minor league cricket this year as a "ringer" was fairly laughable. It could prove inspiration for a Cricket United project in 2012 though, so watch this space.