“Shamed cricketers deserved even longer in jail” – Wasim Khan

Chance to Shine Chief Executive Wasim Khan reflects on the jailing of the Pakistani cricketers.

“Yesterday I watched on television as my boyhood hero Imran Khan addressed a rally of more than 100,000 people in Lahore and I wondered if he would ever be given the chance to make a difference. I say ‘given’ because in Pakistan justice rarely prevails.

The culture of corruption is so rife there that I was not surprised that three of its cricketers were found guilty of spot-fixing. In fact, I’ll be surprised if there aren’t more to follow. The convictions have bought a sense of relief that justice has been done.

But in my opinion, Salman Butt, the former captain, and Mohammad Asif got off lightly. Yes, jailing them for two and a half years and a year respectively makes a statement, but harsher sentences would have shown greater intent. After all, they have cheated, discredited the game and brought shame on their country. And they have shown little remorse.

Every day that Butt and Asif are behind bars they will continue to plead their innocence. Facing up to the truth and admitting mistakes doesn’t sit comfortably in Pakistani culture.

Mohammad Amir is also accountable for his part and, even at the age of 18, he was an adult and knew what he was doing; but a strong captain clearly influenced and used an impressionable youngster. The small sum of money that Amir was paid for the scam compared with the others tells its own story.

Should Butt and Asif be allowed to play again? Absolutely not. They would discredit any team. Amir will be banned for five of his best years in cricket, and deservedly so. But he was led down a wrong path and should have a chance to resurrect his career. He is the finest left-arm bowler in the world since Wasim Akram and I hope he can find the strength to start again.

I’m not convinced either that yesterday’s sentences will stop other players from getting involved. Greed is a great driver and even if individuals back off for a year or two, they may only be waiting for the dust to settle.

The best we can hope for is that the Pakistani authorities are shamed into doing something about the problems riddling their cricket set-up. Education programmes can play a part, but must be underpinned by a support network. In Britain, the Chance to Shine charity has worked hard to instil the values of fair play in children. But how will the game respond to children who say: ‘Cricket isn’t fair, it’s full of cheats?’

Every child needs role models, every generation icons. Imran Khan was mine and I hope there are more like him for young Pakistanis to emulate.

Wasim was one of the first British-born Muslims to play professional cricket in England and is also a member of the ECB’s anti-corruption and security unit.

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