Strong reactions continued to pour in on the jailing of three Pakistani cricketers in a spot—fixing scam with England captain Andrew Strauss calling ICC’s Anti—Corruption Unit a “toothless tiger” while some other players demanded more powers for the ACU to deal with the menace.
Two days after former captain Salman Butt, pacers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir were jailed for their involvement in a spot—fixing scam, the cricket fraternity asked why it took a tabloid sting to expose the rot and not the ICC ACU which has been in operation for 11 years now.
England captain Strauss said it should have come out through the ICC ACU, which is currently headed by Sir Ronnie Flanagan.
“It’s hard to be happy or satisfied when something like this happens. I think it is fantastic that there’s been some sort of repercussions for what these guys did and there’s a deterrent there,” Strauss said.
“For me, there’s still a lot of questions to be answered because they weren’t exposed by any of the cricketing members, they were exposed by the News of the World.
“I think we all know there’s no place for it in the game.
We’ve got to be vigilant. I still think the ICC could be doing a lot more than they are doing,” he added.
Strauss said the ICC ACU doesn’t seem to have the means to nab corrupt players.
“Unfortunately, the anti—corruption unit is a pretty toothless tiger. They can’t get into the real depth of it all because they haven’t got the resources available to them.
“I don’t hold it against them, they’re doing the best job they possibly can. They can’t do sting operations like the News of the World, they can’t infiltrate these betting networks,” he said.
Former ICC chief Malcolm Speed rued the lack of power for the ACU as a major hurdle in unearthing match—fixers.
The veteran administrator said that though the ASCU was adequately resourced in his time, they had to work in accordance with the legal system of each country.
“Comment has been made that the anti—corruption unit couldn’t catch these guys —— it was up to the (News of the World) journalist to do that —— but I think in this area you take what is given to you, the journalist was able to spring this trap, cricket has been able to take hold of that and impose lengthy bans on these players,” Speed said.
Former Pakistan captain Mushtaq Mohammad, on the other hand, felt Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif got away lightly and the should have been slapped with longer prison terms by the London Court which found them guilty.
“I don’t feel sorry for the players being sent to the jail — I have sympathy only for Pakistan cricket because its image has once more been dragged through the mud,” Mushtaq wrote in his column for ‘The Daily Telegraph’
“The maximum sentence that could have been applied in London was seven years and, in the case of Salman Butt, that would not have been too much. He was the captain who influenced this whole thing. And the agent should have got the same,” he added.
“It also surprised me that Mohammad Asif received only a year. That really surprised me. He is 28 and not exactly a youngster. He should have got four years at least.”
The only convicted player Mushtaq felt some sympathy for was 19—year—old pacer Mohammad Amir.
“In the case of Mohammad Amir, I believe the judge was exactly right. He was only 18 years old. Potentially he still has a future in front of him. He was almost as big a victim as the game itself, because he should have been protected,” he said.
A dismayed former Pakistan coach Waqar Younis hoped that the convictions would prove beneficial to the game in the long run.
“I hope that the outcome of the trial would prove beneficial to cricket in the future and also serve as a deterrent to other players,” Waqar said from Dubai.
“I salute our team which despite this dark episode kept on focusing on the game and performing well even though there was so much pressure and spotlight on the team because of the scandal,” he recalled.
Pakistan’s former captain Shahid Afridi, meanwhile, claimed that jailed bookie Mazhar Majeed tried approaching him several times but he kept the players’ agent at arm’s length as he suspected him of being involved in betting.
“He always tried to contact me personally in the hotel and wanted time to meet me. His brother Azhar also wanted to meet me. But I avoided them all the time because I had my suspicions that they were not trustworthy and involved in betting,” Afridi said.
A jolted Pakistan Cricket Board plans to hold an internal inquiry into the circumstances that led to the involvement of its three jailed players in the spot—fixing scandal.
The new Chairman of the board, Zaka Ashraf made it clear that it was surprising that the players got involved in the scandal despite the the PCB sending anti—corruption officers to England with the team.
“We had our anti—corruption officers there and yet how our players got involved in this scandal needs to be questioned,” he said.
Ashraf, who replaced Ijaz Butt as PCB Chairman last month, said the board would wait to get the full judgement of the Southwark Crown Court in London on the spot—fixing trial before starting its own inquiry.
“It would be premature to say if we take action against our own officials first let us have the inquiry and find out the facts and circumstances that led to this scandal that has badly tarnished our image,” he added.