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Pakistan’s Mohammed Amir was released from Portland Young Offenders Institute in Dorset last month after being convicted of sport fixing by deliberately bowling no balls. The inevitable question is now being asked as to whether this young fast bowling sensation should be allowed to take the field of play now or in the future. If the International Cricket Council is serious about eradicating this ugly cheating from the sport then it is clear that Amir should never play cricket again.
The 18 year old has drawn comparisons with Pakistani legend Wasim Akram as a master of left arm swing bowling. Indeed the Sultan of Swing along with West Indies icon Michael Holding lamented Amir’s involvement in the spot fixing saga as this young man with seemingly limitless potential as a fast bowler tarnished his career by bowling no balls at certain points during his spell. But if Amir is allowed to play again, it will be to the detriment of the entire cricketing world. Salman Butt and Mohammed Asif, Amir’s co-conspirators, received jail sentences with bans of ten years and seven years respectively. However these bans are insufficient and will not discourage future cheats. Infamously, Hansie Cronje was banned for life from professional cricket for his role in a match-fixing scandal in 2004. This sentence evidently did not stop the cheats; a no-nonsense life time ban for Butt, Asif and Amir would serve as a better deterrent and send a strong message to professional players; that any role played in spot fixing, no matter how big or small, should carry a zero tolerance life time ban.
There is an argument that the youthful Amir was naïve and not necessarily malicious in his intentions. Some argue that the fast bowling youngster was acting under orders of his captain Salman Butt and that what was happening was all over his head. However, ignorance is not an excuse. Amir bowled no balls at specific points and made no real effort to disguise these no balls, they were blatant and commentators were left bemused. They had no idea what was lying beneath the surface as Amir pocketed thousands of dollars.
As a cricket fan it is sad to see spot fixing and it’s with even greater sadness that I believe that Amir should be permanently banned from the sport. I was in awe of Mohammed Amir when he played in England, expertly harnessing the notoriously difficult conditions to produce spells of bowling that rivalled Wasim Akram in his prime. In particular a ball bowled to Mitchell Johnson had Sky Sports commentators utterly dumbstruck. However, cheating is cheating and Amir’s nativity, ignorance and tarnishing of a sport as rich in heritage as cricket warrants a harsh ban and he deserves to be made an example of. Spot fixers in sport should be subject to the severest punishment that any sport’s governing body can issue. After all, where’s the fun in sport if it’s all based on corruption?