Bowled-over by the sentence
'It's just not cricket' is an adage used by many to denote unsavory, behaviour in our society. And this is particularly true in the light of Pakistan's cricket team's skipper, Salman Butt. Today he was jailed for 30 months for his role in deliberately creating no-balls against England in the Test match last year. So perhaps, understandably, people might think twice about correlating gentlemanly conduct with this whiter-than-white sport.
However, my question concerns the sentence itself.
Granted that Butt and the other two players, Mohammed Asif and Mohammed Amir, were found guilty of illegal tampering by Southwark Crown Court.
But were their offences so serious that only a prison sentence could be justified?
Isn't it an over-reaction on the part of the high court judges to pass such a heavy-handed sentence especially as one of the players is still a teenager? It seems to me that these cricketers are being lambasted, vilified incomparably.
But before I go on, let me make it clear: I'm not, in anyway, trying to condone their actions of cheating and conspiring to accept corrupt payments - the actual legal offences with which they were charged and sentenced. I am aware that these form a fairly serious puncturing because, to a large extent, they tarnish the good name of cricket.
However, equally I am concerned that match fixing is not a uniquely a cricket-based phenomenon. It's been highlighted in other sports as well at both grass-root and management level. It's clearly evident.
In football during the 80s, for example, were Bruce Grobbelaar and John Fashanu, who were charged with conspiracy to corrupt the game, sentenced to prison? I don't think so. In fact, despite these allegations, Grobbelaar was allowed to continue playing, while Fashanu retired almost a year after being charged. Grobbelaar, I recall, was ordered to pay The Sun's (the paper that initial founded the allegations) legal costs of £500,000.
Athletes like Ben Johnson and Carl Lewis have also been charged of taking performance enhancing drugs and were subsequently stripped of their medals - not to mention last year's so-called 'cash for votes' scandal at FIFA (the Federation of International Football Association).
In the latter case I recall a number of names were being branded about during which words like 'bribery', 'corruption' and 'football' were almost synonymous.
Despite all these, I don't recall anyone - players or officials - ever being sentenced to prison. I don't think anyone even mentioned 'criminal charges'.
Heaven knows what our judges would have done to Diego Maradona in 1986 if he had been charged of cheating. Hanged, drawn and quartered, I suspect.
Seriously, is it the case that there's one law for those living the West, in the northern hemisphere, and another for those from South East Asia or the southern hemisphere, those brown people who are such a threat to the good name of cricket that only a prison sentence for them will ever do?
I don't know about the sporting offence but this recent sentence, coupled with the media hype, really isn't cricket.