As of September 2, 2015, Salman Butt and Muhammad Asif (part of the infamous trio convicted of spot fixing) will be eligible to officially play cricket again. Despite the criticism from fans and opposition, they are optimistic that they will perhaps have the opportunity to play for their country again.
Firstly, let’s acknowledge the depth of their crime, given that spot fixing is a very serious offense and undermines the integrity of the game. There’s no doubt that fans who spend their time and money to see professional athletes perform to the best of their ability deserve better than dishonesty. Yet it is disheartening to see the blatant hypocrisy by the public regarding the possibility that these two will be able to play again, versus their reaction to Muhammed Amir’s clearance last year.
According to some,
“He was young, naïve, an 18-year-old boy exposed to wealth he had never seen before. Besides, a once in a lifetime talent too, Butt and Asif we can do without, but we need Amir back in as soon as possible!”
Plenty is wrong with that argument. Firstly, at the age of 18, one is mature, eligible to even vote in Pakistan. One can be tried for murder, assault, theft and other criminal activities defined in our legal system. Age and circumstance should not alleviate the sentence if one has committed an intentional crime. Why should it be any different in this case?
Let’s examine the appeal; bowling a couple of no-balls for some money is not a big deal if you are still trying to win the game for our country. Yet, it is cheating, and is a big deal.
Morals and integrity have nothing to do with privilege or age. There shouldn’t be a stark difference between an 18-year-old and 29-year-old, so much so that one condemns the latter to the death of his career, whereas the former is embraced with open arms upon completion of what can be viewed relatively as a ’slap on the wrist’.
If anything, Amir threw Butt under the bus by stating that he was coerced into bowling an illegal delivery by his captain, and created a pool of sympathy for himself. This is something any rational person would have seen right through if he had been someone relatively less gifted, like Rahat Ali, for example.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has vowed to put in time and money to ensure Amir’s rehabilitation back into the game; it simply isn’t fair that Butt and Asif aren’t extended the same courtesies.
As of today, all three of them have suffered enough. They have faced jail time, monetary fines, humiliation and been deprived of the opportunity to do what they do best for a living (no sarcasm intended). Despite the fact that they are now clear to play, it is still up to the average cricketing fan to decide whether or not to accept them. For some, it might be hard to accept this trio donning the green jersey once again. And that is fine – forgiveness is a personal choice!
Let us just ensure that we do not discriminate while penalising, for the precedent that talent will let you get off easy is a dangerous one to set.