James Lawton: Banishment of brilliant young hope Amir is the greatest scandal of all

The ICC put three cricketers in the dock but you have to ask the whereabouts of the people who were in charge of Amir's well-being

Cricket's ruling body seems to believe it has achieved both closure and a measure of justice with the decision to hand out bans, all effectively for five years, to Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir. Closure? Justice? Who on earth is kidding whom?

Butt was the captain of a team said to be easily compromised and diverted by betting interests. Asif was of mature age but with a deeply problematic, controversy-strewn past which included a ban for illegal drug use. Amir was a boy. But now they are thrown into the same sack and tossed away.

No doubt if and when all three Pakistani cricketers appear in an English courtroom to answer criminal charges we will get a rather more forensic examination of their relative guilt or innocence, and, if the former is the case, a more appropriate level of punishment.

In the meantime, however, it is necessary to see that the real issue is so much wider, and crucial to the game's credibility, and because of this we can only shake our heads at the declaration of the International Cricket Council's chief executive Haroon Lorgat.

He says: "We've demonstrated that we will do everything that we need to do to ensure that the sport is free of corruption." This is a pretty thought for cricket to take into the upcoming World Cup but it scarcely bears a moment's examination.

The deepest horror of the whole episode is the one that has hardly been brushed by the bans which, realistically, have ended the international careers of the older players, Butt and Asif, and which banish the brilliant teenager Amir until he is 23 years old.

It is the alleged corrupting of Amir even as he took his first steps towards what even the most conservative judges of outstanding talent rated as potentially one of the greatest of careers.

The ICC put three cricketers in the dock but you have to ask the whereabouts of the people who were in charge of Amir's well-being, the Pakistani officials who left their team quarters open to the forays of a man charged with setting up irrefutable evidence that he could, for an agreed fee, engineer corrupt behaviour on the field?

No one was saying that if proven guilty Amir should escape any form of punishment, only that there should be an understanding of his quite grotesquely vulnerable position.

The lightly educated product of a poor Punjabi village, Amir brought little knowledge of the world and still less of the amounts of money he was told were available not to throw a match but merely add a couple of entries to the extras total. The case against Amir is that he bowled two pre-ordained no-balls among a stream of superb deliveries.

It if is true, as the ICC decided, of course he was wrong but, against the background of all we know about the culture of Pakistani cricket, the long-term laxity in the face of corruption, sufficiently so to be cast into the wilderness for five years?

Freddie Flintoff, whose heroic performances for England pushed him into an income group beyond the dreams of any of his Pakistani contemporaries, believes so. He argues fervently for zero tolerance. He may be right when he says that he carries with him an overwhelming majority of the cricket public. However, there are times when mere rectitude leaves us some way short of a just solution.

Making Amir a sacrifice might make a lot of people feel better. But then maybe they are a little too easily, and a little too cruelly, pleased.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor