Fixing is a serious issue; it's the one vice that could bring cricket to its knees. That's why it's imperative that cricket impose a life ban - no questions asked - on any player or official involved in fixing of any kind.
There has been a lot of sympathy for Mohammad Amir, the young Pakistan fast bowler who has just been released after serving half of his six-month custodial sentence. The sympathy is not surprising; he's still a teenager and he's also an extremely talented cricketer, but as Imran Khan observed when Amir was charged, "At eighteen you're old enough to know right from wrong."
It's fine for the public to express sympathy but in such a high stakes battle, the cricket officials can't afford any similar emotions. With one exception (discussed below), Amir and all other convicted fixers must be handed a life ban from the game and not be able to hold an official position in cricket thereafter.
The crooks certainly don't have any sympathy for cricket. They've displayed an utter disregard for the game and have targeted captains of international teams, the men charged with the authority and duty of influencing young players under their command. Until fixing reared its ugly head, it was generally assumed a captain's influence would be positive, or at least not negative.
The fact that four prominent international captains, Mohammad Azharuddin, Salim Malik, Salman Butt and the late Hansie Cronje have all been found guilty of fixing offences is a worrying trend. It could also confirm the suspicion that to enact a major fixing scam, the captain has to be involved.
Cricket is in a life or death struggle with the crooks who run the fixing scams. The administrators need to start playing hardball. They should inform their anti-corruption officers that the gloves are off, and in addition to following phone and financial records aggressively, they shouldn't be afraid to rattle the cage of players who they think are acting suspiciously.
While cricket has to be extremely tough in the punishment it metes out to send a strong message to the crooks, it also has to make the players fully aware that they intend to eradicate fixing. This has to be a zero tolerance operation if any headway is to be made in exorcising this insidious cancer.
To help build a barricade around the game, the administrators need to explore ways to ensure team captains are allies in the fight against fixing rather than some being tempted to side with the crooks.
Forgive, with a condition
And the officials should be prepared to make an exception and invite convicted fixers back into the fold on one condition. If they are truly repentant and prepared to stand up publicly and admit their guilt and speak about the humbling experience, they could be employed to tell their story to young cricketers, to dissuade young players from taking the road to self-destruction.
When he's ready for the ordeal, this could be a task for a player like Mohammad Amir. It's hard not to feel sympathy for him and anger towards Butt, but for the administrators it has to be a one-size fits all situation. However, it's difficult to have any sympathy for the officials --- if they'd taken notice of some recommendations in the 1999 Qayyum report then they might not have had so many problems with the Pakistan team.
Ian says | Caught and bowled