'A sad but pivotal day'

Verdicts should act as a deterrent, say former Test stars

Last Updated: 01/11/11 5:45pm

Butt: could face seven years in prison

Former Test cricketers have united in condemning the day Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif were found guilty of conspiring to fix parts of a Test match as a sad one - but hope it will bring an end to spot and match-fixing in the game.

Jurors at Southwark Crown Court found both guilty of conspiracy to cheat at gambling and of conspiring to accept corrupt payments during Pakistan's match against England at Lord's in 2010. Fast bowler Mohammed Amir had already pleaded guilty to identical charges.

The offences carry a maximum prison term of seven years, with sentencing fpr all three due to begin on Wednesday morning.

And as soon as the initial verdicts were reached Sky Sports News HD canvassed the opinion of former Test cricketers.

Sir Ian Botham hopes the guilty trio will be made examples of to deter others, while Michael Holding, who was working in the Sky Sports commentary box that day last summer, urged the ICC's anti-corruption unit to do more to combat the problem in world cricket.

Nick Knight hopes the game will clean up its act given the attention this case has been given and Angus Fraser, a former England fast bowler, now managing director of cricket of Middlesex, believes, like Sir Ian, that this should act as a deterrent for any players who are tempted to get involved in fixing or betting scams.

Here's what they had to say...

Sir Ian Botham (England, 1977-92)

"It's nice that something's actually happened and it's been dealt with because I think a lot of people have ignored the fact that this has been a problem for a very long time. The only way you're going to stop it is to make examples. The bigger the sentence the bigger the deterrent. Enough's enough. The public have been wondering for some time now when you think back to games that have been played and you wonder 'Ooh that was a bit strange, why did that happen?' Now suddenly everybody will start asking questions and questioning things. And if you don't make an example, the game of cricket in the long term suffers.

"You've got make sure that the deterrent's there and players know that if they get caught with their fingers in the pot they're going to get severely burnt and that's the only way you're going to do it. You've got to put the fear into the players and make them realise 'This is my career, this is my future - is it worth it?' One of the problems you've got is that once these bookmakers get their claws into these youngsters it's very hard to get away so you've got to stamp it out very early. You've got a 19-year-old kid who was one of the most promising young bowlers around who may never play cricket again now and he's got to live with that and so have the people who corrupted him.

"It had to be dragged out and now it's got to be stamped on. Players have known that things have been going on for some time. There's always been Chinese whispers about so-and-so and this event and that event. Well hopefully this will bring more of it out into the open and I think what you've got to do is get to the source of it. That won't be so easy getting there because of the threats and these guys will live in fear of turning that kind of evidence over, but you've got to keep on chasing these people, you've got to get rid of the big boys who are instigating this.

"You can't keep on sweeping it under the carpet. You know it's there - go and do something about it. We hope it goes away and we hope it can get resolved. The ICC need to stop sitting on their hands and do something, be constructive. Everybody seems to avoid the situation as if it isn't there. It is there and it has got to be addressed."

Michael Holding (West Indies, 1975-87)

"I think it's very unfortunate for the game that these things are happening. The jurors obviously think they are guilty, they have had enough evidence one would hope that going forward this will be a big deterrent to those that think they can get away with cheating in the game and with match-fixing and spot-fixing. I think rumours have been going around a long time in Pakistan about different players and different circumstances in which things have been happening. This is now proof to them that there are people involved in their team in Pakistan that are doing the wrong thing and one would hope that the teams and the people that are supporting these players will be a lot more vigilant and that they will come down very hard on any player one that is suspected - and make them prove they are not doing anything wrong.

"It's sad for the worldwide game, but especially for Pakistan. Pakistan has so many problems now, even outside of cricket that they need something to lift them and they don't need to be cheating in the game.To be honest, initially when I met Salman Butt I thought he was going to be a very good captain for Pakistan; I thought he had the team's interests at heart - obviously that is not the case. I was there commentating on that game and saw things on the field. Obviously I had no idea what was going on, but consequently you can see that he was involved and as I say, it's sad for the game and it's even sadder for Pakistan.

"I don't think it's very easy to pick up on these things at all. As you all know we have a lot of former cricketers in the commentary boxes and particularly the Sky commentary box we have a lot of great former captains of England and none of us watched the game on that day, or have watched a game on any given day since, and can conclusively say 'yes there something wrong with that'. People will bowl no-balls, drop catches and play bad shots - how can you tell whether that is wrong?

"It is up to the anti-courruption unit within the ICC to do the investigative work and do the sort of things the News of the World did to uncover this, because just watching a game you can't know."

Nick Knight (England, 1995-2001)

"It's a desperately sad situation. The jury obviously made their decision and I'm not ultimately overly surprised at that decision. Let's just hope in many ways that it's a seminal day for the game and that the game can move forward.

"What I don't know enough about, in all honesty, is how this all comes about, what pressures these guys are put under and the situation of grooming these people. It's a desperately sad day for the game and it's desperately sad for Salman Butt, who's going to pay the price.

"Hopefully this is the moment where the game can move on and people in the future who are susceptible to getting involved in this type of thing can avoid it. Hopefully they can clear up the whole system and we can move on and the credibility of the game is enhanced. Whilst it's a desperately sad day for the game, maybe this is the moment where the game can look forward."

Angus Fraser (England 1989-98)

"I think in the past penalties for potentially being involved in something like this have been very wishy-washy. Players have been banned, then they've not been banned and they seem to them hold important positions in countries' cricket set-ups elsewhere in the world. I think this is the first time, when we're you're talking about prison sentencing, that a real consequence is in place. I hope that it is the deterrent that the game needs. It's a sad day for cricket no matter where it took place, whether it was Lord's or somewhere else in the world, at a ground without the history.

"Now because of the fact that something has happened, it is a pivotal day in the game that hopefully we can move forward from and players will realise that if they get involved in things like this and get caught they're in real trouble. It's not just a question of losing their cricket career, they could end up serving time. It's very difficult to tell - one of the no-balls was only an inch to an inch-and-a-half over and bowlers would get it wrong on a regular basis by that amount.

"You start wondering now if things have gone on in days gone by. But the fact these were picked out suggests it was too much of a coincidence to be that far over on balls that were identified before it took place. If you're looking at the question of spot-fixing, to get a player to behave in certain manner often needs the captain to be on-side because he is the one that can dictate those things more easily than anyone else.

"But the fact that the captain has been implicated in such a way does highlight its seriousness but they're probably greater targets than anyone else because they can affect more outcomes in a day's play than anybody else. It's a sad day for cricket, but it's a sad day for Pakistan as well as they're the team that contain the players that have been found guilty of these offences. But again, you hope it is a watershed day. I would have thought now the consequences of misbehaving have risen severely and it will warn players of getting involved in something like this for years to come."