Why weren’t Salman Butt and Muhammad Asif given the same privilege as Muhammad Amir?

Published: August 21, 2015
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Salman Butt, Muhammad Asif and Mohammed Amir have been summoned in London. PHOTO :AFP

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 murderassault, 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 may not seem like a big deal to some people, 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 question we need to ask ourselves is that if Butt was Donald Bradman and Asif was Courtney Walsh, would we want them back?

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.

Punhal Pirzada

Punhal Pirzada

A finance major studying at McGill with a keen interest in cricket, especially associate level tournaments. He tweets @ThePzP (twitter.com/thepzp)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Shaheer

    Yeah, lets not. Salman Butt was the captain of the squad and a captain who is supposed to be leading from the front but instead is pushing the team to a loss has to be penalized more. Asif has already been through alot of controversies and it’s time that he be penalized strongly for it. Amir though was 18 yes and you cannot call 18 a fully mature age especially for Amir as he hadn’t seen alot of money like that…ever. Hence it will be unfair if we penalize them all equally.Recommend

  • Talha

    The ban on Amir was ‘slap on the wrist’??? Last time I checked he was the one who admitted and was not stubborn to deny his crime for 5 years.Recommend

  • New Yorker

    What about the fact that both of them kept on lying through their teeth and exhausted all their appeals before admitting to cheating when there was no other option left? I still remember getting enraged on Butt’s press conferences months after the incident where he kept on denying any wrongdoing despite all the facts. Amir was the first one to admit guilt and started cooperating with the investigation right away.Recommend

  • Boomboomhero

    A point well made, as a die hard cricket fan and a person that strongly feels that the precedent that talent will let you off way is infact a dangerous one I completely agree with you. Thankyou for bringing this issue to other people’s attention. Recommend

  • Shane Hashmi

    Dear Author, you’re missing an important point which may have saved you from writing this article. Amir confessed his crime in court, cooperated with the authorities and volunteered for rehabilitation. Michael Atherton also mentored him during the process. In stark contrast, Asif and Butt continuously denied their crime to the point when they realized it wasn’t working for them. So they eventually accepted their crime. That is why of the trio, most are in favour of letting only Amir back in the team.Recommend

  • Mm

    If I recall correctly Butt and Asif only finally admitted guilt after exhausting their appeal rights.Recommend

  • Ahsan

    [email protected] how personal diaries/rants gets published these days … the official stance taken by PCB and ICC throughout, that Amir has shown more remorse and regret (which is quantified by the timely acceptance of the committed crime as opposed to endlessly denying it and other factors, workshops, media campaigns etc) is not even touched and conclusions were drawn east, west, north and south … kudos Tribune …Recommend

  • Miristan

    Amir accepted what he has done. Repeated and took his punishment. where the other two did not excepted their crime, but repented after so many years when they saw Amir
    is getting fruit of his truthfulness. Please do not compare them.Recommend

  • MJ

    The author is overlooking the fact that in order to gain pardon you have to first accept your guilt and responsibility. Amir from very early on accepted his mistake owned it and apologized while Salman and Asif denied any wrongdoing, led a social media, and regular media assault against ICC and the Britishers claiming that they are being targeted because they are Pakistanis and Muslims. Butt even had his sister and father on media swearing by God how innocent their brother/son is and how they are being framed. Salman kept on denying everything till he had irrefutable evidence against him proven in the court and his back was against the wall. As far as Asif is concerned, he is a habitual liar and criminal. He was caught doping and using drugs twice and showed that he cannot be trusted. Amir was a first time offender and people are more willing to forgive someone young and honest than someone who has shown willful deceit and cunning.Recommend

  • HonkyTonk Man

    Q) Why weren’t Salman Butt and Muhammad Asif given the same privilege as Muhammad Amir?
    A) Well, they were old enough to know better.

    Peace outRecommend

  • MiracleInTheMaking

    The author is overlooking the fact that under Butt, the Pakistan team was more like if you do as I say, you play. And so Amir being at the very start of his career really was coerced. Given that he was young and given that we have the traditional ‘Bhai’ culture in the team where the younger players do have to listen to the elders, Amir deserves benefit of the doubt.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    Because he came clean very early on. The two only admitted their crimes after making a mockery of their fans for years.Recommend

  • Sam Sintara

    butt has still stashed up shot load of money in house !! mark my words… while asif has nothing in pockets . . whatever was left, has been given to butt to buy some pod!Recommend