Guilty verdict good for Pakistani cricket, says commentator

Former Pakistani cricket captain Salman Butt leaves a London court on November 2, 2011 during his trial.

Story highlights

  • Pakistan cricketers were found guilty of corruption on Wednesday
  • Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif to be sentenced in London court Thursday
  • Could be jailed for seven years with unlimited fine for accepting corrupt payments.
  • Former captain Shahid Afridi said it was an example for future players
The guilty verdict meted out by a 12-member jury in London on Tuesday came as no surprise for many in Pakistan as local news channels reported on the conviction of two of its biggest cricket stars, Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif.
Former national team captain Butt and bowler Asif, were found guilty of "conspiracy to cheat" and "conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt funds," while a third player, 19-year-old bowler Mohammad Amir, had earlier pleaded guilty to the same charges, which relate to "spot-fixing" in a Test match against England in 2010.
The three players will discover their fate on Thursday, along with agent Mazhar Majeed. The cheating charge carries a maximum sentence of two years plus an unlimited fine, while they could be jailed for seven years with an unlimited fine for accepting corrupt payments.
"I wasn't surprised with the verdict because the case against Salman and Asif was very strong and the Metropolitan Police wouldn't have taken them to court if they had a half baked case," former cricketer and long time commentator Chishty Mujahid told CNN.
"I think the three of them knew their goose was well and truly cooked," he added.
While the Pakistan Cricket Board has refused to speak to the media about the conviction, former cricketers, fans and experts alike have expressed their positivity about the impact this decision will have on cricket in general.
"I think Pakistanis have realized that if a punishment is there it will deter players from becoming corrupt," Shakil Shaikh, President of the Islamabad Cricket Club told CNN.
"We should create an example for our cricketers, for our nation, that if anybody is guilty in that type of situation, then he should be punished" said Imdad Naseem, a cricket fan from Pakistan's capital.
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Former Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi told local media channels that he was saddened by the news as it harmed the reputation of the country and Pakistani cricket but that it be "an example for future players."
Pakistani Cricket has been fraught with scandal in the last few years, following the untimely death of national coach Bob Woolmer in 2007 and accusations of match mixing -- with the latter eventually exposed during a sting operation this year by the now defunct News of the World paper in the UK.
"Cricket all over the world has been affected by this; this is not just a Pakistani phenomenon," Chishty contended.
He said players from other countries including South Africa, Australia, India, Sri, Lanka and the West Indies have also been found guilty of match-fixing in the past.
Another former Pakistan captain, Asif Iqbal, criticized cricket's governing body, the International Cricket Council, for not doing enough to prevent corruption.
"The ICC being the head of the entire cricketing world, they are the ones who should be taking action," he said.
"They have got an anti-corruption unit ... there's not one single case in which the anti-corruption unit has actually come up with any substantial evidence to nail any cricketer."
However, the ICC released a statement after Wednesday's verdict stating that the outcome was consistent with the findings of its anti-corruption unit earlier this year, which dished out suspensions to the trio of between five to seven years.
The Pakistanis are among the lowest-paid of the main cricket nations, partly due to the loss of much-needed revenue from hosting tours. International teams have refused to visit due to security fears since the terrorist attack on the touring Sri Lanka side in Lahore in 2009.
"Pakistani players are well paid per match or tour, but how many of those do they actually do," said Arif Abbasi, a former head of the Pakistan Cricket Board.