The dramatic verdicts in the Pakistan spot-fixing trial in London are momentous not just for cricket but also for all sport. It is a landmark event.
If you speak to men like Sir John Stevens (now Baron Stevens of Kirkwhelpington, to be precise!) or Sir Paul (now Lord) Condon, both former police chiefs, you will hear them say again and again that sport’s greatest danger in the coming decades is corruption.
It needed one sport to show very clearly to its participants that getting involved in corruption can be a very serious matter indeed, and that you will go to prison if you are caught and convicted. This is what cricket has now done.
Hopefully the message that this trial sends out, to all sports and those that participate in them, is that corruption will be uncovered and that it will not be tolerated. In this respect, although the guilty verdicts brought to bear on the Pakistan cricketers make it a very sad day for cricket it is also a really good day for the game and for sport. Simply put, it shows that powers are in place to expose and punish people for getting involved in corrupt activities.
Cricket has known since the mid-1980s that illegal betting has led to corruption in the game, and previous cases involving the likes of Hansie Cronje and Mohammed Azharuddin are well-documented. Now we have this case, and cricket is in debt to the work of the News of the World’s investigative reporters as well as to its own Anti-Corruption and Security Unit.
As a former international cricketer myself, it is terribly sad to see that there are players in the current game willing to betray their teammates and, in particular, their country but it seems as if young Mohammad Amir’s naivety – when bowling those huge no balls and wides in the Lord’s Test match of 2010 – went a long way to giving the game away in that match.
After the 2010 Test at Lord’s, I actually reported Amir to the ICC’s Anti-Corruption Unit because I felt that the first ball of the match, delivered by him, had been such a ridiculous wide (in fact, it went for five wides) for any international-class bowler to bowl that it must have been a deliberate act.
One of his no-balls later in the game was also clearly very dodgy. As a former fast bowler, it was obvious to me sitting in the Test Match Special commentary box – and as it was similarly to former bowlers in the television commentary area – that certain balls bowled were extremely questionable. As a former Test cricketer, you just know what you are seeing, and the Amir first ball wide was very different, for example, to the Steve Harmison wide at the start of the 2006-07 Ashes.
One thing that I would like the ICC to implement – immediately – is a hotline telephone number so that any member of the media, and especially those of us who have bowled at international level, can alert the authorities to anything we see during a game that gives us cause for concern.
We all have to be vigilant, if corruption is to continue to be exposed, and I see this being an initiative which can only help in that process. The ICC’s ACSU officers are dedicated and very professional, but they are not cricketers. Please let us help you if we can!
*Jonathan Agnew, the former England fast bowler, is the BBC’s long-serving cricket correspondent and a regular columnist for TheCricketer.com