On 14 July 2016, England will play Pakistan in a Test match at Lords. Included in the Pakistan squad is the fast bowler, Mohammad Amir.
Amir was involved in the 2010 Pakistan tour of England. During the course of this series, it was alleged that Amir had deliberately bowled no-balls in return for payments from a betting syndicate. Following an investigation by the Metropolitan Police, he was arrested, tried and convicted of the offence of conspiracy to cheat. As a result, he received a sentence of 6 months imprisonment.
It is widely acknowledged, that Amir, a talented young cricketer, had been led astray by more senior cricketers and tempted by the prospect of receiving bribes.
Having served his sentence, he has now started to re-commence his career. The International Cricket Council showed Amir mercy as he, unlike other players found to have conducted match fixing, did not receive a life ban. Instead, he received a ban from cricket of 5 years, meaning that he is now free to pursue his vocation.
It will no doubt be difficult for Amir to retain the trust of the game, but Amir now has a rare opportunity for a second chance bestowed upon him by the very sport he wronged.
Cricket has perhaps shown how other sports should respond in similar situations. Mercy is a virtue that other sports may be wise to adopt.
After all, by giving Amir a chance to right his wrongs, more meaningful rehabilitation can be achieved. Whereas, if Amir had been handed a life ban, a rare talent would have been wasted – and Amir would have been denied the opportunity to make amends.
Of course, some may argue that Amir’s custodial sentence of 6 months and his ban from cricket of 5 years did not properly reflect the damage that he caused to the reputation of the game, nor does it act as a sufficient deterrent to persuade others from making the same mistake.
However, nobody would choose to spend 6 months in prison, nor face a ban of 5 years from both their livelihood (and their sport). In this case, the ICC has shown a pragmatic approach to the punishment and rehabilitation of a young man who has offended against his sport.
Other sporting bodies have been less forgiving of those who have been found guilty of criminal offences, or to those who have been found to have cheated at their sport. The ICC’s act of mercy is a salient reminder that there is more to a punishment than just a deterrent effect.