Court out? Cricket fixers undone by a tabloid

Cricket writer TED CORBETT applauds the journalism of his colleagues on the News of the World that led to the convictions of three Test players and their Croydon agent, and in his own blog asks why the sports authorities are not doing more

Now the judge, Mr Justice Cooke has spoken and, as a reporter who spent the first five years of his journalistic career in magistrates, Crown and Assize courts listening to rogues being sent down, I think he got it dead right.

Mazhar Majeed, the agent behind the scheme, went to prison for two years and eight months, Salman Butt, the captain when the offences were committed for two and a half years, Mohammad Asif, the wily swing bowler, for a year and young Mohammad Amir, the finest fast bowler of his age, for six months. He is to appeal his sentence, no doubt hoping it will be suspended but risks it being increased.

On the side of leniency we must ask how many people bet on the next delivery being a no-ball, how much money was involved in losing bets and if these sentences will have any effect on – just as a for instance – the way the men behind the Olympic Games conduct themselves in nine months’ time. OK, so we have learnt that you will not be treated lightly if you commit similar crimes in this country; but how many sportsman, agents and coaches will be caught?

For one of the least appetising aspects of this case has been the contrasting roles of cricket authority and the press. This nasty business was uncovered by an investigative reporter working for the News of the World, now defunct after accusations of phone hacking. It will give those who sneer at my profession a chance to apologise for even if hacking was part of the investigation here – and its parent company deny it – there is a justification.

I have lost count of the number of times I have heard players, administrators, umpires – the whole shooting match, in fact, including men of my own trade – roll the phrase “Sunday tabloid” round their tongues, relishing the effect on their audience. I doubt if they are drinking a toast to the paper that delights in its nickname The Screws, but they should be for it achieved an end beyond cricket’s administrators. Their reporter brought four men to the dock where they deserved to be.

Cricket is in turmoil, although you might not think so. This case, added to shrinking gates, hints of more betting scams, the pressure from T20, a fast world that does not relish five-day Tests as much as its players, other new attractions from TV to electronic books; not to mention the world economy that this morning seemed about to force the Prime Minister of Greece from office and the bribery case from the top of the news agenda to the sports news; all calls on a potential spectator’s attention if cricket is found to be wanting.

I have loved this game for more than 60 years: its subtle changes of pace, its tactics, its elegance and the men and women who grace it; and above all I want it to go on. “The image of the game has been damaged in the eyes of all,” Mr Justice Cooke said before he handed down sentences. Spot on, judge.

To parody the words of the lad after baseball underwent its similar trial, I want to protest: “Say it ain’t so, Mo.”

Sadly, it is so and the two Mos responsible have not only hurt their own careers beyond repair but irreparably damaged the most loved game.

  • Read more by Ted Corbett here:, or follow him on Twitter @tedcorbett1

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