Cricket: Cricket world welcomes corruption verdict

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The world of cricket reacted with dismay on Tuesday after the conviction of three Pakistani players for corruption but said the verdicts would send an important message that cheats would not be tolerated.

Pakistan cricketers Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif face prison terms after being found guilty of fixing parts of a Test match against England in a case that has thrown the integrity of the international game into doubt.

After the verdicts it was revealed that young Pakistan bowler Mohammad Aamer pleaded guilty to the same charges two weeks before former captain Butt and paceman Asif went on trial at Southwark Crown Court in London.

International Cricket Council (ICC) chief executive Haroon Lorgat said in a statement from Dubai that the verdicts would reinforce the world governing body's stance of zero tolerance against corruption.

"I would reiterate ... that the ICC has a zero-tolerance attitude towards corruption and that we will use everything within our power to ensure that any suggestion of corrupt activity within our game is comprehensively investigated and, where appropriate, robustly prosecuted," Lorgat said.

"We have always said that we will continue to explore every possible avenue to ensure that cricket is free from corrupt activity. That is precisely what we have done in this case."

Former England captain Nasser Hussain said the verdicts represented a "sad day for cricket."

"It's not something I'd cheer about," said Hussain, who now works as an analyst for Sky Sports television.

"It's been rumbling on in the background for over a decade now. It is now a criminal offence to cheat in sport and because of that sting operation these two have been found out.

"It's probably a day cricket needed, just to send out a very strong message to everyone that it's not just going to be the odd ban here or there, and something that's going to be papered over.

"It's a message to the ICC (International Cricket Council) that we're going to be strong with match-fixers and cheaters, whether it's one no-ball, two no-balls or whatever, it just should not happen."

Former England star Sir Ian Botham said the case should serve as a wake-up call to the ICC.

"We hope it goes away and we hope it can get resolved," Botham told Sky Sports News.

"The ICC need to stop sitting on their hands and do something, be constructive. Everybody seems to avoid the situation as if it isn't there. It is there and it's got to be addressed."

"You've got to make sure the deterrent's there and players know that if they get caught with their fingers in the pot they're going to get severely burnt.

"You've got to put the fear into the players and make them realise 'This is my career, this is my future, is it worth it?'," Botham said.

Former England fast bowler Angus Fraser echoed Botham's comments, saying the verdicts may one day be viewed as a watershed moment in the fight against corruption.

"Because of the fact that something has happened it is a pivotal day in the game which hopefully we can now move forward from," Fraser told Sky television.

"Players will realise, if they start getting involved in things like this and they get caught, they're in real trouble.

"It's not just a question of them losing their cricket careers, they can end up serving time."

© 2011 AFP

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