Prison a tragedy for young Pakistan cricket ace: British press

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The imprisonment of three top Pakistani cricketers for their part in a fixing scandal is a wake-up call for the game but a tragedy for the youngest player involved, Britain's press said Friday.

A British judge on Thursday jailed former captain Salman Butt, fast bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer and their agent Mazhar Majeed, for their part in a fixing scandal which has rocked the game to its core.

The Guardian's editorial recognised the waste caused by 18-year-old Aamer's detention, but reasoned that the game's reputation was too important for sentimentality to prevail.

"However desperately sad the personal stories, in particular that of the 18-year-old bowling genius Mohammad Aamer, who came from a poverty-stricken village to strike terror into the heart of the England batting lineup on the second day of the Lords Test last year -- the judge was right to impose immediate custodial sentences," it said.

"It's no time to surrender. A beefed-up International Cricket Council (ICC), longer bans, greater powers to investigate. The fightback starts now," it declared.

Butt, 27, received a 30-month sentence at London's Southwark Crown Court, while Asif was jailed for a year and Aamer sent to a young offenders' institution for six months after being found guilty of fixing parts of the August 2010 Lord's Test match against England.

On sentencing, judge Jeremy Cooke accepted that Aamer was likely to have been pressured into bowling deliberate no-balls, where a bowler oversteps the delivery line, but still believed a custodial sentence was apt.

The ICC had already banned Butt for ten years, with five suspended, Asif for seven years, with two suspended, and Aamer for five years straight, sanctions which they are appealing against.

Former England captain and Times cricket correspondent Michael Atherton called Aamer's plight "tragic" and claimed all three custodial sentences "bordered on harsh".

"There are those who want to see blood spilt, of course, those for whom no punishment is too severe," he wrote. "Their careers are already over. What more do people want?"

The former opening batsman questioned what was to be gained in sending Aamer to London's notorious Feltham Young Offenders Institute, which, according to its latest inspection, was a place where 'fights between young people were frequent and vestiges of youth gang culture were inevitably imported'.

"There is only sadness and the hope that, for Amir, redemption can be found," he concluded.

The Telegraph's Paul Kelso echoed Atherton's concerns, calling it a "hollow victory" in the battle to clean up cricket.

"So much of this case is singular that the prospect of three UK cells being filled by foreign cricketers can only be greeted with sadness," he wrote.

"It is one of many singularities of the case that Aamer's no-balls came in the midst of a devastating spell of four for none that reduced England to their knees and set up one of the greatest days of competitive cricket Lord's has seen.

"No-one who saw him send the England top-order packing could suggest he was not trying," he argued.

© 2011 AFP

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