Surely it was impossible for anyone involved with cricket, be it player, fan, coach or press, to be untouched by the events that unfolded at Southwark Crown Court this week.
The trial of international cricketers is a rare occurrence, and this the first resulting in custodial sentences. Salman Butt, once captain of his country’s team, was found guilty of conspiracy to cheat and conspiracy to accept corrupt payments (along with Mohammed Asif), and condemned by the judge as being the “orchestrator of this activity”.
It was then revealed that Mohammed Amir, and agent Mazhar Majeed, had pleaded guilty to charges before the trial began. Just one hour before he was found guilty, Butt’s wife gave birth to a baby boy in Pakistan. The next day he left court in a prison van bound for Wandsworth. It’s a sad tale indeed.
Personally, I found the day the verdicts were delivered more heartbreaking and shocking than the sentencing, but none of it made for easy listening, reading or viewing. The notion that this was just “the tip of the iceberg” is the hardest pill to swallow. If corruption is as widespread in the game as was suggested, then there is much, much, more to come in this bitter story.
The saddest consequence of all of this is surely that one of the things I love most about cricket, and I’m sure I’m not the only one, is those thrilling games that keep you on the edge of your seat, games like Edgbaston ’05, or Cardiff ’09. After the revelations in court this week, it will take a long time before I can witness a thrilling cricket match without a niggling doubt of suspicion somewhere in my mind.