Two of Pakistan’s biggest sports stars have been told that they can’t return to the playing field and will remain disgraced for a while longer at least.
Salman Butt, the former captain of the nation’s cricket team, and fast bowling star Mohammad Asif had their appeals rejected by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Wednesday.
The players were banned from the sport after being found guilty of spot-fixing. It’s worth noting that spot-fixing is not quite match-fixing. In the case of the former, the result of the game is not rigged but a specific action is. In cricket, this is often when a bowler contrives to bowl a no-ball, an illegal delivery in return for money.
In 2010, a British newspaper investigation claimed that Butt, Asif and a third player Mohammad Amir, had taken bribes from a bookmaker named Mazhar Majeed prior to a test match at the legendary Lord’s Cricket Ground in London.
The trio was banned in 2011 by the International Cricket Council. They were all sentenced to jail in November 2011.
The Pakistani cricket community felt that the players had let their country down.
Pakistan Cricket Board spokesman Nadeem Sarwar said at the time: "Instead of having pride in playing for their country, these players chose to disappoint their supporters, damage the image of their country and bring the noble game of cricket into disrepute. There is little sympathy in Pakistan for the sorry pass they have come to."
In June 2012, Butt returned home after serving his sentence. While he admitted that he should have reported the advances from the bookmaker to authorities, he claimed he was innocent.
“I have never entertained any offer, nothing ever practically happened in a match that was linked to any offer,” he told reporters after his return. “Of spot-fixing or any fixing, I never asked anyone to do anything or bowl any no-balls, I am not associated with it.”
He continued, “I apologized to the ICC for this, I did not report the events [advances] between these two to three months because I knew the person. To the people of Pakistan, all the cricketers, those who support us and make us stars, I apologize – but for failure to report.”
Butt had been hopeful of returning to the game before his ban expires, but the CAS has denied him the chance.
The Swiss-based court said in a statement: “The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has dismissed the appeals filed by the Pakistani cricket players Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt against the decisions taken by the International Cricket Council Tribunal on 5 February 2011.”
“I had 50-50 expectation from the appeal, but now I have to finish the two year and four months ban," said Butt who was given a ban of ten years, five of which could be suspended. "I have high hopes of resuming my career because I am 28 years old and our current captain is 39 and the vice captain is 33. I will be 30 by the time the ban is finished. Let's see if the motivation is still there."