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Banned Pakistan trio face uncertain future

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David Bond | 21:23 UK time, Saturday, 5 February 2011


Today's punishments for the three Pakistan cricketers seemed to please no one.

For two of the players - Salman Butt and Mohammed Asif - the bans spell the probable end of their Test careers.

Butt is 26 and even if he doesn't serve the entirety of his 10-year ban (five years are suspended) he may be too old to come back.

Similarly Asif, who is 28, is unlikely to play at the highest level again after being given a seven-year ban with two years suspended.

Blog update on Sunday

Interesting comments from one of the ICC tribunal members Sharad Rao, quoted by the News of the World.

With the cricket world and the ICC bemused by the apparent leniency of the bans handed out to the players, the Kenyan lawyer is reported to have said:

"We had to take in many factors when considering the sentences against the players. We have to remember this was spot-fixing not match-fixing and it did not affect the outcome of any game. That was something we considered for a long time.

"Also, there is the age of Mohammed Amir to take into consideration. He is a wonderfully talented cricketer and we felt we could end his career. We do not believe this was leniency."

This gives us a real insight into why the tribunal stopped short of handing out lifetime bans - even though they were found guilty of the most serious charges of breaking the ICC's anti-corruption code.

Mohammed Amir is just 19 and having received a five-year ban for his part in the conspiracy to bowl no balls at Lord's last summer he has every chance of rehabiliting himself and returning to the Test arena. Those who feared the loss of a rare talent will be relieved.

But, as he left here, he was the most visibly shaken and had earlier been seen red-eyed suggesting he had been crying. His lawyer Shahid Karim insisted he would play again but five years out of the game is an extremely long time.

Asif, Amir and Butt were each given lengthy bans

Amir, Asif and Butt were each given lengthy bans

For the International Cricket Council (ICC) the result was a bewildering disappointment. Their lawyers simply cannot understand why the independent tribunal headed by Michael Beloff seemed to go soft on the players' punishments.

They are yet to get their hands on the full reasoned judgment which could run to more than 60 pages but at first glance they are asking why the players didn't get life bans if they were found guilty of all the offences they were charged with under the ICC anti-corruption code.

By the end, the ICC felt Beloff and his fellow tribunal members Justice Albie Sachs and Kenyan lawyer Sharad Rao had been too lenient.

The players' lawyers claimed afterwards that it was only the ICC's rulebook, which sets minumum sanctions for certain offences, which prevented them from reducing the bans.

This seemed to be backed up by Beloff when he said in his statement he would recommend to the ICC changing their code to provide more flexibility in relation to minimum sentences "in exceptional circumstances".

The News of the World, whose investigation led to the ICC and police action against the players, were extremely critical of the ICC afterwards, arguing they should have been tougher.

But what does all this mean for cricket?

Although Asif, Amir and Butt have escaped joining the elite club of five players banned for life for fixing, today's punishments do send a clear message.

This was a test case for the ICC - it was the first time they had brought charges of fixing under their anti corruption code - and they had to get a result.

With a World Cup on the sub-continent starting in two weeks they were also desperate to bring it all to a conclusion.

The ICC is now taking legal advice as to whether they can publish the full judgment on its website not only in the UK, but anywhere in the world.

Meanwhile, Amir has already declared his intention to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and his two team-mates could follow suit next week.

It was also announced by the Crown Prosecution Service on Friday that the men will face
criminal charges relating to conspiracy to accept corrupt payments and to cheat - allegations which they strenuously deny.

In the event that following a trial they were found guilty of those offences, then they could face up to seven years in jail and if that were to happen, that would really put today's ICC vans in perspective.

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