It was the scandal that rocket cricket. Considered a gentleman’s sport and one officiated and poured over by tacticians, aristocrats and sub-continental stars alike, many were shocked when revelations of fixing plays for the benefit of bookmakers went public.
In 2010 at Lords cricket ground, London, Pakistan played a 5-day test match against England. Afterwards videos were released by the, now defunct, News of the World newspaper. These videos portrayed bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir accepting money from bookmaker Mazhar Majeed.
It was later revealed that the money was gifted to the players in return for them bowling no-balls or foul balls at specific points in the test match. Leaving potential investigations into betting irregularity, the bookmaker involved hoped to be able to use such information (spot-fixing) to bet on no-balls and therefore gain financial advantage.
As Scotland Yard investigated this incident captain Salman Butt was dragged into inquiries. He became a central figure for the whole sordid affair.
In the end the players were all found guilty of charges of match fixing, alongside Majeed, and all went to jail. The length of sentence varied –Amir pleaded guilty in the first instance and was therefore dealt with more leniently –but Butt was handed the longest term for the players, 30 months.
Today Butt was released from Canterbury prison after serving only 7 months of his sentence, with Amir and Asif being released earlier this year.
It is believed that Butt was released under the auspices of a scheme that deports foreign nationals months before established release dates as long as they are deported to their state of origin and agree not to return to the UK for 10 years.
If this is the case then Butt may have had an upturn in fortune, but the cost is great, particularly as he claims he wants to rebuild his top level cricket career. As it stands the opening batsman is banned from all forms of the game until late 2016.
Majeed is still serving his prison sentence of 32 months.