LONDON: England captain Alastair Cook said on Wednesday he wants all cricketers found guilty of match-fixing to be banned for life, but that he would be prepared to face Pakistan fast bowler Mohammad Amir.
Left-arm quick Amir is in line for a Test return — having already made his comeback in white-ball international cricket — in the series opener against England at Lord’s next month.
It was during a Lord’s Test against England six years ago that Amir and two Pakistan team-mates were involved in the deliberate bowling of no-balls — the trio having been lured into a newspaper ‘sting’ operation to demonstrate their willingness to take part in spot-fixing.
A teenager at the time and one of world cricket’s undoubted rising stars, Amir was sent to jail by an English court and banned from all cricket worldwide for five years.
He has now served that ban and, unlike 2010 Pakistan captain Salman Butt and fellow paceman Mohammad Asif, Amir has now been included in the squad for a four-Test series starting at Lord’s on July 14.
“It’s kind of ironic that his first Test match will be here back at Lord’s,” Cook told reporters at the ground on Wednesday ahead of the third Test between England and Sri Lanka.
“He’s served his time. He’s been punished for what he did, and quite rightly so, because we’ve got to protect the integrity of the game.
“But I have no problems in playing against him at all,” said Cook, a member of the England side that faced Pakistan in the controversial 2010 clash.
However, the left-handed opener added: “My only thing is that if you get caught match-fixing, you should be banned for life.
“The punishment should be that hard, because we’ve got to protect the integrity.
“From my point of view, the punishment should be harsh to try to deter people from doing it. But that’s from now on, that’s if I had any say in it.”
‘Black and white’
In a separate briefing, Cook said: “I just think that over the last few years it (fixing) has become more and more in the public eye.
“There was the Chris Cairns case (which ended with the former New Zealand all-rounder being acquitted of perjury charges in an English court last year after he denied fixing accusations) and other examples like Danish Kaneria (the Pakistan leg-spinner banned for life for spot-fixing in a county game) at Essex.”
Former New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum, in a speech at Lord’s earlier this week, suggested the prospect of a life ban may stop potential witnesses from coming forward with evidence of match-fixing.
But Cook said: “I just think one way to deter it is to have as harsh a punishment as possible which is a ban for life if you get caught.
“If everyone knows that then it is very black and white,” the 31-year-old added.
“We need to be playing a game where when things happen it is because that is the sport unfolding and there are 24 people, including the umpires, who are doing it to the best of their ability.
“You don’t want to be watching it thinking ‘that didn’t feel right’.
“That is not what sport is about in my eyes and hopefully most other people’s eyes.”
Cook stressed he had no qualms about Amir’s looming Test return, saying: “His punishment at the time was for a five-year ban and he’s served that so I’m perfectly happy for him to come back and play.”