Few countries have as much of a love affair with a sport as Pakistan does with cricket. The success of the team in international competition is a source of pride for Pakistanis and the sport has become a national obsession. So when news broke about a match fixing scandal in 2010, it was more than a blow to Pakistani cricket – it was a point of national humiliation, as fans took the streets in protest.
The scandal that befell Pakistani cricket is unique to the sport. Spot betting involves betting on specific instances within the course of a match that can last for days. Sportsbooks in India and Pakistan even let people bet on the result of individual pitches, which ended up being the cause of the scandal. Ahead of a match against England, three key players on the Pakistani cricket team – Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir – worked out an arrangement with noted gambler Mazhar Majeed to perform certain actions such as throwing no balls (well off the mark and not swung at) at certain points of the match.
The plan worked to perfection, as each bowler threw no balls at the designated points of the match. The only problem was that a British newspaper secretly recorded Majeed accepting money and bragging about the bribes. The video by News of the World showed Majeed with the bribe money and him correctly predicting no balls on Amir’s third and sixth deliveries in the third over of the fourth test, both of which predictions were correct.
Shock about the incident turned to indignation and eventually recrimination. The three players were banned from international cricket for five to 10 years, with several years suspended so that all three will effectively serve five-year bans. All three, along with Majeed, were sentenced to prison terms of six to 32 months. Majeed and Amir both pleaded guilty.