THE recent hearings of disgraced Pakistan players Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif at the Court of Arbitration for Sports in Lausanne have given the two banned cricketers renewed hope of making a comeback. The two men, along with young fast bowler Mohammad Aamir, were banned by the International Cricket Council in 2011 following the infamous spot-fixing scam in England that saw the three serving sentences in a British prison. While Aamir has since pleaded guilty to the charges, both Asif and Salman have maintained their innocence and have now decided to contest allegations that they connived with bookies to underperform in the Lord’s Test against host England in the 2010 series.
Whether the CAS overturns their ban or reduces it to give some reprieve to the disgraced duo is not as significant as the fact that the current Pakistan team, under the able Misbahul Haq, has come a long way from the turbulent times of 2010 and has done well overall to re-emerge as a cricketing force while keeping unwanted controversies at bay. To their credit, Pakistan have not only won four of their last five Test series, the national players have also successfully managed to resurrect the country’s image through their impeccable conduct on and off the field in the last two years, earning praise from the ICC and other quarters. Only time will tell what fate has in store for both Salman and Asif at the CAS, which is set to announce its verdict early next month. But the induction of any tainted element in the national team at this stage would once again put Pakistan cricket under the microscope and would undo the good work done by the players as well as by the current Pakistan Cricket Board.