Ban match fixers for life, says Cook

Amir was one of three Pakistan players jailed for their part in a spot fix at Lord\'s in 2010, a Test match which featured Cook.

Published: 09th June 2016 09:12 AM  |   Last Updated: 09th June 2016 11:33 AM   |  A+A-

Cook-AFP

England cricket captain Alastair Cook takes a catch during a practice session at Headingley ahead of their first test cricket match against Sri Lanka. | AFP

Alastair Cook has urged the International Cricket Council to take a tougher line on match fixers by banning them for life but said he had no problem playing against Mohammad Amir this summer.

Cook has called on the game's authorities to start issuing life sentences for corruption offences in order to protect the integrity of cricket after a string of high-profile fixing cases in recent years.

Amir was one of three Pakistan players jailed for their part in a spot fix at Lord's in 2010, a Test match which featured Cook. Cook is set to face Amir again next month back at Lord's, when the Pakistani will make his return to Test cricket after his five-year ban.

The ICC suspended Amir, Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif for a minimum of five years but all are now back playing cricket. Amir this week had his visa to return to Britain approved and is due to arrive with the Pakistan squad on Saturday week. Butt and Asif have played domestically in Pakistan and both are targeting an international -return, even though they were not selected for the tour to England.

In recent years, the England and Wales Cricket Board has taken a firm stance on fixing by banning Cook's former Essex team-mate Danish Kaneria and Lou Vincent for life for their part in corruption in county cricket. Kaneria was banned along with Mervyn Westfield, who took money to underperform in a one-day match for Essex that Cook played in, and there were fixing allegations thrown at Chris Cairns at Southwark Crown Court last year when he was cleared of perjury.

"I just think that over the last few years it has become more and more in the public eye. There was the Chris Cairns case and other examples, like Danish Kaneria at Essex, so 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," said Cook. "If everyone knows that then it is very black and white. We need to be playing a game where, when things happen, it is because that is the sport unfolding. 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'."

Cook's concern is that recent high-profile cases will make supporters suspicious whenever something unusual occurs on the field.

"I just think we have to protect cricket. Protect this great game because people want to be watching a genuine contest, there shouldn't be sideshows and side bets to alter the game of cricket," he said.

Amir was barracked by crowds in New Zealand when he played his first cricket since his ban in January this year, but the Lord's crowd will be respectful next month and there remains sympathy for Amir in some quarters as an 18-year-old who was corrupted by his captain, Butt, and agent, Mazher Majeed, who was the prime mover in the sting co-ordinated by the News of the World.

"What I was trying to say, whether I got it clearly across or not, was that his [Amir] punishment at the time was a five-year ban and he's served that, so I'm perfectly happy for him to come back and play," Cook said.

"But, in my opinion now, because it has become a little more prevalent and there have been a few more cases of it, the ICC should come out and say, 'if you are caught match fixing, you are banned for life'."

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