The unraveling of the spot fixing scandal on August 29th 2010 shook the entire nation to the core. Three Pakistani players namely Muhammad Amir, Muhammad Asif and Salman Butt (the captain of the team at the time), were accused of taking money and agreeing to demands of the bookies. It was undoubtedly the bleakest day in cricket history, one that tainted the entire nation’s credentials in the arena of cricket for many years to follow.

The cricketers initially denied these allegations, despite strong incriminating evidence, which included video proofs. Amir was the first to plead guilty, due to which he received a less harsh sentence and was allowed to play domestic cricket after completion of the imposed ban, which was a few months ago. Butt and Asif, on the other hand, battled the convictions for quite some time, after which they eventually gave in. A few days ago, the ICC (International Cricket Council) lifted their ban and allowed them to play cricket. This verdict has cracked open a Pandora’s box, inviting mixed response among cricketing fans nationwide.

If these players are eventually admitted into the team, their performance will always be viewed with skepticism nevertheless. Poor performances will just end up casting greater doubts amongst teammates and fans alike. For this nation, cricket is not just a sport; it is a conviction, an obsession so intense, imbued with a strong sense of patriotism. The incidents of setting fire to television sets, pretend funerals of cricketers and throwing eggs on them after a poor performance are just a few examples of how lethal and extreme this obsession can be. These players will always be bashed by the media and accused of “spot fixing” in case they perform badly.

Some naïve fans would argue that Amir, Asif and Butt are key players and will add to the team’s strength. There is absolutely no doubt about the cricketing skills of these players but gone are the days when they were the spine of Pakistani cricket team. The rest of the team has worked extremely hard to redeem its lost position after a struggle of almost a year. If we consider our team’s performance over the past five years we would not be able to attribute any laurel or loss to the absence of these players. During the course of these five years, Pakistan has whitewashed England (2012), which was ranked number one in the world. Pakistan whitewashed Australia (2014); a feat achieved after 32 years. Pakistan also made it to the cricket world cup semi-finals in 2011 coupled with the honor of most successful team of the year, winning 24 games out of 32, in one calendar year. There were bad patches like a historical poor performance in this year’s World Cup and the last series with Bangladesh; however, the team has managed to play its share of good and bad cricket without these players. There is nothing that they could have helped us achieve or lose in these 5 years.

Additionally, we have not seen the faintest glimpse of shame on these cricketer’s faces, implying that they do not regret their actions. Amir was reported to have said:

“It was a mistake, not a sin. People should get over it”. This statement alone speaks volumes of his shamelessness for his so called “mistake”. The other two, Salman Butt and Muhammad Asif were persistently defending themselves for years on media and refused to accept any charges until recently. Hence, there is no point in sympathizing with these presumptuous players who are so oblivious of the responsibility that they shoulder when they don the kit; their actions are not only representative of their personal character but also of the entire nation. How they choose to represent themselves has a greater influence on how the world sees us in return. Is this the kind of message that we want to send out?

The only argument that holds any water in favor of the convicted is that they have undergone their five-year long period of retribution, which may pave the possibility for granting them another chance. However, a ban for a mere five years might prove to be an inadequate punishment. It may be an adequate punishment for spot fixing, but what about the harm that they have inflicted on Pakistan’s image? Therefore, it is appropriate for me to believe that these spoilt and shameless players should not be allowed to represent Pakistan and given any honor they are not worthy of; an honor that they took undue advantage of previously. They may play county cricket or any other form of cricket, for all we care, but surely, they should not be allowed to represent Pakistan; such an extreme measure is absolutely pertinent if we are to display our disapproval of the cricketers’ unprofessional conduct in the face of this scandalous crime. The perpetrators should not be cut any slack, for this is a matter that concerns the nation’s credibility and suffice to say, its honor.

Simply put, sportsmen are the ambassadors of a country; their conduct is inexplicably linked to their nation’s virtue. One mere incident has had a dominos effect upon the nation’s credentials. As morbid as it may sound, this unruly conduct has tattered and tainted Pakistan’s dignity and honor; the damage is irreparable. A country that is already viewed as a haven for terrorists, is suffering from ill repute in the international arena cannot compromise any further on its image. An exemplary punishment ensures that a precedent has been set, potential offenders will be deterred from acting likewise in fear of the consequence laid down by a stern punishment. Retribution and deterrence are the products of an exemplary punishment, and are also the two things needed most at this time of urgency to remedy the damage created by these offenders. However, a delay in action, or an altogether failure to do so, will simply open the floodgates to similar foul plays and will just further plague the nation of this abominable conduct.