I am not one of the hang ’em, flog ’em brigade. I believe that we all make mistakes in life and that nobody is perfect.
Granted, there are some who deserve to be strung up/flogged – not least those responsible for providing the press box sandwiches at Headingley cricket ground (joke).
But all of us are flawed in some way or other; it is simply part of the human condition.
When it comes to match-fixing in cricket, however, I cannot adopt a position beyond zero tolerance.
Recent revelations that Lou Vincent, the former New Zealand batsman, was involved in fixing matches in England and abroad have brought the murky world of corruption back into the spotlight.
Vincent has admitted taking money to fix games with various accomplices and he has been working for several months now with the International Cricket Council’s Anti-Corruption Unit.
Chris Cairns, his former New Zealand team-mate, has been implicated and the whole can of worms will doubtless open further in the coming days.
Vincent’s testimony to the ICC – leaked to the national press – contained one sentence in particular that sent a chill through my bones.
“I fully accept I need to be punished but it would mean the world to me to have the opportunity to give something back to cricket, the sport I love, when my punishment is served.”
In other words, Vincent hopes to be reintegrated into the cricketing community.
He hopes to be able to atone for his crimes. In fact, there are those who would say he has already done that by providing details of the fixes in which he has been involved.
One media outlet described Vincent as “an unlikely hero”, as though we should be grateful to him for coming clean.
That same outlet even said he could “save a game rapidly losing credibility”. Why, they only just stopped short of calling him a knight in shining armour.
Although I have no wish to see Vincent strung up and flogged and am perfectly prepared to accept his contrition, I believe he should not be allowed back into the sport.
Some offences are so serious that although they might be forgiven, they cannot be tolerated, for that would be to send the wrong message to anyone tempted to follow in his footsteps.
If you take part in match-fixing – something that goes against the very soul of sport and cheats everyone concerned – you have passed a point of no return.
You have shattered a trust that simply cannot be repaired – no matter how much you try or say the word “sorry”.
When the Pakistan trio of Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir were banned for 10, seven and five years respectively after being found guilty of spot-fixing in 2011, I thought that was frankly ridiculous. In my view, they should have been banned for life – even the then teenage Amir.
Vincent might have seen the error of his ways, but the only way corruption can ever be controlled (alas, it can never be eradicated) is for those guilty – players/administrators/whoever – to be kicked out of cricket for good.
Every child should know that life means life.