Life bans for cheats, says Cook as Amir returns

England's Joe Root (left) with captain Alistair Cook at Lord's on Wednesday. Picture: Adam Davy/PA
England's Joe Root (left) with captain Alistair Cook at Lord's on Wednesday. Picture: Adam Davy/PA
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Alastair Cook has called on the International Cricket Council to institute mandatory life bans for all proven match-fixers.

The England captain, who will lead his team at Lord’s on today in pursuit of a 3-0 whitewash over Sri Lanka in the Investec series, is highly likely to be facing rehabilitated spot-fixer Mohammad Amir back at HQ next month.

England and Yorkshire's Joe Root during a nets session at Lord's. Picture: Adam Davy/PA.

England and Yorkshire's Joe Root during a nets session at Lord's. Picture: Adam Davy/PA.

Amir has reportedly been granted a visa to return to England, and has been picked by Pakistan for this summer’s four-Test tour.

The left-armer’s presence in the first Test at Lord’s is sure to stir mixed feelings, at the venue where he agreed to bowl no-balls to order for financial gain on Pakistan’s 2010 tour – a crime for which he was jailed and served a five-year ban from all cricket.

Co-conspirators Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif will not be back.

Cook insisted he will welcome back Amir, who has shown outstanding form since his return to limited-overs action, but advocates no further leeway for anyone who transgresses.

“He has served (his punishment), so I’m perfectly happy for him to come back and play,” said Cook, who was the first of Amir’s wickets on the way to figures of 6-84 in that fateful Test six years ago.

“But in my opinion – now, because it’s become a bit more prevalent (in the number of known cases), the ICC should come out and say that if you are caught match-fixing you are banned for life.

“That’s what we should do to try and protect the game.”

At a time when cricket faces tougher competition than ever for a slice of the sports-viewing market, Cook believes it cannot afford to be tolerant of those who put it in peril.

“People want to be watching a genuine contest,” he said.

“There shouldn’t be sideshows and side-bets, where people are profiting on it to alter the game of cricket.

“I hope that’s what people expect when they pay their money to watch a game a cricket – teams trying to win rather than people trying to make easy money on the side.”

It is therefore crucial, he claims, that life bans are implemented.

“I just think if there’s one way to try and deter it, it is to have the biggest punishment possible – you should be banned from cricket for life, and if everyone knows that then it’s very black-and-white,” he said.

“There are 22 people, 24 if you include the umpires, doing it to the best of their ability.

“You don’t want something in the back of your mind saying ‘that doesn’t feel right’. That’s not what sport is about.”

Meanwhile, after Cricket Australia announced a second day-night Test against South Africa this year, Cook agreed with Australia captain Steve Smith that there is no need yet to extend the experiment to the Ashes.

“My general view of day-night Tests is that they’re definitely something cricket authorities need to keep looking at – because it’s the way to keep the game moving with the times, making it more possible for spectators to come and watch,” Cook said.

“My issue with it is the quality of the pink ball. No disrespect to the guys who make it – but on the two occasions I’ve played, it doesn’t seem to behave the same way as the red ball.”

He fears matches could hinge on the lottery of who happens to be batting or bowling at the wrong time.

“It’s one of the great things about Test cricket – sometimes the ball swings conventionally, sometimes it reverses,” he added.

“On my two occasions with the pink ball, it didn’t do any of that – and then it nipped all over under twilight.

“The quality of the ball is vital.”

As for the Ashes, Cook senses the age-old rivalry simply does not need a new twist to spice it up.

He said: “A lot of the games have really good attendances, and it’s probably not a series where you need to do it exactly at this time.”

England are set to field an unchanged team against Sri Lanka following last week’s series-sealing victory at Chester-le-Street, preferring seamer Steven Finn on his home ground to the uncapped Jake Ball.

Sri Lanka are sufficiently confident in their preparations for captain Angelo Mathews and four of his compatriots to skip their final practice session.

The tourists, 2-0 down with one to play, had the good fortune on Tuesday to hold a full morning net before thunderstorms moved in and stopped England doing the same.

Yesterday, mixed weather dealt the teams opposite hands – and it therefore made little difference in any case that Mathews was absent by the time an afternoon downpour sent Sri Lanka inside.

Coach Graham Ford said: “Angelo is fine. We have had a pretty hectic time, both on the training ground and off the field attending some functions. I think he is pretty happy with his game, so he takes time off – and I get to work.”

Sri Lanka have selection issues to finalise, whether to pick Shaminda Eranga at a time when his action is under scrutiny, and Kusal Perera – free to play again after the ICC overturned his doping ban and exonerated him.

Going home: ICC Trophy-winning captain Sarfaraz Ahmed.
Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

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