England captain Alastair Cook believes anyone found guilty of match-fixing should be permanently thrown out of cricket – although he would have no issue with facing Pakistan fast bowler Mohammad Amir in the forthcoming Test series.
Amir is poised to make a controversial return to Tests this summer, having made his comeback for Pakistan in the shorter formats earlier this year, and his first match could be the scene of his crime.
The left-arm paceman served a five-year spot-fixing suspension and a three-month prison sentence after bowling no balls to order during the 2010 Lord’s Test, with the London ground once again the venue for next month’s opener between the two countries.
But, if Amir is included in Pakistan’s team in London, having been named in the squad earlier this week, Cook would take the matter in his stride.
He said: “It’s kind of ironic that his first Test match back will probably be here at Lord’s.
He’s served his time. He was punished for what he did, and quite rightly so because we’ve got to protect the integrity of the game. I have no problem playing against him at all.”
However, Cook believes punishments should be more stringent and admitted he would be in favour of life bans for anyone found guilty of matchfixing.
He said: “My only one thing is that I think if you get caught match-fixing you should be banned for life.
“The punishment should be that hard, because we’ve got to protect the integrity. That’s not to say Amir should not come back, because the rules were probably different then.
“From my point of view the punishment should be harsher... but that’s from now on.”
Cook was speaking ahead of the dead rubber against Sri Lanka at Lord’s, a Test series England have already wrapped up after wins at Headingley and Chester-le-Street. The left-hander, who passed the 10,000-run barrier in Tests in Durham, confirmed England would be unchanged, meaning Chris Woakes keeps his place ahead of the uncapped Jake Ball.
Sri Lanka, meanwhile, are sufficiently confident in their preparations for captain Angelo Mathews and four of his compatriots to skip a 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.
Speaking shortly beforehand, coach Graham Ford explained Mathews’ absence.
“Angelo is fine,” he said. “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. We have had this lengthy break [since the second Test] and we have made sure the guys really worked extremely hard, so today is an optional touch-up.”
Sri Lanka have selection issues to finalise, significantly whether to pick Shaminda Eranga at a time when his action is under scrutiny, and Kusal Perera - who is free to play again after the International Cricket Council overturned his doping ban and exonerated him.
Eranga is also entitled to take the field, having undergone tests on his action in Loughborough but is still awaiting the results.
Ford said: “He has worked so hard throughout the tour, and bowled reasonably well. Until such time the result comes out, and we know one way or the other, we have treat everything as normal.”