LAHORE - Pakistan veteran cricketer M Hafeez has said that spot-fixing is not a mistake but a crime, and those involved in it must be severely punished.

Speaking at the “meet the press with Sports Journalists Association of Lahore (SJAL), the all-rounder revealed that his stance was, is and will always remain the same regarding the players convicted of spot-fixing.

“Everyone can have their opinion but mine is quite strong on spot-fixing,” said Hafeez. “It is a principled stance, which couldn’t be changed for any individual, neither it would be. The stance is that whoever hurts the reputation of Pakistan and is proven guilty, he shouldn’t get that respect back.”

Hafeez said that the national team had vowed to stay away from any activity, which may bring disrepute to them or the country. “It is unfortunate that the team has found itself in the middle of a scandal once again,” he said referring to the spot-fixing scandal involving three Pakistani cricketers in 2010.

Terming the Pakistan Super League (PSL) corruption scandal a painful reality, Hafeez said: “It is a painful reality that we are facing now. I can’t talk about it since anything hasn’t been proven yet, but the occurrence of such a case within the confines of Pakistan cricket is painful.”

He said that after the 2010 incident, the players put a lot of curfews on themselves and struggled hard to stay away from corruption. “Now seeing cricketers involved in spot-fixing scandal once again hurts a lot.  Hafeez demanded severe punishments for those, found guilty in the fixing. “It is high time that stern action is taken against the players, who have been proven guilty to set an example for others, so that no one else could even think about doing so.”

Speaking about the difficulty in making a comeback for national team and the tough time to find a place for himself, the 36-year-old said: “The time period after my injury was very difficult for me. When I was injured in England, I refused to play in the team. After my knee injury healed I got back in the team,” he said, adding that making a comeback is not easy for any cricketer.

“I am satisfied with performance during the Australia tour, where I even captained a match in absence of Azhar Ali. I also made comeback as bowler during the tour after being cleared after a suspect action,” he added.

Hafeez admitted that his performance in the recently-concluded Pakistan Super League was not satisfactory, where he struggled and was knocked out twice for zero. However, he said that selectors had expressed confidence by selecting him for upcoming tour of West Indies.

Hafeez made his way back into the ODI and T20I squads for the upcoming tour of the West Indies, and he thinks he has earned his selection. He promised to live up to the expectations, and said he would prefer to leave when he feels that he can no longer contribute to the team and give space for deserving players.

Pakistan, against the Windies, will be looking to come out victorious in the three-ODI series since a series loss will result in a fall to the ninth position, which will mean that they will have to play qualifiers for the 2019 World Cup and Hafeez thinks inconsistency has brought them here.

“We thought a lot about it and we’ve had discussions on the matter,” said Hafeez. “In my humble capacity, from what I understand, if you look at Pakistan’s limited overs cricket in the past five years, the team was not able to sustain stability. During my tenure as T20 captain, we jumped from ninth position to the second position because of the efforts of the whole team. However, in ODIs, we always kept lurking on the fifth and sixth position.”

He continued: “After the 2015 World Cup, we were seventh and then we lost to Bangladesh who had already beaten some top teams at home. So, inconsistency and a lack of series wins have caused us to drop to eighth.”

Hafeez said someone needs to stand up and take responsibility of the team’s downward spiral in limited overs cricket because you cannot expect improvement without it. “It is a question mark on the performance of all players, officials and policy makers,” he said.

“No single person is responsible, we need to reconsider our policy, the management needs to rethink their strategy and as a player I am the first one who will take responsibility for it. Because I think, the only way towards reconciliation is by taking responsibility of the wrongs and then moving forward towards improvement,” he added.