The trio of Salman Butt, Mohammed Asif and Mohammed Amir – often termed the “tainted trio” – has once more become the subject of controversy in sporting circles. As September 2 approaches, the date when they are eligible to return to international cricket, a debate has started over when, if ever, will they feature for the Pakistan national team. While the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has given a politically correct statement, saying that it will be a long time before they achieve the kind of form necessary to make the team, others are less circumspect. Former greats such as Javed Miandad have bluntly stated that they should never be allowed to return to the game, and thus made an example off. Those who remember the national embarrassment when the scandal came to light in 2011 instinctively agree, but is it necessary to punish them again, seeing as they have already served the ban mandated by the International Cricket Council, as well as prison sentences.

While the PCB is certainly within its right to ban the players from representing Pakistan, the punishment would be overkill. At this point the punishment would be less about the players and more about the PCB, which would use it to drive home a point. While deterring future spot-fixers is necessary, legal principals also forbid ‘double jeopardy’, multiple punishments for the same crime. On a policy level too, such an absolute punishment would deter future whistleblowers, who would see their careers end if the revealed a ring they have been involved in. Yet, malpractice in sports is a constant spectre for Pakistan, one that must be banished.

Perhaps a compromise would be the better solution where an absolute one fails. Mohhamed Asif and Salman Butt were senior players, and both were handed longer sentences based on their larger culpability – men of their experience should suffer the consequences of their actions, while the young Mohammed Amir could be gradually allowed to return - if he bowls well of course.