Sharjah: Former Pakistan captain Imran Khan on Thursday said he was pained to hear that three of the country's cricketers were being jailed for fixing parts of a Test match against England.
Pakistan former Test captain Salman Butt, 27, received 30 months, fast bowler Mohammad Asif, 28, received one year in jail and 19-year-old Mohammad Aamer was jailed for six months.
Butt and Asif were found guilty on Tuesday of deliberately bowling three no-balls during the Lord's Test in August 2010 as part of a "spot-fixing" betting scam uncovered by Rupert Murdoch's now-defunct News of the World.
Aamer and players's agent Mazhar Majeed, sent down for 32 months, had already pleaded guilty to involvement in the scam.
"It is painful to listen (to) the news as a former Pakistan cricketer and I feel really sorry for their families," Khan, who was on a political meeting to the United Arab Emirates, told AFP.
"In a way I also feel sorry for these cricketers because they are from Pakistan where there are massive corruption cases against president (Asif Zardari) and they must have thought crime pays," said Khan, who now heads his political party -- Tehrik-e-Insaaf (Movement for Justice).
"The verdict is a wake-up call for Pakistan cricket and from now on we should be ultra careful and, like we did in the past, should never allow the corruption to set in," said Khan, who led Pakistan to their only World Cup win in 1992.
Khan criticised the previous cricket boards for sweeping the matter under the carpet.
"We should not hide behind the justification that it (fixing) happens in international cricket. It does happen, but Pakistan should set its house in order first and anyone involved should be punished," said Khan.
"I always felt sorry for Aamer," said Khan, himself a fast bowler. "He may have been influenced by the atmosphere around him, secondly he was the best young fast bowler and for the fact that he came out with a confession," said Khan.
Another former captain Ramiz Raja said he has no sympathy for the players.
"I have always maintained that in a team when the rest of the guys are fighting to win a game and two or three are fighting against it, trying to sell their souls to the devil, they cannot be afforded any sympathy," said Raja.
"They hurt Pakistan cricket, their fans and even though it may sound rough to some of the fans but justice has been done and they deserved the punishment they got."
Raja said the verdict will serve Pakistan cricket well.
"Even though it's a sad situation for their families, justice has been done. You need to rid such elements from the game and it's good for Pakistan cricket.
"Cricket needs good ambassadors and passionate cricketers who can be good ambassadors, who can serve their country honourably and unfortunately these three were on a different track," said Raja.
Former coach Waqar Younis, in charge of the team during the England tour when the case surfaced, termed it "ugly."
"I was part of the team when the whole episode took place. It was an ugly side of cricket. I don't know much about the criminal law in England but cricketers being sentenced to jail is sad for cricket and bad for Pakistan," Waqar told AFP.
"Unfortunately it has happened now and I pray the whole episode should end and clear the Pakistan team to start afresh."
Waqar said he could never think of the three players being involved.
"I could not even think of any of these guys being involved when the whole thing was taking place. If I knew then things could have been managed differently and the board could have got involved and unfortunately it end this way and they have to suffer."
Waqar hoped Pakistan do not lack role models.
"It was a great loss for the team at that time, especially Aamer. He was upcoming and very energetic with big future. I hope there is no absence of role models. I only hope the whole episode will be taken as a positive thing by the younger cricketers.
"Pakistan cricket should be thankful in a way that the whole thing is now taken care of. We need to take this positively and move on from here and we have done well since it started and we can do better than this.
"I have no doubt that talent is there and things will improve."