Karachi: Legendary all-rounder Imran Khan on Sunday said he felt "genuinely upset" at the lengthy bans given to three Pakistani cricketers for spot-fixing, but said punishments were necessary for the sake of the game in Pakistan.
An International Cricket Council (ICC) tribunal on Saturday banned former Pakistan captain Salman Butt for 10 years, with five years suspended, bowler Mohammad Asif for seven years, with two suspended, and teenage paceman Mohammad Amir for five years.
"I am genuinely upset over the bans on three key, young and talented players," Khan told AFP, a day after the tribunal announced the sanctions.
"But once the players were proven guilty a punishment has to be given for the sake of cricket in general and for the sake of Pakistan cricket in particular."
The trio were charged over incidents during the Test against England at Lord's last year, when Britain's News of the World newspaper claimed the players were willing to deliberately bowl no-balls.
The newspaper alleged the three had colluded in a spot-fixing betting scam organised by British-based agent Mazhar Majeed.
Khan, who led Pakistan to victory in the 1992 World Cup, said the loss of three key players would hurt Pakistan's chances in the upcoming tournament in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
"I feel sad for Amir, who is probably the best young fast bowler in the world at the moment and had a long way to go," said Khan of the 18-year-old left-arm paceman, regarded as the hottest property at international level.
"Asif is one of the best new ball bowlers and Butt is a solid opener, so with these three key players Pakistan would have done very well in the World Cup, but that is not to be."
Khan said the nation felt humiliated when the spot-fixing case surfaced in August last year.
"It was great humiliation for the people of Pakistan as the kind of ignominy it brought made people more demoralised than the floods in the country," said Khan of the natural disaster which struck Pakistan during the same period.
Khan said corruption was a serious problem in Pakistan.
"The sad part of this whole corruption episode is that most of the people sitting at important places in Pakistan are corrupt and with that prevailing what sort of signal we are giving to our youth?" he said.
Khan, who leads the Teherik-e-Insaaf (Movement for Justice) political party, hit out at the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for its handling of corruption cases in the past.
"When the match-fixing scandal first surfaced in 1995 and we had judicial inquiry, even at that time the PCB mishandled the case as they were scared that if they ban some key players then team will lose and the Board will be sacked," he said.
"Until and unless we have an elected Board who takes decisions on merit and without fears of being sacked we cannot have a proper domestic system and we won't be able to avoid controversies like this spot-fixing thing."