Pakistan star cricketers ‘unlikely’ to finish tour

BBC News | 31 August 2010 | 13:17

The Pakistan cricketers under scrutiny for claims of spot-fixing are unlikely to play again on the current England tour, BBC Sport understands. Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif and Kamran Akmal have all been questioned by police, although Akmal is no longer part of that investigation. The BBC’s Pat Murphy said the players involved may lack the focus to play. The International Cricket Council is also preparing a separate report with results expected within days. Test Captain Butt, fast bowlers Amir and Asif and wicketkeeper Akmal were questioned by police at the team’s hotel in London on Sunday following a report that some Pakistan players had been bribed to fix incidents during the fourth Test against England at Lord’s.

The allegations centred on three no-balls from Amir and Asif which the News of the World newspaper said had been bowled on purpose at pre-determined times to facilitate betting coups after a "middle man" accepted £150,000 in cash from an undercover reporter. Murphy added that the ICC was concerned about banning the four players based on a newspaper expose and an incomplete investigation from Scotland Yard, and therefore wanted to receive the findings from the anti-corruption unit urgently. Murphy told BBC Radio 5 live: "A conference call between Pakistan high commissioner [Wajid Shamsul prime Hasan] and chairman of the cricket board [Ijaz Butt], who are in London, and sports minister [Ijaz Hussain Jakhrani] in Islamabad will take place on Tuesday. And given the importance of cricket in Pakistan, the minister [Yusuf Raza Gilani] may also be directly involved in the discussions.

"Although the players will still be deemed to be innocent until proven guilty, it’s almost certain they will be taken out of the firing line and the formula of words citing mental pressure and a lack of necessary focus will necessitate their withdrawal from the Twenty20 matches and the one-day series." ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat told BBC Radio 5 live that the intention is to conclude the investigation before the start of the first of two Twenty20 internationals against England, in Cardiff on Sunday. The ICC has also stated that Pakistan’s tour of England will carry on – they are due to play Somerset in a tour match from Thursday. President Sharad Pawar said it was the "desire of the ICC and the cricket boards of England and Pakistan that the game should continue".

Lorgat added: "The reputation of the game has been tarnished and it is something we must make right. There is no question that people’s confidence will have been swayed. We’re busy with the Metropolitan Police and hope, before the weekend arrives, we can get to some sort of a conclusion. We are working hard, but it’s important to remember that an individual is innocent until proven guilty. I’m in touch with the investigators. It’s likely I might have to come across to London. But this is a live issue which moves with the hour, every hour. At the moment, it is appropriate that the game continues. We shouldn’t let everyone suffer because of a couple of individuals that might have got caught up in corrupt practices. The vast majority of players are not guilty of any such behaviour. They play the sport in the right spirit, and there are many fans who want to watch the game. We shouldn’t let a couple of individuals, a few players; bring the entire game to a standstill."

The man identified as the alleged go-between, cricket agent Mazhar Majeed, 35, has been released on police bail after being arrested on Saturday on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud bookmakers. Mazhar also owns Croydon Athletic Football Club, who has released a statement saying they are "devastated and appalled to hear of the alleged match-fixing of international cricket matches by its owner Mazhar Majeed". After the game against Somerset Pakistan is due to play two Twenty20 internationals and five one-day internationals against England in September.

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