Pakistan trio brace for bombshell decision

Doha, February 4, 2011

Former Pakistan Test captain Salman Butt has dismissed claims he will receive a life ban for his role in cricket’s alleged spot-fixing scandal.

Butt and pace bowlers Mohammad Asif and teenage quick Mohammad Aamer are all accused of conspiring in the bowling of deliberate no-balls on last year’s tour of England — claims they all deny.

Some reports have claimed that Butt and Asif could be banned for life while Aamer may be handed a five-year suspension by the anti-corruption tribunal which will announce its decision on Saturday.

“I don’t believe in what the media is saying,” Butt told AFP, reacting to British media reports that he and Asif will be banned for life and Aamer for five years.

“My lawyer (Yasin Patel) terms the case as 50-50, so at the moment I don’t want to say much. Cricket has been my livelihood, so I want that to carry on and I hope every Pakistani fan prays for me,” he said.

Aamer’s lawyer Shahid Karim refused to comment. The tribunal met over six days in January, reading written and hearing audio testimony as well as seeing video evidence. Despite almost 50 hours of deliberations, the three-man tribunal decided to delay a decision.

The tribunal learnt Thursday that they would be pre-empted by the British Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), who will announce on Friday whether they face legal action in England following a separate investigation by London’s Metropolitan Police.

A CPS spokeswoman told AFP there was no connection between the timing of their announcement and the ICC hearing in Doha, saying: “We make decisions when we are ready to make them.”

The timing and severity of the Doha decision will be crucial with the World Cup in South Asia starting in two weeks’ time and with the International Cricket Council (ICC) under pressure to clamp down on illegal bookmakers.

Butt, Asif and Aamer were provisionally suspended by the ICC in September 2010, with the world governing body’s code of conduct carrying a minimum five-year ban if corruption charges are proved. The maximum punishment is life out of the game.

The scandal came to light when Britain’s News of the World claimed that seven Pakistani players, including Butt, Aamer and Asif, took money from agent Mazhar Majeed to obey orders at specific stages in the Lord’s Test in August.

Scotland Yard detectives raided the team hotel in London, reportedly confiscating a huge amount of money from Butt’s room.