The International Cricket Council (ICC) appointed anti-corruption tribunal’s decision on the fate of the three Pakistan cricketers accused of spot-fixing may become heavily influenced by the statements of fast bowler Mohammad Asif, reports emerging from Doha suggested late Monday.
Asif was the last of the accused trio to present his defence against allegations of spot-fixing on the fifth day of the hearing at the Qatar Financial Centre’s twelfth-floor courtroom.
The fast bowler is believed to have conceded that the evidence provided by the ICC against the trio is strong enough to indicate wrongdoing but steered himself clear of being aware of any pre-determined pattern, a report on the BCC Sport website said.
Asif reportedly told the tribunal that he bowled the specific no-ball on the instructions of his then captain Salman Butt – also being questioned in Doha – in order to intimidate the England batsmen. The statement is in stark contrast to the approach taken by Butt and the less experienced fast bowler Mohammad Amir and has indicated a growing split between the pair and Asif.
Earlier, Butt seemed to have shown complete oblivion and surprise over bookie Mazhar Majeed’s claims that the Test captain and several other players are involved in cricket corruption. Butt’s statements of defence, however, may now be dented by Asif’s revelation.
Mohammad Amir, meanwhile, has been close to Butt ever since the scandal broke out and has been seen travelling with the former captain to and from the venue of the hearing. His statements of defence, which he gave on Sunday and Monday, relied heavily on his inexperience, youth, clean record and influence of his captain.
The new-ball pair’s statements, while distancing them from any direct connection to the ‘fixing’ of no-balls, have placed majority of the blame on Butt.
“Given that the possibility of deliberate wrongdoing is strengthened through the interplay between Butt and Asif, the situation does not appear too bright for the players. The probability that the ICC, which is keen to establish its credentials as a body with zero tolerance for corruption, will push for harsh sanctions must be high. As Pakistan’s captain at the time, Butt faces the possibility of the sternest sanctions,” ESPNCricinfo’s Osman Samiuddin noted in his report from Doha after the fifth day of the hearing.
It is also believed that the ICC provided the tribunal with call logs involving the accused players and their alleged agent/bookie Mazhar Majeed. These records are said to have been provided by the News of the World – the British tabloid that carried out a sting operation leading to the players’ suspensions.
The hearing will conclude on Tuesday, after all three players’ lawyers and the ICC’s lawyer have presented their closing statements. While the tribunal is expected to announce its verdict on the sixth day, the exact nature of the possible sanctions may well be announced later in the week, reports say.
The Qatar-based hearing is the first instance of the ICC’s Anti-Corruption and Security Unit acting on a possible act of cricket corruption and hence holds importance as far as cricket’s ruling body’s credibility is concerned.
Pakistan, meanwhile, may lose its potent and world-class new-ball pair if the allegations are proven.