ICC suspends tainted trio, rejects conspiracy theory

Updated: Sep 03, 2010, 19:39 PM IST

London: In an unprecedented crackdown, the ICC suspended the three Pakistani players implicated in a `spot-fixing` scandal under its anti-corruption code of conduct, prompting an angry Pakistan to call the decision "unethical" and a conspiracy to keep the country out of
international cricket.

Five days after the scandal rocked world cricket, the ICC finally cracked the whip by suspending the tainted trio of Test captain Salman Butt and pacers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamir but declined to specify the charges brought against them.

On a day marked by a war of words between the ICC and Pakistan, the spotlight was on the players as well who were subjected to a fresh round of interrogation by the Scotland Yard.

The ICC said the three players have been notified officially of the offences they are alleged to have committed and have been provisionally suspended pending a decision on the charges.

"In accordance with the provisions of the code, this means they are immediately barred from participating in all cricket and related activities until the case has been concluded," the ICC said in a statement.

"They have a right to contest the provisional suspension and a further opportunity to defend these charges at a full hearing before an independent Anti-Corruption Tribunal in accordance with Article 5 of the code," it added.

But within hours of the suspension, Pakistan`s High Commissioner to Britain, Wajid Shamsul Hasan threatened to sue the ICC for its unethical decision of suspending the players and sought to insinuate that its President Sharad Pawar had a hand in the decision.

Hasan said the ICC was trying to make Pakistan a "scapegoat" for its inefficiency.

"The three players met me and requested me to ask the Pakistan Cricket Board not to consider them for the rest of the series because they wanted to clear their name and honour. Accordingly, I conveyed their request to PCB chief Ijaz Butt who accepted it but all of a sudden the ICC came out with the notice," he said.

"When Lorgat came to me, I told him that the players themselves had opted out and how ECB chairman Giles Clarke was happy with their decision.”

"I heard him (Lorgat) talking to Pawar. I don`t know what transpired between them but immediately after that he left my office and prepared a 5-page notice and handed it to the players. There seems to be a conspiracy to keep Pakistan out," he added.

But the ICC rejected Pakistan`s claims and said clear indications were given about the impending action. It also said the three cricketers have a "case to answer" and described the scandal as the "next worst after the Hansie Cronje case."

It also said the three cricketers have a "case to answer" but refused to specify the charges against them.

Addressing a press conference here, ICC CEO Haroon Lorgat dismissed a question that the action was taken to keep Pakistan out of international cricket.

"The very reason I met your High Commissioner Wajid Hasan was to give a clear indication that we are coming to a conclusion and that we will be serving a notice. I differ with Pakistan High Commission interpretation of the meet. I indicated to him about issuing the notice," he said.

Earlier in the day, Hasan attacked the ICC saying it had taken an unethical decision and sought to insinuate that ICC President Sharad Pawar had a hand in it.

After suspending the trio of Pakistan Test skipper Salman Butt and pacers Mohammad Aamir and Mohammad Asif, the ICC said after "due diligence", it is clear that the players have to explain themselves following a sting operation in which a bookie claimed to have paid them money for bowling no balls in a Test match against England.

"The press suggested this week that why didn`t the ICC act immediately? There was no specific cause to make us act yesterday. It was about taking legal advice, having teleconferences and examine the case," ICC`s Anti-Corruption and Security Unit chief Sir Ronnie Flanagan said in the press conference.

"The conclusion was that it was an arguable case against the players. We certainly came to the conclusion that they have a case to answer to our disciplinary commission," he added.

Lorgat said the ICC would be "decisive" in its action against guilty players but only after establishing their guilt.

"We promise to be decisive. We got a week for due diligence. We have got to be very mindful of the interviews that are going on right now with the police.”

"Last night was the first opportunity we got in which we concluded what we have done. We needed to do all the evidence gathering and frame charges. We cannot suspend any player without formally charging anyone," he said.

On whether criminal charges would be pressed against the players, who are being investigated by the Scotland Yard, Flanagan refused to comment.

"It would be absolutely wrong for me comment to (on whether criminal charges would be brought). If the police find evidence, it is for the prosecuting authorities to make that decision. We would be absolutely wrong to make a comment on that. It`s a complex investigation," Flanagan said.

Asked whether the ICC had failed in its responsibility of educating players about the implications of getting involved in corruption, Flanagan said, "Absolutely not."

"There are many instances where the ACSU has prevented this possibility. I absolutely refute the suggestions that this in anyway shows a failure on the ACSU`s part," he added.

The two officials also refused to divulge the specific charges levelled against the players by the ICC.

"There are various charges and they all relate to this issue. They know exactly what the charges are. Quite frankly it would not be right for us to specifically state these charges in front of the media," said Lorgat.

Quizzed about the Sydney Test between Australia and Pakistan which is also suspected to be fixed, Flanagan said the governing body would act according to the evidence available with it.

"There was a particular match in Australia. The ACSU very concisely stated that it was a dysfunctional tour and there were things that went on. We have investigations going on of all kinds. The criminal investigations at this stage are focussed on Lord`s. We are the investigating agency of the ICC and we will go where the evidence takes us," he said.

"We would be examining all the evidence that will brought forward in this case. We will investigate in any given case. We are in the process of examining and if it takes us back to something we would certainly do that," he added.

Lorgat rejected suggestions that the scandal was just the tip of an iceberg and that there was widespread corruption in cricket.

"We can`t work on hearsay or speculation. The vast majority of players are honest and on occasions, they are not, we deal with it," he said.

Asked whether `spot-fixing`, which involves rigging events within a match, is widespread, Lorgat said, "We don`t believe that it is widespread and in few instances where a few might be committing something we don`t want to see, we will act. Let`s see what the evidence we have."

"I do not see this as a tip of the iceberg but we must learn from this. We need to address integrity and root out corruption from cricket," added Flanagan.