Saturday, September 4, 2010

Pak envoy sees Pawar's hand in ICC suspension

S Kalyana Ramanathan / London September 4, 2010

Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the UK, Wajid Hasan, today criticised International Cricket Council (ICC) Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat and President Sharad Pawar, saying he sensed a “conspiracy” behind the suspension of three Pakistani cricket players facing allegations of spot-fixing.

He told the BBC that ICC intervention at such an early stage of investigation was uncalled for. Hasan said when the result of an investigation by Scotland Yard was pending, ICC had no authority to intervene at this juncture. He said even the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) could not take action or intervene when there is an ongoing inquiry.

Later in the day, addressing a press conference in London, Lorgat dismissed a question that the action had been taken to keep Pakistan out of international cricket.

Late last night, ICC had issued a statement saying that it has charged Pakistani players Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir with offences under its anti-corruption code, relating to allegations of spot-fixing during the fourth test between England and Pakistan at Lord’s last month.

In an interview published today, Hasan also said that the Pakistani cricketers under investigation were pawns in a game of vendetta meted out by Indian bookies in Mumbai, who had a score to settle with Mazhar Majeed, the bookie in London first arrested and later released on bail by the British police.

In an interview to The Daily Telegraph, Hasan claimed, “(Mazhar Majeed) was a bookie involved with Indian bookies in Mumbai. I think it is the Indian bookies that have used the sting operations to settle scores with this Majeed chap... probably because he has not kept his contract with them.”

The spot-fixing scandal first broke early last month after a sting operation conducted by media baron Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid News of the World.

ICC Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat played down the conflict with the PCB, saying that Hasan had a right to his opinion and that ICC would question the players only after it gets a green signal from Scotland Yard. As the charges relate to the commission of a crime, Scotland Yard questions the players involved first.

Lorgat today said, “We will not tolerate corruption in cricket — simple as that. We must be decisive with such matters, and if proven, these offences carry serious penalties up to a life ban. The ICC will do everything possible to keep such conduct out of the game, and we will stop at nothing to protect the sport's integrity. While we believe the problem is not widespread, we must always be vigilant.

“It is important, however, that we do not pre-judge the guilt of these three players. That is for the independent tribunal alone to decide," Lorgat added.

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