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British cops to quiz Pak tainted players

All three cricketers at the centre of the ‘spot-fixing’ storm — captain Salman Butt, pace bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer — were conspicuously absent when the Pakistani team held a practice session on Tuesday, its first since the scandal surfaced. Dipankar De Sarkar and Bivabasu Kumar report. Full coverage

cricket Updated: Sep 01, 2010 09:51 IST

All three cricketers at the centre of the ‘spot-fixing’ storm — captain Salman Butt, pace bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer — were conspicuously absent when the Pakistani team held a practice session on Tuesday, its first since the scandal surfaced.

Pakistan team manager Yawar Saeed confirmed they were not at nets. “They are not practicing as they have to attend a meeting at the Pakistan High Commission on Wednesday, in connection with the ongoing investigations into spot-fixing,” said Saeed.

Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) sources told HT that apart from High Commission officials, Scotland Yard would also be questioning the trio.

There is no official word on whether the players would be retained for Pakistan’s first Twenty20 international against England on Thursday.

A BBC report claimed that they would not play any more matches on this tour, but sources maintained there had been no official request from the England and Wales Cricket Board to drop them, nor had the International Cricket Council (ICC) or PCB ‘unofficially’ suspended them.

But ICC sources confirmed that an unspecified number of matches that Pakistan has played during the time Majeed has been a players’ agent, are already being investigated by its Anti-Corruption and Security Unit. British customs officials made three more arrests - two men and a woman - on Tuesday in connection with the betting scam and money laundering, but there were also growing indications that the criminal case against Mazhar Majeed was weak, and could fall through for lack of evidence.

Majeed may get off because technically, he can be accused of having broken British law and defrauded bookmakers only if it was proved that someone placed a legal bet on the specific no balls Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif bowled, expecting them to be regular balls.

Wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal, also named by Majeed as being part of the betting network, however, attended Tuesday’s practice session for a warm-up match with Somerset. He has reportedly been cleared by Scotland Yard.

While the ICC and PCB are both waiting for Scotland Yard to conclude its investigation, there is also a parallel investigation being carried out by the ICC into wider charges relating to the involvement of cricketers in match-fixing and spot-betting.

Pakistan’s Ministry of Sports is also waiting for the Scotland Yard report, as well as an inquiry report from the PCB. “We are expecting the PCB report by tomorrow and the Scotland Yard report by Thursday latest,” sports ministry spokesperson Faik Ali told HT from Islamabad. The Ministry of Sports formed a three-member committee to investigate the allegations in consultation with the Interior Ministry on Tuesday.

“Addl D-G and Assistant Director, FIA and one representative from the Sports Ministry will constitute the committee, which will start deliberations as soon as we receive the report,” said Ali.