Interior Minister Rehman Malik has launched a damage control exercise after warning the Pakistani cricket team not to indulge in match-fixing, claiming that his comments had been taken "out of context".
"A section of (the) press has twisted my statement out of context, and wrongly projected my words," Malik posted on micro-blogging website Twitter last night.
He claimed that his statement regarding the Pakistani team had apparently "been taken negatively" though it was "most relevant" in view of the importance of the India-Pakistan faceoff in the World Cup semi-final tomorrow.
Interacting with the media in the port city of Karachi earlier yesterday, Malik had warned Pakistani players not to indulge in match-fixing as he was keeping a "close watch" on their activities.
"I gave a warning that there should be no match-fixing. I am keeping a close watch. If any such thing happens, we are going to take action," Malik had said.
He had said that though he was "sure the team has very clean members", intelligence is being gathered on the cricketers, including "who are meeting them and the position of their telephones".
The comments angered the Pakistani players and captain Shahid Afridi apparently raised the issue when Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani telephoned him last evening, TV news channels reported.
Malik posted on Twitter that the Pakistani "cricket team is great" and he hoped that the Indian and Pakistani "teams will play in their true spirit" in the semi-final.
He further claimed that his remarks earlier in the day had "dented (the) betting mafia" that is "booming" in cities like Karachi, Mumbai, Dubai and London.
"The reality is that people like Mazhar Majeed exist. And the reality is that Pak cricket has faced such problems before," he tweeted.
He claimed that Pakistani players "were implicated through a conspiracy" in the match-fixing scam in Britain and "later most of them were declared innocent".
Malik also tweeted that he had spoken to Afridi "who is in high morale". He wrote that he told Afridi "the whole nation is behind him".