Spot-fixing controversy November 16, 2010

Tabloid to participate in spot-fixing hearings

News of the World, the tabloid that broke the spot-fixing story this summer, is set to be part of the hearings of the three Pakistani players at the centre of the allegations. ESPNcricinfo understands from sources close to the case that there is a "strong possibility" all relevant people involved in the investigative story will appear in Doha, Qatar between January 6-11 as part of the evidence in the hearings of Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir.

It is believed that, to avoid conflicts of interest, there will be some kind of restrictions on the tabloid from reporting the proceedings of the hearings.

In a story that appeared on the third evening of the fourth Test at Lord's between Pakistan and England, NOTW alleged that the three players were involved in bowling deliberate, planned no-balls in England's first innings. Much of the published story centred around a video sting operation in which Mazhar Majeed, an agent to the players, was filmed talking about the no-balls and allegedly taking payment for them from undercover reporters posing as a betting syndicate.

That evidence was passed on to Scotland Yard and the ICC's anti-corruption unit (ACSU), who subsequently launched their own investigations and gathered more evidence. The UK's Crown Prosecution Service is currently considering whether the evidence passed on to them by police is enough to warrant criminal prosecution against the players.

The ICC's response was swifter: They provisionally suspended the three, soon after the story emerged, based on the ACSU's investigations. Since then, Butt and Amir have had their appeals against suspensions dismissed by Michael Beloff QC, the head of the ICC code of conduct commission, in a hearing in Dubai. Asif chose not to appeal.

Beloff will now be part of the three-man tribunal - Justice Albie Sachs of South Africa and Sharad Rao, a lawyer from Kenya are the others - for the Doha hearings.

The conduct of the hearings is the subject of some concern in the legal and administrative fraternities. On the one hand, Beloff's presence has become a bone of contention for Butt's lawyers, one of whom - Aftab Gul - has withdrawn his services as a result. Gul, a former Test cricketer, is unhappy because he believes the players will not be provided justice at the hearing because Beloff has already ruled against them in one instance. Though Amir's lawyer Shahid Karim has expressed concerns over Beloff's inclusion in the full hearing, he has maintained that he will defend his client.

Conversely, observers familiar with and, in some instances, involved in the case have expressed concerns over the attitude of some of the lawyers and how it might affect the workings of the hearing. Sources who witnessed the provisional suspension hearings believe that the public statements made thereafter by the lawyers and players could potentially damage their own defence.

In some cases, it is claimed, views expressed inside the hearing were different to those expressed subsequently as public statements. One source also told ESPNcricinfo that there was an informal agreement made during the Dubai hearing between lawyers and Beloff to not speak to the media about the case, an arrangement that has not lasted.

"There is a need for these players to have legal representation that will not grandstand to the public and make things difficult for the players themselves," one source said. "The players should have the best possible defence they can."

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo