Spot-fixing controversy January 7, 2011

ICC makes its case against suspended players

The ICC has finished making its case against the three Pakistani players facing charges of spot-fixing on the second day of the anti-corruption hearing, with three key witnesses having been heard through the session. The way is now paved for Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir to begin their defence on Saturday.

Proceedings on the day were dominated by the presentation of more evidence by the ICC and the examination of all prosecution witnesses who attended the hearing in person or via teleconference. Pakistan's T20 and ODI captain, Shahid Afridi, and their coach, Waqar Younis, appeared via teleconference though there was confusion initially over whether the former had appeared.

The pair had given statements to investigators when they were in Dubai for the series against South Africa in October-November last year. In the statements, which were leaked in to media in Pakistan, Younis is said to have questioned Amir about the no-ball during a break in play and expressed his surprise at such a large front-foot transgression.

Afridi was questioned, it is believed, among other things, about the World T20 where he was captain of a side that included the three players. Part of the supporting evidence is linked to the tournament, held in the Caribbean before Pakistan's tour of England.

The most significant witness is likely to have been Mazhar Mahmood, the News of the World reporter who carried out the sting operation and put together the story. There has been much speculation about his presence from the start of proceedings; the investigative reporter maintains a notoriously low-key profile and is not easily recognized in public. ESPNcricinfo understands he has been present at the hearings over both days so far, and the ICC is said to be relying extensively on the evidence the newspaper gathered in their operation.

The next two days are now expected to produce significant developments as the players begin in earnest the process of defending themselves. The three have pleaded not guilty to the charges and will be examined first by their own lawyers before the ICC's lawyers cross-examine them.

Indications from the players' opening statements are that each has adopted a separate line of defence and that is expected to become more distinct - though not necessarily as divergent as has been assumed - over the next two days.

The proceedings of the first two days have been of a cagey, tight nature - though apparently cordial - and not perhaps as conclusive as might be imagined. Even to some involved in the hearing, it has been difficult to conclude how it has gone so far. There is an acknowledgment that each player's perspective on how things have gone will be different; one is believed to see things as going to plan so far and content with the workings of the tribunal.

Outwardly at least the players have looked upbeat on entry and exit from the Qatar Financial Centre tower. All three were dressed in jacket and trousers on the first day and though Asif and Amir maintained that on Friday, Butt had loosened up sartorially a little. And having ignored the media entirely on Thursday, Asif and Butt even acknowledged the presence of some today if only to indicate, understandably, that they couldn't comment.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

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