Spot-fixing controversy January 10, 2011

Differences between Butt and Asif grow

Growing differences between Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif in the spot-fixing hearings in Doha, Qatar appear to have given rise to the acknowledgment that wrongdoing was committed during the Lord's Test last summer, but that complicity in the act and blame for it have not yet been settled.

The pair, along with Mohammad Amir, have pleaded not guilty to charges of bowling deliberate no-balls in the fourth Test against England, allegedly at the behest of player-agent Mazhar Majeed. But on day five of the hearing, during which Asif presented his defence and was then cross-examined by ICC lawyers, the explanations of why a no-ball was bowled suggest that it was the result of a direct or indirect instruction from Butt.

It has slowly become clear over the course of the hearing that the equation between how Butt and Asif defended themselves in particular was going to be pivotal in the case. In his opening statement, Asif is believed to have said that the no-ball came about because of the extra effort required to bowl a faster ball as instructed by Butt, who was captain at the time.

As a result, Butt was questioned by Asif's lawyer, Alexander Cameron, during his defence earlier in the hearing; in turn, on Monday, Butt's lawyer Yasin Patel questioned Asif. Amir on the other hand was not questioned by either of the other players' lawyers.

There is a suggestion that Butt wasn't in the courtroom, on the 12th floor of the Qatar Financial Centre, during Asif's questioning. As has been the case through the week, the players arrived separately; Asif was the first to do so and the last to leave.

Given that the possibility of deliberate wrongdoing is strengthened through the interplay between Butt and Asif, the situation does not appear too bright for the players. The probability that the ICC, which is keen to establish its credentials as a body with zero tolerance for corruption, will push for harsh sanctions must be high. As Pakistan's captain at the time, Butt faces the possibility of the sternest sanctions.

He was under cross-examination for the longest period of the three players and one witness' statements in particular are thought to have hurt his case. Equally, stern action against Asif and Amir cannot be discounted if guilt is established, even though the latter's youth and unblemished disciplinary record might provide mitigating circumstances.

After Asif's cross-examination, the ICC began its closing statements. On Wednesday the players will deliver their closing statements. Thereafter the tribunal of Michael Beloff QC, Albie Sachs and Sharad Rao is expected to deliberate over the judgment. There is no indication yet whether a judgment and verdict will be made public on Tuesday or whether they decide to reserve the judgment till later.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo