Spot-fixing controversy September 11, 2010

Suspended Pakistan trio return home

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A couple of hundred protestors were at Lahore airport when the three Pakistan players at the centre of the spot-fixing scandal returned home on Saturday morning. Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt left through a back exit away from the people carrying banners and waving shoes.

There was also support for the players inside the terminal with one sign saying: "Long live Salman Butt." As reported by ESPNcricinfo on Thursday, their return does not, however, mean they are cleared from the ongoing criminal investigation. Pakistan's interior minister Rehman Malik said the government of Pakistan would provide a written assurance that the players be made available if needed for further investigations.

"We have spoken to Scotland Yard, and the [Pakistan] high commissioner to the UK, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, has also been in talks with them and they have agreed that the players can return to Pakistan," Malik told ESPNcricinfo.

The trio were provisionally suspended by the ICC last Thursday and were quizzed by police the next day for their alleged role in bowling deliberate no-balls during the fourth Test at Lord's between England and Pakistan; an undercover sting operation by the tabloid News of the World apparently revealed that they had done so at the behest of Mazhar Majeed, an agent to the players. Majeed was arrested but released on bail while the players had their mobile phones confiscated. No charges have been pressed against them yet.

On Thursday, the PCB chief revealed that Wahab Riaz, the left-arm fast bowler, will be the fourth player to be interviewed by the police in relation to the scandal. Ijaz Butt sounded confident in his press conference at Gaddafi Stadium earlier that the three players would return to Pakistan soon and though he indicated that the criminal case against them might not be as strong, he did not say they would be cleared. The PCB's legal advisor Taffazul Rizvi confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that investigations will continue.

The players also have to respond to the suspension notices served to them by the ICC for which they have one more week left. That investigation and process is separate to whatever conclusion police officials reach.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo