Spot-fixing controversy September 21, 2010

Pakistan High Commissioner defends Butt's comments

ESPNcricinfo staff

Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan's high commissioner, has insisted that the growing quarrel over match-fixing allegations will not affect relations between Britain and Pakistan and deflected criticism of recent allegations made against England by Ijaz Butt, the Pakistan Cricket Board chairman, calling Butt's comments "a very innocent argument".

The ECB has announced that it will be taking legal action against Butt after describing his allegations that England's players accepted a bribe to lose the third ODI at The Oval as "wholly irresponsible and completely without foundation".

Pakistan's tour will be completed with a series decider at the Rose Bowl on Wednesday, but the tension between the two camps has been palpable and spilled over into a physical confrontation between Jonathan Trott and Wahab Riaz in the nets before the fourth match at Lord's on Monday.

Hasan, however, sought to downplay Butt's comments. "Mr Butt made a very innocent argument," Hasan told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. "He said it's very strange that, when Pakistan loses a match, people describe it as spot-fixing or fixing of the match. When Pakistan win the match, the same allegations are levelled against it."

He insisted that the escalating row would not have a wider political impact in relations between Pakistan and England. "Will this row sour our relationship? My answer is certainly no. This is a separate matter. Our relationship with the UK was not made overnight. It has its roots in the past. It is on solid ground."

Hasan also defended Pakistan's cricketers, adding: "I can tell you our boys are innocent. I still maintain [that] until proven guilty, they are innocent."

Hugh Robertson, the UK's sports minister, told Today that calls for Pakistan to be thrown out of world cricket would have a negative political impact, saying: "In terms of the wider British-Pakistan relationship, if we were seen to be playing a part in throwing them out of world cricket, that would have a very severe impact across the piece."

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