Amir to appeal against ICC sanctions
Mohammad Amir will file an appeal with the Court of Arbitration in Sports (CAS) against the five-year ban imposed on him by an independent tribunal, his lawyer has said. Amir was handed the punishment under article 2.1.1 of the ICC's anti-corruption code after the tribunal found him guilty of bowling two deliberate no-balls in the Lord's Test against England last year.
The sanction was the minimum prescribed under the code and Amir's lawyer Shahid Karim said the tribunal, had its hands not been tied to the code, could have gone below five years. It's a point echoed by the lawyer of Salman Butt, Yasin Patel, and though no indication came from Patel whether there would be an appeal, the point could be a crucial one should any appeal be made.
Under the ICC code, the players have 21 days from Saturday to appeal to the CAS. "On behalf of Amir I want to say that we will be disputing the judgment to say the least," Karim said soon after the verdict had been read out. Just before he spoke, amid extraordinary scenes outside the Qatar Financial Centre, where the hearings were held, Amir was mobbed by a group of Pakistani fans as he tried to leave, and was forced back inside.
Indications all through the hearing had been that Karim would bring the mitigating factors of Amir's young age and his clean disciplinary record until Lord's into play in a bid to reduce any punishment. "We will be challenging it and we have a right of appeal which we will exercise," he said. "We are disappointed by the judgment as we felt the tribunal could have exercised its discretion to give a lower sentence."
But the key development appears to be that both Karim and Patel feel the sentences given by the tribunal could - and would - have been lower had the ICC's code allowed for it. In their written statement, the tribunal said it has "recommended to the ICC certain changes to the Code with a view to providing flexibility in relation to minimum sentences in exceptional circumstances." Though that left the direction of the flexibility ambiguous - whether they wanted the minimum punishment of five years to be higher or lower - one of the players told ESPNcricinfo that the tribunal was prepared to hand out lower sentences had the code allowed. The lawyers confirmed as much.
"I think the silver lining in all this is that at the end they made an order to the effect that they will be asking the ICC to amend the code so as to allow the tribunal in exceptional circumstances to lower the sentence, if they wanted, to below the bottom of what was prescribed," Karim said.
That, believed Karim, left the door open for some form of reversal of the sanction, either in its entirety or a reduction. "If the ICC were to do that, then we'll see what our options are. Clearly the tribunal felt its' hands were tied by the minimum that was prescribed in the quote and therefore they could not go below that, which we disputed. The inference is that they wanted to go below the minimum but they could not because of the minimum prescribed to which they were bound. We'll see now what the future course of events turns out to be."
Neither Mohammad Asif, who was banned for seven years, or his lawyer Alexander Cameron made any statement - though it is believed they may in due course. But Patel, in a short statement read out to the media, echoed Karim's point. "The tribunal's hands were tied by the ICC's code to a five-year minimum," he said. "Mr Butt is encouraged that the tribunal advised the ICC to change the code or revise the minimum term."
None of the players spoke publicly and are not expected to. Their mood was difficult to gauge, though Karim said Amir had remained composed through the hearings as he was confident of his innocence. Ultimately, however, Karim acknowledged the general feeling among the media that sentences could've been worse. "Yes it could've been worse for the offences they were found guilty of, technically speaking. If this sanction was to stay in place, he could still make a comeback."
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of ESPNcricinfo