UAE batsman Ashfaq Ahmed has denied the allegations of wrongdoing that had resulted in the ICC on Sunday formally charging him and medium pacer Amir Hayat with five counts of breaching the game's anti-corruption rules. Ahmed was also provisionally suspended for the alleged offences, which all relate to the 2019 men's T20 World Cup qualifier.
"I have done absolutely nothing wrong," Ahmed, who has represented the UAE 28 times in white-ball cricket, told the National. "The UAE was my second home [Ahmed is originally from Pakistan]. I'm forever grateful to the country that gave me so much - an opportunity to play at the highest level, the means to earn a living and, most importantly, respect. And that is why I cannot imagine compromising everything I have earned to do something like this.
"I cannot do this to the UAE, which has given me so much, including transforming an ordinary cricketer to an international one. Maybe I made a mistake. Maybe I should have reported those people who spoke to me in Ajman to the ICC. But for such a small mistake I don't deserve this kind of punishment."
The charges levelled against the duo include include attempting to fix or improperly influence the result of an international match and failing to disclose to the ICC anti-corruption unit details of corrupt approaches.
Ashfaq, 35, also said he met a woman at a domestic match in Ajman who told him "they were planning to acquire a franchise in the T10 League and were looking to hire players".
"I didn't know what to say, because I didn't make anything of it and walked away," Ashfaq said. "One day I received a message from someone, just saying 'hi'. I saved the number on my phone to check the profile of the person. The profile photo was of the woman who had come up and spoken to me in Ajman. But that was the end of that."
As per the ICC's Article 2.4.4, Ahmed and Hayat were also charged for failing to disclose to the governing body's Anti-Corruption Unit "full details of any approaches or invitations received by the Participant to engage in Corrupt Conduct under the Anti-Corruption Code."
"I have no inkling of who these people are," Ahmed said. "As an international cricketer, you meet lots of people all the time. Even at a small cricket match, there will be hangers-on. People come up and say hi. But it's not like you know for sure that that person is corrupt.
"There is no way of knowing. People don't walk around with 'I'm corrupt' written on their foreheads. So I really don't see why I'm being punished. I have done nothing wrong. And I have said all that I know to the ICC."
Ahmed had earlier been suspended by the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB), but "no formal charges had been laid so far" according to the statement at the time. As such, that penalty was imposed by the ECB, while the latest sanctions were courtesy the ICC.
Not long before Ahmed had been suspended, the ICC had provisionally suspended UAE captain Mohammad Naveed and senior batsman Shaiman Anwar, charging the two players with attempts to "fix" or "improperly influence" matches in the same qualifiers. Allrounder Qadeer Ahmed was also issued the same penalty for allegedly disclosing inside information to people who were betting on the game.