PCB fought for suspended cricketers

Ijaz Butt speaks to the media Associated Press

The Pakistan Cricket Board had tried to fight the case for the three cricketers accused of spot-fixing, sending a letter to the ICC after the governing body suspended the players four days after the News of the World sting operation.

In his first statement following the suspension of Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif, the PCB chairman Ijaz Butt said: "We wrote a letter to ICC on behalf of the players but they want individual replies from the players which will be given to them in the allowed 14 days."

Butt arrived in Lahore airport on Wednesday after the controversy and was met with a hostile reception and he had to be eventually led away by security. "Investigations are under way and police has yet to charge any player," Butt said. "We are very concerned over the allegations and since we too have zero tolerance against corruption, we also want this to finish soon.

"We are really worried about the matter and if any player is found responsible then we will take strict action," he added

The PCB chief had initially learnt about the spot-fixing incident when he was called by the team manager Yawar Saeed on the fourth day of the Lord's Test, when the News of The World sting was released. Butt said he was told by Saeed that, "police have warrants to search the players' rooms. On Friday the players were interrogated for nine hours but no charges are levelled against them."

The ICC acted last Thursday, five days after the initial story in which the NOTW alleged that Salman Butt, Amir and Asif were part of a plan arranged by the target of the sting, Mazhar Majeed, to bowl deliberate no-balls.

In the days that have followed, there was a growing unease within the PCB with the ICC's "haste" at handling the controversy, particularly the speed with which the governing body suspended the three players.

In the meetings which followed the release of the NOTW video tape, immense pressure was put on the PCB by the ICC and ECB to suspend the players temporarily so that the limited-overs leg of the tour could continue relatively untainted. Butt refused to do so, telling ESPNcricinfo he would not suspend any player without evidence.

Pakistan's top diplomat in the UK was also involved in the discussions at the end of which it was agreed to withdraw the players, stating that the players had "voluntarily" agreed to pull themselves out of the tour under the mental strain of the allegations.

Later that evening, however, after a number of meetings between Haroon Lorgat, the ICC chief executive, Butt and Wajid Shamsul Hasan, the Pakistan High Commissioner in the UK, the ICC decided to act and suspend the trio anyway. Lorgat later admitted the ICC sped up its role after hearing Ijaz Butt say the players would not be suspended. The move incensed Hasan who claimed Lorgat had given an assurance that no such action would be taken. Lorgat denied this, saying he had informed Ijaz Butt and Hasan.

One official, however, said that the ICC was wrong to take such action. "We believe they acted in undue haste over this and certainly we believe that they did it to show that they were doing something, to be seen to be taking action rather than taking the right action," the official, who is familiar with the proceedings of the case, told ESPNcricinfo.

Part of the discontent stems from the ICC not having shared any evidence with the PCB when the suspensions were first handed out. But the PCB is also concerned about the suspensions because police investigations are still underway. "No charges have been put forward by the police at all yet and their investigation is still happening so why couldn't they just wait?" the official said.

"The players have to respond now to those ACSU charges while the police work is still going and it's just putting too much strain on the players who have not yet been found guilty of anything. This could be a double jeopardy situation, where they are being punished for the same offence twice."

The entire crisis is likely to exacerbate what seems, in any case, to have been an uneasy relationship under Butt's tenure. Before this, the ICC and PCB clashed most notably when Pakistan's right to host matches at the 2011 World Cup was taken away following the terror attacks on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore. The Pakistan board threatened legal action against the ICC but the two sides eventually came to a compromise.