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Former Pakistan captain Zaheer Abbas has termed the ICC tribunal's decision to defer the spot-fixing verdict to February 5 as "absurd", while another former captain, Asif Iqbal, found it "strange" that the world body could not reach a decision after their investigations into the matter.
"The ICC has kept the players hostage for the last five months and now they have deferred the decision, which is inexplicable," Abbas told AFP. "Because the players will continue to remain suspended they cannot play at any level, cannot practice so they are virtually out of the World Cup."
The tribunal, comprising commissioner Michael Beloff, Justice Albie Sachs of South Africa and Sharad Rao of Kenya, was appointed in November to investigate the scandal, which broke in late August. In a News of the World sting, Mazhar Majeed, a player agent, claimed to have paid Amir and Asif to bowl no-balls to order with the collaboration of Butt.
"The ICC has taken so much time on this case and have spent so much money on it, and yet could not take a decision," Asif Iqbal said. "It is strange. I am surprised at the delay."
The former fast bowler Sarfraz Nawaz called it unfair on the players, who should have been allowed to play till a final verdict. "At the most, Beloff should have taken a day or two to reach the verdict," he said. "One month is too long."
Rashid Latif, also a former captain, said the delay raised doubts over whether the tribunal had the evidence to find the trio guilty. "I don't think the ICC had concrete evidence to come out with a verdict today. They didn't want to take any decision in haste and want to be absolutely sure in announcing punishments against all the three players."
Former spinner Iqbal Qasim, however came out in support of the decision to defer the verdict. "Since it is a high-profile case, any judgement needed to be properly gauged, and legal opinion is also required," he said. "That's why they have delayed the decision."
Former ICC chief Ehsan Mani expected harsh sanctions against the suspended trio after a deferment that did not come as a surprise to him. "I have no doubt in the ability of Michael Beloff and his team," Mani told News One TV. "It's a high profile case and the delay was expected. Not to forgot that the players have a right to approach the Court of Arbitration for Sport also, therefore the tribunal wanted to take sufficient time to analysis all angles of the case.
"My gut feeling is that all the three will be harshly punished, however I will be very disappointed for Amir who is the best young talent around. The matter was badly mishandled by the PCB. The board abandoned their players and let the ICC to dictate its terms. I believe the PCB also let the players down."