Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo, Osman Samiuddin is its Pakistan editor
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Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir, the three Pakistan players at the centre of spot-fixing allegations, will travel to London on Wednesday for meetings with PCB chairman Ijaz Butt as pressure - from the ICC and ECB, among others - grows for the trio to be excluded from selection for the two-Twenty20 and five-ODI series against England that gets underway in Cardiff on Sunday.
The three players didn't travel with the squad to train at the County Ground in what will be a closed-door session. Team officials confirmed that the three players will meet PCB officials including the chairman in London. Also expected to be at the meeting is Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. The appointment is scheduled for Thursday so the players will miss the one-day practice game against Somerset in Taunton. They are expected to stay in London for a couple of days at least as the Metropolitan Police are also likely to meet them.
Whether or not they play any part at all in the limited overs series is open to question. Cricinfo understands the PCB was asked by the ICC and ECB, during an emergency teleconference on Monday, to ensure that the players alleged by the News of the World to be involved in spot-fixing do not play any part in the upcoming series. Ijaz Butt insisted to Cricinfo later on Monday that the three players would not be suspended though he said their selection remained an internal matter.
However, unless they call up replacement players that decision leaves them with 13 men to choose from. If they decide to leave out Kamran Akmal, whose name was mentioned in the newspaper report but who has not been questioned so far or had his mobile phone confiscated, the squad will be without a wicketkeeper.
The ICC president Sharad Pawar said after the teleconference that it was difficult for the Pakistan board to take action given that investigations were still underway. "ICC is waiting for the British police to complete investigation. ACSU is also looking into the details. It is also preparing a report in two to three days. The report by British Police and ACSU will give us a proper picture."
An official familiar with the meetings, however, told Cricinfo that "something stronger than a suggestion" was made to Pakistan to "not just not select them, but suspend them." The push for the sterner option, Cricinfo was told, was fuelled by the need to ensure that the series - and cricket's - commercial value is not harmed. "If you have tainted players taking part in an ODI or Twenty20 it might lead to people not coming to watch the matches and that has knock-on effects for sponsors and marketers. Suspending them will send a message that the game is trying to be kept clean."
Depending on what decision is taken and when, one solution could be to call on discarded players from the Test squad who might still be in the UK. Imran Farhat and the 18-year old left arm-spinner Raza Hasan are still in the country. Shoaib Malik has left for the US. Yasir Hameed and fast bowler Tanvir Ahmed were released from official duty on Monday and did not travel to Taunton with the squad. It is currently unclear whether they are still in London.
The extra wicketkeeper in the Test squad, Zulqarnain Haider, was sent back before the third Test at the Oval, having sustained a finger injury on debut in the previous Test. Danish Kaneria was released from the Test squad early in the England series and though he remains with Essex, he has not been a part of Pakistan's limited-overs set-up since 2007. In any case, he is currently on bail pending further inquiries in a separate spot-fixing investigation at Essex. The bail period ends on September 15, three days after the second ODI between England and Pakistan at Headingley.