Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of ESPNcricinfo Nagraj Gollapudi is assistant editor, ESPNcricinfo
The three Pakistani players provisionally suspended by the ICC on allegations of spot-fixing began the process of clearing their names by filing replies to the game's governing body on Tuesday.
"Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir have filed their replies to the notice of charge that the ICC had placed upon them," Taffazul Rizvi, the PCB's legal advisor, told ESPNcricinfo. Though the trio are back in Pakistan, the replies were filed through their London-based lawyer Elizabeth Robertson.
The three players were served notices on September 2 after the ICC felt they had "a case to answer" and had two weeks - till the coming Thursday - to respond.
ICC officials, however, offered no comment on receiving the replies from the three Pakistan players. "The ICC will not rush into any sort of decision," a source close to the investigation said. "It might take a lot of time and nobody really knows how much before anything is decided,"
ESPNcricinfo understands that the players have entered a plea of not guilty and have asked for the provisional suspensions to be lifted. It is likely that the players are seeking both extra evidence and time on the matter; the request for more time is a result of the PCB and players' concern that the Scotland Yard investigations are still on and if the ICC pursues the investigation as well, the players may end up being punished twice.
Since the players have filed their replies, the ICC can go ahead and form its tribunal to hear the case. Otherwise the governing body would have had to wait until the actual charge sheet was placed before the disciplinary committee and punishments were handed out. The three-member tribunal is chosen from the members of the Code of Conduct Commission, and generally includes the chairman, currently Michael Beloff QC.
The three players were questioned twice by police in London before returning to Pakistan, firstly in the immediate aftermath of the original story breaking then again a week later at Kilburn police station in north London. No charges were brought at any stage and the three flew back to Pakistan on Friday , but with an agreement with Scotland Yard that they would return at any time for further questioning.