Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor, ESPNcricinfo, Nagraj Gollapudi is assistant editor, ESPNcricinfo
SA v WI (A tour) (1)
WI v IRE (EME) (1)
Legends League (1)
Abu Dhabi T10 (3)
NZ v PAK (W) (1)
Hazare Trophy (18)
Wahab Riaz, the Pakistan left-arm fast bowler, will be interviewed by Scotland Yard officials on September 14, PCB chairman Ijaz Butt has said. Riaz will be the fourth Pakistan player to face police questioning in relation to the spot-fixing scandal currently dogging the national side.
Salman Butt, the captain, and fast bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir are at the centre of allegations that they conspired with Mazhar Majeed, a players agent, to bowl deliberate no-balls during the Lord's Test between England and Pakistan. The trio were grilled by police for over nine hours last Friday but eventually released without charge.
A day after arriving to a hostile reception in Lahore, Butt finally began to shed some more light on events in the two-odd weeks since the scandal first broke. In a typically free-flowing press conference at Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, Butt also also expressed the hope that the three players - provisionally suspended by the ICC - will return to Pakistan soon, an indication that criminal charges may not be pressed against them.
The possibility of a fourth player under investigation for spot-fixing emerged last Sunday following revelations in the News of the World, the newspaper that carried out the original sting operation the week before. In the videos the newspaper released originally, Riaz was one of the players seen talking to Majeed outside a restaurant in London, allegedly donning a jacket worn by Majeed. "We have made sure that Wahab will be available for the questioning by police on September 14," Butt said.
Riaz made his Test debut in Pakistan's sole Test win against England, at The Oval, where he picked up five wickets in the firstinnings. He is still part of Pakistan's limited-overs squad and played in the first Twenty20 loss to England in Cardiff but was dropped for the next game. His date with the police falls two days after the second ODI in Leeds and leaves open the question of whether or not he will take part in the series.
The PCB chief, flanked by the board's legal advisor Taffazul Rizvi who assisted the players in London, also gave details about the amount of money found by the police in the hotel rooms of the three players, the subject of much speculation over the last two weeks. "Salman [Butt] had 2500 pounds in his room and this was explained to the police," Butt said. "It was the advance of appearance money given to him by Mazhar Majeed for the opening of an ice cream parlour. Amir had 1500 pounds on him from tour allowances. Asif had no money on him."
Significantly, Butt gave an official voice to what appears to be a consensus in legal eyes that pressing criminal charges against the three players might be difficult. "No incriminating material has been shared with us," Butt said. "I personally feel after a nine-hour interview if something was there they would have been arrested. I am pretty confident that because of that, in the next few days, the boys will be able to return."
An official familiar with the investigations had earlier told ESPNcricinfo that proving a crime had taken place would be difficult. "The lawyers will fight the case on the conspiracy to defraud. But defraud whom? There is some legal opinion that you don't need to defraud somebody specifically but there is a conspiracy in general. But there would be others who would say unless there is a target you can't prove it. Definitely it will be a battle," the official had said.
But the ACSU's case against the three players is likely to be a different story. ESPNcricinfo understands, from sources close to the investigation, that the video and the money and numbered notes are more than enough evidence. At this stage the players have only been informed by the ACSU that they are being charged for certain offences.
The players have 14 days to appeal from the time they received the notices (September 2, last Thursday) and only once they do so will a tribunal be formed. If they don't appeal then the suspension is upheld till such time as the actual chargesheet is placed before the disciplinary committee and the players then have another chance to defend themselves.
Butt expressed his unhappiness again, however, with the ICC's decision to serve notices while the police investigation was underway. "We wrote to them that what they did was wrong and we asked them to withdraw the suspensions and wait for Scotland Yard to finish their investigations," Butt said. "They replied and said that the players will have to respond individually. Even Scotland Yard said to the ICC that a parallel investigation shouldn't happen."