Cricket action 'hollow and contrived'

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The Independent Online
Ian Botham and Allan Lamb's libel action against Imran Khan was both "contrived and hollow", George Carman QC told the High Court in London yesterday.

Making his closing speech for Imran, he said the two "distinguished" sportsmen seemed to hold grievances against the English cricketing authorities. Botham's was apparently that they treated him differently from Imran and Lamb's that he was fined when he broke his contract to speak out in the press about ball-tampering.

He asked the jury to consider whether they approached the case with "some kind of personal agenda". Submitting that their claims were unfounded, and that there was no libel, he said the case was in some ways "both contrived and hollow".

They might claim to want vindication, damages and their names cleared - but the vindication was available two years ago. "You have to consider whether in morality or decency, Imran Khan should ever have to pay them a penny."

Botham and Lamb are suing Imran over an "offensive personal attack" in India Today magazine which they say called them racist, uneducated and lacking class and upbringing. Botham alone is suing over a May 1994 report in the Sun, which, he says, accused him of ball-tampering - something he says he has never done.

Imran, who denies libel, says his words were taken out of context and he was only trying to defend himself.

Mr Carman said the "melancholy" actions were ill-considered, ill-founded and based on the false propositions that every breach of the laws of cricket was cheating, that no offer of an apology had been made and that Imran had been accurately quoted in India Today.

There had been overwhelming evidence that there were technical breaches which were part and parcel of the game. "The lid has come off, hasn't it? The lid has finally come off the myth that every breach labels someone a cheat. It's quite obviously not so." The compelling effect of the evidence was that lifting the seam had gone on since "time immemorial".

The suggestion that no apology had been offered by Imran was profoundly incorrect and the jury had been directed to that effect by the judge. Imran's evidence that he had been misquoted in India Today was unchallenged.

On the question of damages, Mr Carman said the jury should be aware that the "going rate" for pain, suffering and loss of amenity of life in personal injury cases was, at most, pounds 125,000 for someone left paralysed and wholly dependent for life.

Someone blinded for life might receive pounds 92,000, while the loss of an arm or leg would attract compensation of pounds 50,000.

He asked: "Do these figures give you any help as to the extremely modest, if not trivial, sums you should award if you were against every single word I had to say?"