Cricket: Pakistan are now prepared for court case: Top lawyers are set to mount defence for four in Grenadian drugs row

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The Independent Online
PAKISTAN are now resigned to four of their players, including their captain, Wasim Akram, appearing in a Grenadian court to face charges of illegal possession of marijuana.

The case had been down for a decision tomorrow morning, which is when the tourists are scheduled to leave for Trinidad, where the first of three Tests against the West Indies is due to begin on Thursday.

However, legal representations are being made to have a special night sitting of the court convened to speed up the matter. Two lawyers - Ash Karim, who comes from London, and Ramesh Maharaj, from Trinidad - were due to arrive in Grenada late yesterday to conduct the defence on behalf of the players.

Repeatedly insisting that 'the police acted in undue haste and without the proper appreciation of the relevant facts' the team's manager, Khalid Mahmood, met with the island's police commissioner, Nestor Ogilvie, on Saturday.

It had been hoped to convince Ogilvie to drop the charges that arose when Akram, Waqar Younis, the vice- captain, Aqib Javed and Mushtaq Ahmed were held, together with two English women tourists and a Grenadian man, on the beach fronting their hotel on Thursday night.

Derek Knight, a local lawyer and Queen's Counsel who is acting on behalf of the Pakistanis, has dismissed the charges as 'flimsy' and is confident of gaining a swift acquittal.

The Pakistanis appear to have overcome their initial shock and anger at the arrest and the wide publicity it received and have softened their position that the incident might place the future of the tour in jeopardy.

Not only are they playing their three-day match against the West Indies Under-23 XI, which began on Saturday, but they also included Akram, Waqar and Mushtaq in the team. Aqib is out with a back injury.

Although Mahmood said the players were not in the proper frame of mind 'to even think about cricket', they made a good fist of it on the opening day. Centuries by Shakeel Ahmed, the new opening batsman, and the left-hander Asif Mujtaba formed the basis of a declared total of 284 for 2. In reply, the young West Indians offered little resistance, the left- arm spinner Nadeem Khan taking four wickets and the leg-spinner Mushtaq three as they were all out for 184. Zahid Fazal then scored 80 to help the tourists extend their lead to 278 by the close.

Mahmood, indicating a change in the Pakistani position on the tour, said he had told his players to 'try to get back into cricket so that nobody gets the impression that the Pakistan team is using pressure tactics'.

Shortly before he left Trinidad, Maharaj said the drugs were found near the players on the beach and suggested that they might have been framed. Police in Grenada, though, have said the eight hand-rolled cigarettes were found on beach chairs the players had brought from their hotel.

TOUR MATCH (Grenada): Pakistan 284 for 2 dec (Shakeel Ahmed 132 no, Asif Mujtaba 102) and 178 for 6 (Zahid Fazal 80; CE Cuffy 2-20, VD Drakes 2-31). West Indies Under-23 XI 184 (HR Waldron 45, PA Wallace 40; Nadeem Khan 4-41, Mushtaq Ahmed 3-38).