Cricket: Pakistan play on after charges

PAKISTAN started their three-day match against a West Indies Under-23 XI on schedule in Grenada yesterday while Khalid Mahmood, the team manager, met Nestor Ogilvy, the police commissioner, to discuss the drugs charges against four of his players that have placed the tour in jeopardy.

'The players are not in a proper frame of mind to even think about cricket but I have advised them to play the match and keep these two things apart,' Mahmood said.

Wasim Akram, the Pakistan captain, vice-captain Waqar Younis, Aqib Javed and Mushtaq Ahmed were the players arrested on Thursday night and charged with 'constructive possession' of a controlled drug, identified as marijuana.

Mahmood and Derek Knight, a Queen's Counsel retained by the West Indies Cricket Board of Control (WICBC) to act for the Pakistanis, have dismissed the evidence as flimsy and have strenuously, but so far unsuccessfully, tried to convince Ogilvy and the director of public prosecutions to have the charges dropped.

The Board of Control for cricket in Pakistan has reportedly stated that if the matter is not resolved the tour would be cancelled. The four players, who are on East Caribbean dollars 1,000 (dollars 370) bail, are scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday.

There was doubt as to whether the Pakistanis would turn up for today's match, but the fact that they did has eased the WICBC's concern over the future of the tour.

'Whatever the players' state of mind, I have told them they should try to get back into cricket and hope that nobody gets the impression that the Pakistan team is using it as a pressure tactic,' Mahmood said yesterday.

The Prime Minister of Grenada, Nicholas Brathwaite, described the drugs incident as 'unfortunate', according to the head of the island's cricket association. Grenada Cricket Association president Walter St John said after the meeting that the charges were 'frivolous'.

St John is to have more talks with Police Commissioner Ogilvie to follow up his meeting with the premier on Friday night.

Both Wasim and Waqar were included in the Pakistan team for the match, the last before the first of the three Tests starts in Port of Spain on Thursday. Aqib and Mushtaq have been troubled by back injuries that make them doubtful starters in the Tests.

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