ICC wrong to suspend players says Commissioner

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The Independent Online

Pakistan High Commissioner Wajid Shamsul Hasan today accused the International Cricket Council of "trying to play to the public gallery" by suspending the three players allegedly involved in a spot-fixing scam.

The game's governing body last night charged Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer "under Article 2 of the ICC Anti-Corruption Code for Players and Player Support Personnel relating to alleged irregular behaviour during, and in relation to, the fourth Test between England and Pakistan at Lord's last month".

In accordance with the provisions of that code, Butt, Asif and Aamer have been immediately barred from participating in all cricket and related activities until the case has been concluded.

But having already voluntarily stepped down from the remainder of the tour of England as they seek to clear their names, and with a police investigation currently active - the players are due to be questioned today - Hasan suggested the ICC's intervention was unnecessary and also hinted at an anti-Pakistan stance.

He told the BBC: "The ICC had no business to take this action, they are trying to play to the public gallery.

"When (ICC chief executive) Haroon Lorgat came to see me yesterday evening he was very sympathetic and supportive.

"He said in order to eliminate corruption from cricket the ICC will have to act but in this case he said he was satisfied that Scotland Yard and the British police were proceeding according to law and investigating the matter and would just issue notices for explanation and not go beyond that.

"But then he got a phone call from ICC president Sharad Pawar from India and he talks to him. Mr Lorgat goes and then the person who does not have any documents prepares a document of five pages and pushes this on the doormats of the players at their hotel.

"They (the ICC) have done the wrong thing. When there is a live police inquiry this takes precedence over both the ICC, civil or regulatory investigation and indeed any internal disciplinary investigation.

"To take action now is of course unhelpful, premature and unnecessary considering the players had already voluntarily withdrawn from playing."

Lorgat last night reiterated the world governing body's firm stance on any match-fixing transgressions.

"We will not tolerate corruption in cricket - simple as that," he said.

"We must be decisive with such matters - and if proven, these offences carry serious penalties up to a life ban.

"The ICC will do everything possible to keep such conduct out of the game, and we will stop at nothing to protect the sport's integrity.

"While we believe the problem is not widespread, we must always be vigilant.

"It is important, however, that we do not pre-judge the guilt of these three players. That is for the independent tribunal alone to decide."

The players have the right to contest the suspension and defend the charges at a tribunal hearing, whose date and location will be announced if necessary - should the players choose to do so in the next 14 days.

Test captain Butt and seamers Asif and Aamer had their rooms searched by police and their mobile phones confiscated following Scotland Yard interviews at the team hotel in London last weekend.

Croydon-based businessman Mazhar Majeed, who was shown on the News of the World tapes correctly predicting when the no-balls would be bowled, was arrested on Saturday night, in connection with the newspaper allegations. He was questioned for 24 hours before being released on police bail without charge, only for Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs to subsequently make three more arrests.