MacLaurin's ban bid sours tour start

England cricket supremo Lord MacLaurin said today he will ban any player who refuses to co-operate in match-fixing inquiries.

England cricket supremo Lord MacLaurin said today he will ban any player who refuses to co-operate in match-fixing inquiries.

He also intends to ask the International Cricket Council to ban six Pakistani cricketers implicated in corruption.

His announcement came shortly before the England squad landed in Pakistan for winter one-day internationals and Tests.

Pakistan players immediately showed their dislike for his words.

Captain Moin Khan said: "Talk like that always gives you a boost and makes you want to prove people wrong.

"Wasim Akram and the others have already been fined and that should be the end of it."

It undermined England's first day in Pakistan for a major tour since 1987, when the infamous Mike Gatting series was played.

In addition to Wasim, who will certainly be a major contributor to Pakistan's fearsome attack, five other players fined in the inquiry into match-fixing conducted by Justice Malik Mohammad Qayyum earlier this year could also feature in the coming series.

Leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed will be a potent threat while Waqar Younis, Akram Raza, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Saeed Anwar will also be in contention with each one no doubt fired up to prove a point.

MacLaurin plans to bring up the topic with ICC president Malcolm Gray during the current conference in Nairobi and claimed: "If someone is under suspicion he should be removed from the game until his case is heard and his innocence is proved."

The 15-man squad had barely landed at Karachi airport before news filtered through that MacLaurin, the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, intended to ask the ICC to ban the cricketers.

Coach Duncan Fletcher attempted to distance himself from MacLaurin's views, insisting: "Those sort of problems should be left to the administrators. We want to play cricket and I'm here to coach the England cricketers - the rest should be left to other people."

But the big fear within the England camp is that the damage may already have been done and a Pakistan side who have won the last five consecutive series between the two counties will be even more intent to continue that run.

"We know we are under more pressure here in Pakistan than when we play overseas, but the whole team is confident and we are looking forward to facing England," said Moin.

"We want to put all the talk of match-fixing behind us and concentrate on our cricket just like England do - that is all in the past."

MacLaurin claims in the interests of "international relations" the ICC should not act until the end of the forthcoming Test series between the two countries on December 11, but that failed to soften the blow for a Pakistan side determined to restore their shattered reputation.

In addition to answering questions about MacLaurin's statement, England were also presented with another possible hurdle to their diplomatic efforts with the announcement that Shakeel Khan, the umpire who began the controversy on the last tour with a number of contentious decisions, has been appointed for their opening warm-up match against a Governor's XI in Karachi on Friday.

Khan has also been named as the TV umpire for the second Test in Faisalabad, where the bad relations between the two sides hit boiling point in 1987 with Gatting confronting Shakoor Rana.

Present captain Nasser Hussain has attempted to distance himself from previous tours, however, stressing: "I was still at school the last time England toured here and I'm not bothered about the past.

"There are no complaints off the pitch at all. They have given us almost everything we've asked for with the itinerary and we're really keen to get on with the cricket now."

England's first objective when they resume playing later this week is to bounce back strongly from their comprehensive ICC Trophy knockout by South Africa in Nairobi a week ago ahead of the opening one-day international in Karachi on October 24.

"We have just had a bad day against South Africa, but we're just going to have dig deep and come back," added Hussain.

"Pakistan are going to have good days but the next day we're going to have to wake up and make sure we come back at them - at no stage on this tour do we give up or throw the towel in.

"We've played some very good cricket recently, but this is our biggest test. In the next year we play Pakistan in five Test matches and Australia in five Test matches and there is no bigger test than that, particularly here in Pakistan."