The head of the International Cricket Council (ICC) has called match-fixing allegations against three suspended Pakistan players the most serious case of corruption to hit the sport since South Africa captain Hansie Cronje was banned for life 10 years ago.
Speaking yesterday, ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat said allegations that Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Amir and Salman Butt conspired with bookmakers to deliver deliberate no-balls in last week’s fourth Test against England were hugely detrimental to the image of cricket.
“In terms of corruption in the sport, this must rank as the next worst after the Hansie Cronje case,” Lorgat said.
Cronje admitted to forecasting results in exchange for money from a London bookmaker, prompting the ICC to create its Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU).
There is no suggestion that the Pakistan players conspired to affect the result of the match at Lord’s — which Pakistan lost by an innings and 225 runs — but the trio could still be banned for life if found guilty.
The ICC could widen the investigation into the allegations against Asif, Amir and Butt — whom it suspended late on Thursday — to cover January’s contentious Test match against Australia in Sydney.
ACSU chairman Ronnie Flanagan said the current charges pertain only to last week’s Test against England but that the ICC could still look into what he called a “dysfunctional” tour of Australia by Pakistan.
Flanagan and Lorgat would not comment on reports in yesterday’s edition of Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper that marked notes used in the sting operation that led to the allegations had been found in Butt’s locker.
The pair went on to say that the ICC reacted as quickly as it could to the initial allegations against the Pakistan trio, but would not announce the specific charges against them.
Amir, Asif and Butt were being questioned by police yesterday.
They were first questioned late on Saturday when the allegations were made public and had their mobile phones confiscated.
“There was no specific tipping point that caused us to act yesterday,” Flanagan said. “Rather it was the culmination of a process of examining all the evidence and taking legal advice.”
Pakistan’s top diplomat in Britain has criticized the suspension of the players before police investigations are complete.
Pakistan High Commissioner Wajid Shamsul Hasan said cricket’s ruling body should not have acted until investigations by the police and its own anti-corruption unit were complete.