International Cricket Council last night warned the Pakistan cricketers locked in the centre of match-fixing allegations to expect “prompt and decisive” action if found guilty.
As yet, the four players in question – captain Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif and Kamran Akmal – have not been suspended amid an ICC probe and could even be free to line up against England for Sunday’s first Twenty20 international in Cardiff.
But the world’s governing body believes “some sort of a conclusion” can be reached in the investigation before then, leaving the futures of all four players hanging by a thread.
“The integrity of the game is of paramount importance,” said ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat. “Prompt and decisive action will be taken against those who seek to harm it.
“However, the facts must first be established through a thorough investigation and it is important to respect the right of due process when addressing serious allegations of this sort.
“Make no mistake, once the process is complete, if any players are found to be guilty, the ICC will ensure that the appropriate punishment is handed out. We will not tolerate corruption in this great game.”
On the timing issue, Lorgat later added: “We are working hard. We realise the game starts on Sunday. We’re busy with the Metropolitan Police and hopefully before the weekend arrives we can get to some sort of a conclusion.
“But it’s an individual’s right that you’re innocent until proven guilty.”
The remaining two Twenty20 matches and five one-day internationals were all placed in doubt following claims by the News of the World that several members of the Pakistan team were involved with illegal betting syndicates during the fourth Test with England at the weekend.
A Scotland Yard investigation into the claims was subsequently launched with Mazhar Majeed, a known associate of the team, arrested and bailed without charge yesterday, while the four players had their mobile phones confiscated.
ICC president Sharad Pawar later confirmed that both the cricket boards of England and Pakistan wanted the tour to continue and, and bang on schedule yesterday lunchtime, the tourists boarded the team bus from London to their Taunton base ahead of their Tour match against Somerset on Thursday.
At the same time, however, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Rehman Malik has sent out his own three-man team from the country’s Federal Investigation Agency – the highest law enforcement agency in Pakistan – to conduct their own inquiry.
“The latest fixing allegations have bowed our heads in shame,” he said.
“I have ordered a thorough inquiry into these allegations so that action could be taken against those who are proven guilty.”