Spot-fixing trio locked in crisis talks

THE three Pakistan cricketers at the centre of the spot-fixing controversy were locked in talks with top Pakistani cricket and government officials last night, while their futures hang in the balance.

Test captain Salman Butt and fast bowlers Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif took a taxi from the team hotel in Taunton for London yesterday morning to attend an internal investigation into the claims they were involved in a conspiracy to defraud illegal bookmakers.

As a result, the trio will miss the 50-over tour match against Somerset at the County Ground today, but are expected to play in the two-match Twenty20 series, which gets underway in Cardiff on Sunday.

Waiting for the three players in London was Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ijaz Butt and the country’s high commissioner.

All three of the accused were smiling and looked relaxed as they got into the car around 11am, while captain Butt was asked by reporters if he would be coming back to which he replied: “Why not?”

While the trio were on route, the rest of the Pakistan squad underwent a closed-doors practice session, joined by wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal, who was originally questioned by police but later exonerated by the Scotland Yard investigation squad.

Pakistan coach Waqar Younis has now been left with a tough task in motivating his team, who lost the Test series 3-1, for the rest of the tour.

“I am trying to get the team up again and make sure we deliver the best we can in the next few games and try and do the best we can – that’s all I can do,” said the former Pakistan pace man.

“It is no doubt a big challenge and I’ll try to make the most of it.”