'Sad day' for Pakistan cricket

2011-11-01 19:20

Islamabad - Pakistan cricket has been badly tarnished by guilty verdicts handed down on Tuesday to two former star players in a London court over a spot-fixing betting scam, the team's former manager said.

"It's a sad day for all of us and I'm very sad that this beautiful game of cricket has had to see this day," said Yawar Saeed, who was manager of the team during the fateful tour of England when the betting scam was uncovered.

Former Test captain Butt, 27, and fast bowler Asif, 28, face jail after a court in London convicted them of deliberately bowling three no-balls during the Lord's Test in August 2010 as part of a "spot-fixing" betting scam.

Prosecutors alleged Butt and Asif conspired with British agent Mazher Majeed and Pakistan fast bowler Mohammad Aamer to bowl the no-balls as part of a plot that revealed "rampant corruption" at the heart of international cricket.

Asif was also found guilty on a second fixing charge, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in jail, of conspiring to accept corrupt payments in the betting scam.

"I feel very sad because I tried my level best to tell them to keep away from notorious people. They should have understood that and they committed a blunder, and when you commit a blunder, you are punished," Saeed told AFP.

"I'm also sad because the country's name has been dragged into this entire controversy. Pakistan is known for its talented players but this case has stained the country's image badly," he added.

Saeed stepped down as manager after the troubled England tour.

"It's very upsetting," said Iqbal Qasim, head of sports at state-run National Bank of Pakistan for which Butt, Asif and Mohammad Aamer played in the domestic season until they were sacked in the aftermath of the scandal.

"It's become the history now that Pakistan's name will come whenever such a scandal is discussed,", Qasim, also a former Test cricketer for Pakistan, said.

"We (National Bank of Pakistan) had an association with them, but we terminated their contracts, they will get the punishment for their wrongdoing."

Butt and Asif were charged after allegations about their involvement in spot-fixing appeared in the now-defunct News of the World tabloid, owned by Australian-born media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, shortly after the Lord's Test.

Former Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chief executive Arif Abbasi, under whose tenure the match-fixing row first surfaced, said the players were "criminals".

"It's a tragedy, but when you break the law of a country who respects the law, then you get punishment," he said.

In 1995, Australian players Shane Warne, Tim May and Mark Waugh alleged then captain Salim Malik of bribing them to under-perform.

"I would also blame the PCB (under former chairman Ijaz Butt) for continuing to select suspicious players, and when you do that, such things happen," Abbasi said.