Pakistan trio to meet PCB officials in London (Roundup)

September 1st, 2010 - 10:19 pm ICT by IANS  

By Omar Khalid and Awais Saleem
Taunton/Islamabad, Sep 1 (IANS) Pakistan captain Salman Butt and fast bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer, who are at the centre of a raging spot-fixing controversy, have left for London for a series of crucial meetings with diplomats and Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) officials Thursday.

The trio will miss the warm-up match against Somerset at the County Ground in Taunton Thursday.

Aamer smiled as he got into a car parked in front of the team hotel here and Butt also looked relaxed. They were followed by Asif and the three left here for London at around 11.00 a.m.

Their meetings were scheduled to be held Wednesday but were pushed to Thursday, Pakistan manager Yawar Saeed revealed in Taunton. He did not give any reason for the delay.

Butt, Asif and Aamer are at the centre of a spot-fixing scandal that was triggered by a few no-balls bowled by the pacers during last week’s fourth and final Test between Pakistan and England at Lord’s.

While the three players left for London, their teammates held their second training session in the lead up to the series that will begin with a Twenty20 International in Cardiff Sunday.

The Pakistan players once again held a closed door practice session. Also seen in action was wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal, who was initially named the fourth player involved in the scandal by the News of the World last weekend.

Butt, Aamer, Asif and Kamran Akmal were questioned by police at the team’s hotel in London Sunday. Since then, police have said Akmal is no longer part of that investigation.

Pakistan coach Waqar Younis is left with an arduous task of motivating his team, who lost the Test series 3-1, for the remaining part 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 fast bowler.

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

Also, Asif’s ex-girlfriend Veena Malik, who has been insisting an Indian photographer Dheeraj Dixit used to help the fast bowler fix matches, will be meeting ICC investigators in Pakistan Thursday.

In Islamabad, the family and coach of 18-year-old Aamer said he is innocent and has been conspired against.

Aamer, along with fellow pacer Mohammad Asif and team captain Salman Butt, has been accused of spot-fixing in a sting operation carried out by the British tabloid News of the World.

Both fast bowlers were alleged to have bowled deliberate no-balls during the Lords’ Test on the instructions of a bookie, Mazhar Majeed.

Majeed was caught on video tape accepting 150,000 pounds in cash paid to him by the tabloid in the sting operation. The no-balls during the test turned out to be exactly as he had said they would be.

Talking to reporters here Wednesday, Aamer’s elder brother Mohammad Ijaz said the 18-year-old lad had called from London after the scandal broke out and sounded worried.

“He is innocent and a plot has been hatched against him and the country. Aamer mentioned he was tense but he had nothing to do with the controversy,” Ijaz stressed, adding that anybody could bowl no-balls at any time.

“I can take oath on behalf of Aamer that he will never compromise on national integrity for the sake of money.”

Aamer’s former coach Asif Bajwa, who saw his meteoric rise from school days to the Pakistani national team, said the scandal was an attempt to tarnish the image of a young player who had been included in the best emerging player category by the International Cricket Council (ICC) recently.

“The British media has targeted the budding pace prospect of Pakistan because they want to hamper his progress,” Bajwa said. “They always target Pakistani bowlers. Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis were accused of ball tempering in 1992 but nothing was proven.”

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