Cricket’s world governing body charged three Pakistan stars with anti-corruption offences and provisionally suspended them, as the trio protested their innocence in an alleged betting scam.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) announced late Thursday that Test captain Salman Butt and bowlers Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif were barred from playing any further matches until their cases were resolved.
Earlier, Pakistan’s ambassador to Britain said the trio had denied any wrongdoing and he believed them, although they had asked to miss the rest of the team’s tour of England because of the “mental torture” of the scandal.
Within hours, however, the ICC announced it had charged the three stars with “various offences” under its anti-corruption code and had suspended them with immediate effect pending a decision on those charges.
“We will not tolerate corruption in cricket – simple as that,” said ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat.
“We must be decisive with such matters and if proven, these offences carry serious penalties up to a life ban.
“The ICC will do everything possible to keep such conduct out of the game and we will stop at nothing to protect the sport’s integrity.”
The players have 14 days to request a tribunal hearing at which they can challenge the charges, and Lorgat stressed: “It is important, however, that we do not pre-judge the guilt of these three players.
“That is for the independent tribunal alone to decide.”
Butt, Aamer and Asif had earlier missed their team’s warm-up match against county side Somerset to meet with Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Ijaz Butt and Pakistan ambassador Wajid Shamsul Hasan in London.
Speaking afterwards, Hasan said: “The three players have said that they are extremely disturbed by what has happened in the past week, especially in regard of their alleged involvement in the crime.
“They mentioned that they are entirely innocent in the whole episode and shall defend their innocence as such.”
He said they had asked not to play in the rest of the England tour, which resumes with the first Twenty20 international on Sunday, because of the “mental torture which has deeply affected them”.
Asked later if he believed the trio were innocent, Hasan replied: “Yes, I believe in their innocence.”