Pakistan try to focus after trio’s police grilling

Pakistan’s scandal-hit cricket team sought to focus on Saturday on the next stage of its England tour after British police questioned three of its star players over an alleged betting scam.

Bowlers Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif and Test captain Salman Butt were all released without charge Friday after the interviews at a police station near the “home of cricket”, Lord’s in north London.

But the trio — who protest their innocence — are still battling charges under the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) anti-corruption code and have been barred from playing any further matches pending the outcome of their case.

Aamer, at 18 one of the game’s hottest talents, Asif, 27, and Butt, 25, had already withdrawn from the England tour claiming “mental torture”, missing Pakistan’s eight-run win over county side Somerset on Thursday.

Team manager Yawar Saeed said on Friday he was “not happy” about the situation but was trying to focus on his duties ahead of the forthcoming two Twenty20 internationals and five one-day games against England.

The team was due to train in Cardiff on Saturday ahead of their first Twenty20 fixture in the Welsh capital on Sunday.

Detectives questioned the accused trio Friday at Kilburn police station in what their lawyer Elizabeth Robertson stressed were voluntary interviews.

“At no time were they placed under arrest, they were free to leave at any time and they have answered all of the questions that were put to them and have been released without charge or conditions,” she told reporters afterwards.

The head of the ICC’s anti-corruption and security unit had earlier defended its decision to charge the players.

“The conclusion that we have come to is that there is a really arguable case to answer,” Ronnie Flanagan told a press conference at the Lord’s ground.

He said the players had been charged under Article 2 of the ICC code, which relates to offences including corruption, betting and misuse of inside information, but declined to go into details.
Calling it a complex investigation, he said that if the players were ound guilty they could face a life ban.