|Pakistan cricket fans burn effigies of the fixing suspects during a protest in Lahore this week [EPA]
Pakistan's High Commissioner in London said that the three cricketers embroiled in the sport's betting allegations requested to be left out of the rest of their tour after suffering "mental torture".
Wajid Shamsul Hasan said on Thursday that he was convinced of the innocence of Test captain Salman Butt and bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir after meeting with the trio on Thursday.
"They said they are extremely disturbed at what has happened," Hasan said, adding that Pakistan could take legal action to defend them.
"They mentioned that they are entirely innocent."
"If it's fixed by players, they should be banned for life. The ICC have to flex their muscles and just go after Pakistan"
Shane Warne, former Australia spin bowler
Team manager Yawar Saeed said earlier that the three players would be replaced for the rest of the tour as former Test player Shahid Afridi captains the side.
"We will ask for three replacements," Saeed said ahead of a warmup match against English county side Somerset on Thursday.
The scandal has once again shone the spotlight on illegal betting in the subcontinent and reopened the debate on the legalisation of gambling in India.
Since Australians Shane Warne and Mark Waugh admitted in 1998 to passing information to an Indian bookmaker during a 1994 tournament, cricket has seldom had a financial scandal without an Indian connection.
The latest spot-fixing scandal, in which Amir and Asif are alleged to have bowled three deliberate no-balls by arrangement during the last Test against England at Lord's, continued the trend.
Arrested by British police on suspicion of defrauding bookmakers, the alleged fixer, Mazhar Majeed, claimed he dealt with an Indian party.
Lawyer Rahul Mehra, who has fought numerous legal battles against cricket and other sports bodies in India seeking transparency in their functions, is not surprised.
"The Indians bet on the weather, crops and even smaller and trivial things. Cricket is a religion here and India is the financial hub," Mehra told the Reuters news agency.
|Amir's career could be over at the age of 18 if the allegations are proved true [AFP]
"So it's hardly a surprise that an India-Pakistan ODI (one-day international) draws bets worth $20 million."
Bowling legend Warne said on Thursday that Butt, Asif and 18-year-old Amir should be banned for life if found guilty of 'spot-fixing' during matches.
"If it is true and they have been found (guilty of) match-fixing and throwing games and spot betting with the no-balls and stuff, if that's the case they should be thrown out," Warne said in Melbourne, Australia, on Thursday.
"If it's fixed by players, they should be banned for life.
"The ICC have to flex their muscles and just go after Pakistan."
Warne, who was fined for the 1994 incident, said he had been shocked by the latest allegations, especially since the International Cricket Council (ICC) had instituted an anti-corruption unit.
"I thought that the game was clean now with the anti-corruption people there," he said.
"If you look back over the incidents they've had in the past, you'd have to say no, they haven't really flexed their muscles. So you'd hope that at this stage they can flex their muscles and show that they do run the game."
Pakistan start a one-day series against England, who won the Test series 3-1 including a record defeat of the visitors at Lord's, with a Twenty20 international on Sunday.
Meanwhile England batsman Kevin Pietersen has apologised for his online outburst after being dropped by the side for the first time in his career.
The 30-year-old announced on Tuesday he had been left out of the Twenty20 and one-day squads for this month's series against Pakistan in a Twitter message that also included an expletive.
"It came out in a way I didn't want it to come out," Pietersen told Surrey TV on Wednesday.
"It wasn't meant for the public domain. I apologise for it entering the public domain and I also want to apologise for the language I used."
The England and Wales Cricket Board said they omitted Pietersen, a member of the Twenty20 World Cup-winning side this year and voted player of that tournament, so he could try to regain form in county cricket.
The right-hander hit 38 in 33 balls on his debut for new county Surrey in a 40-over match against Worcestershire on Wednesday.