|Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi watches as Paul Collingwood makes the toss at the start of Sunday’s Twenty20 [AFP]|
A teammate of the three Pakistan cricketers suspended on corruption charges who reportedly claimed that players had been fixing matches has said his comments were “largely inaccurately reported.”
Sunday’s issue of the News of the World newspaper quoted Yasir Hameed, the team’s opening batsman, as saying Pakistan players are throwing matches in return for huge sums of money.
The British tabloid claimed that Hameed had told them that it made him angry “because I’m playing my best and they are trying to lose”.
Sunday’s edition of the News of the World also says that a fourth player is being investigated over allegations of fixing matches.
A video released by the paper on Sunday showed Hameed talking to an undercover reporter in a bar.
But Hameed has denied that he making new revelations, saying that he was simply repeating what he had read in newspaper coverage of the scandal.
He issued a statement Sunday arguing that the reporter had posed as a potential sponsor and that he had then “naively started to answer his questions”. He says his remarks were “largely inaccurately reported.”
Former Pakistan international PJ Mir told Al Jazeera on Sunday that he believed the player had been led into making the comments.
“It’s a case of entrapment. Whoever the person is is putting leading questions into this boy’s brain,” Mir said before Pakistan lost to England in a Twenty20 match in Cardiff. “He’s only going on what the media reports are going on. This is not a proper interview of a player. This kind of entrapment is killing Pakistan cricket.”
Hameed played in last week’s fourth Test against England, in which Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir are alleged to have deliberately bowled no-balls in conspiracy with bookmakers.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) suspended Asif, Amir and Test captain Salman Butt on Thursday while it investigates them for various offenses under the sport’s anti-corruption code.
The ICC has not detailed the charges, which followed a sting operation in last week’s News of the World that alleged that a middleman accepted payment in exchange for the deliberate no-balls in the match at Lord’s Cricket Ground which Pakistan lost by an innings and 225 runs for their worst-ever Test defeat.
The ICC has called it the biggest fixing scandal to hit cricket for a decade.
Following last weekend’s match-fixing world exclusive, the newspaper is to publish sensational new revelations over 18 pages on Sunday.
The tabloid said Butt, Amir and Asif face a total of 23 charges from the ICC.
The captain of Pakistan’s limited-overs teams has apologised to cricket fans for the controversy.
Shahid Afridi said on Saturday that the players in the squad for the remaining Twenty20 and five one-day matches against England were upset by the allegations.
“I want to say sorry to all cricket-lovers and all cricketing nations,” Afridi said ahead of Sunday’s first Twenty20 in Cardiff, which England won by five wickets. “It’s very bad news. It’s a big challenge for me as captain but we’re all ready. The coach and I are not talking about the issue … we are here to play cricket.”
The trio were released without facing criminal charges after being questioned by London police on Friday, but could be banned from cricket for life if found guilty.
The Pakistan Cricket Board’s legal adviser said Saturday that Butt, Amir and Asif have denied knowledge of any alleged wrongdoing by the middleman, agent Mazhar Majeed.
“The players have informed the police that the man was their agent, but they had no knowledge,” about his alleged wrongdoing, Tafazzul Rizvi told private television channels in Pakistan.
The News of the World newspaper has accused Majeed of acting as a middleman, accepting money in exchange for getting Asif and Amir to bowl intentional no-balls. “I’ve told the boys, ‘don’t read the newspapers,'” Afridi said.
Andy Richardson, Al Jazeera’s sports correspondent, said that the revelations had shaken the confidence of many cricket fans at a time when the sport is already facing financial woes.
“The fans need to know that game that they are seeing, that they are paying good money for, is legitimate,” he said.
“Cricket itself is facing economic problems at the moment, trying to compete with other sports. It has to be above board.”
Haroon Lorgat, the ICC chief executive, has said that the case was the most serious instance of corruption since South Africa captain Hansie Cronje was banned for life 10 years ago.
Cronje admitted to receiving money from a London bookmaker in exchange for team information, prompting the ICC to create its Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (Acsu).
The tabloid said on Sunday that Wajid Shamsul Hasan, the Pakistan High Commissioner, was mistaken in his assertion that the paper recorded Majeed discussing the timing of the no-balls after they were bowled on August 26.
Hasan, Pakistan’s top diplomat in Britain, had accused the ICC of bias for banning the players while police are still looking into the case.
“After the shocking, arbitrary and high-handed suspension of the three Pakistani cricketers through the ICC’s uncalled for action, nothing is coming to me as a surprise,” Hasan said in a statement on Friday.
“Rather, my apprehensions that there is a rat in the whole affair are being strengthened.”
Lorgat has denied that the charges were evidence of bias and said the ICC was committed to maintaining the country’s status as a full member of the body.