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Butt, Aamer, Asif Return Home

The three Pakistan cricketers accused of being involved in a spot fixing scandal avoided the media and fans as they returned to Lahore from England on Saturday.  A police official said Test captain Salman Butt and
PTI September 11, 2010 17:34 IST
PTI

The three Pakistan cricketers accused of being involved in a spot fixing scandal avoided the media and fans as they returned to Lahore from England on Saturday.
 
 A police official said Test captain Salman Butt and bowlers Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif left the Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore via a back door.
 
 Dozens of cricket fans were at the airport to see the suspended cricketers.  Some were there to show support, while others vented their anger at the players by chanting slogans against them and waving shoes in the air. 
 
The trio returned to Pakistan after giving an undertaking to British police that they would return to England when requested to cooperate with the investigation.  Wajid Hasan, Pakistan's High Commissioner in London, had expected the players to be made welcome when they returned home.
 
 The International Cricket Council (ICC) has charged the players, suspended them and given them 14 days to respond to the allegations.  The deadline for that is next Thursday.
 
 In a tabloid sting, the British newspaper, the News of the World, accused the three cricketers of being paid by businessman Mazhar Majeed to deliberately bowl three no-balls during the fourth and final Test match against England at Lord's last month.  The players have denied involvement in meetings with the Pakistan Cricket Board. 
 
Salman Butt, Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif may have to fly back to the UK to help the police with their investigation into three allegedly deliberate no-balls during the Lord's Test.

A police spokesman said: 'We can confirm that we have been made aware that the three Pakistani cricketers interviewed under caution on Friday September 3 intend to leave the United Kingdom today and have given an undertaking through their solicitor to return to assist the Metropolitan Police Service inquiry in due course.'

Addleshaw Goddard, the solicitors acting for Butt, Asif and Aamer, released a statement on behalf of the Pakistan Cricket Board and the three players.

The statement read: 'The players are looking forward to being reunited with their families. They remain available to co-operate fully with the police investigation and have each given undertakings to return to the UK if required to do so.'

The statement also denied reports that Asif would seek asylum in the UK.

The under-fire trio have until Thursday to decide whether to challenge the ICC's decision to suspend them, knowing that failure to appeal will look like an admission of guilt.

Even if the police do not find the men guilty, the game's governing body could make the suspensions long-term bans. 

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Cricket Board has tried to calm the chaos of the past fortnight by stating that agents will now need to get the board's permission before representing its players. 

The PCB warned that players who broke the rule would be ineligible for selection in any events under its remit. It was a direct response to the alleged actions of Mazhar Majeed, the London-based fixer accused by the News of the World of planning the scam.

But, with seamer Wahab Riaz due to be interviewed by Scotland Yard on Tuesday, the players' credibility was not helped by the Pakistan High Commissioner to London, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, insisting the trio may have been set up.  e said: ‘Initially there was great anger (in Pakistan), but once they offered to be independently interrogated and claimed they were innocent, people realised there could be a set-up.' 

Zimbabwe chairman of selectors Alistair Campbell has reacted angrily to MCC's decision to postpone a tour of his country, with Zimbabwe battling to regain Test status. 

The British government has told MCC not to tour while Robert Mugabe is president, but Campbell told Sportsmail: ‘There's not even been a fact-finding mission to see how far Zimbabwean cricket has progressed. I find it quite sad.'

Cricket's integrity suffered another blow on Friday when it emerged Sri Lanka fast bowler Dilhara Fernando was interviewed by the ICC's Anti-Corruption Unit last year after reporting a ‘suspicious approach' to the team management.

sFernando, 31, made the report after Sri Lanka's premature return from their tour of Pakistan, where they were attacked by terrorists in Lahore. However, Sri Lanka Cricket insisted the player had volunteered the information and ‘followed the correct protocol'.