x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

A promising career is on the line

When the nominations for the International Cricket Council's annual awards closed in the final week of August last year, Mohammad Aamer was a favourite for the Emerging Player of the Year.

When the nominations for the International Cricket Council's annual awards closed in the final week of August last year, Mohammad Aamer was a favourite for the Emerging Player of the Year.

The young Pakistan speedster had been a sensation during the previous 12 months, taking 33 wickets at an average of 31.45 in nine Tests and 16 wickets in 10 one-day internationals between August 24, 2009 and August 10, 2010.

A few days later, he became the youngest bowler to reach the 50-wicket mark in Test cricket, achieving that landmark at Lord's. The cricket world stood in applause, hailing the rise of the game's latest star.

Before the Test was over, though, Aamer had entered the books of infamy. A glittering career, amid much shock and disbelief, was in tatters.

Aamer was still the player of the series against England, but there were no signs of celebration. A night before he received that plaque, a News of the World sting claimed he had deliberately bowled no-balls during the Test, at the behest of his agent Mazhar Majeed. The date was August 28, 2010. It will be etched in the annals of cricket forever.

Recounting Aamer's no-ball, umpire Tony Hill, who officiated the Test along with Billy Bowden, said he thought it was deliberate, but to intimidate the batsman Jonathan Trott.

"We never suspected a thing," Hill was quoted as saying by the Dominion Post. "There had been the big overstep in particular and in our minds that was more a deliberate overstep to have a go at Trott, who had been batting so well

"It all seemed to be one of those things that fast bowlers have been known to do to get an advantage."

Waqar Younis, the Pakistan coach, expressed his "great" surprise at Aamer's no-ball during his testimony in front of the ICC's Code of Conduct Commission investigating the spot-fixing allegations, according to Pakistan's Dawn newspaper.

"I was so surprised by the delivery that when we went back into the dressing room at the end of that morning session I said to Aamer in Punjabi, 'What the hell was that?'" Younis has been quoted as telling the Commission. "But before Aamer had the chance to answer my question, Salman [Butt] interrupted from across the dressing room, saying: 'I told him to do it because the batsman was coming on the front foot. I told him to come forward and bowl him a bouncer.'"

Butt, the then Pakistan captain, was also named by the News of the World as one of the seven cricketers allegedly involved in spot-fixing, along with the seam bowler Mohammad Asif, the wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal and three others.

After the Lord's Test, Butt insisted he was innocent. "Anybody can stand out and say anything about you, that doesn't make them true," he said.

Pleading innocent again two months later, he said Majeed "must have made lots of claims ... clearly exaggerating things to show his authority".

Following the News of the World expose, Majeed was arrested by the Scotland Yard, charged with conspiracy to defraud bookmakers and later released on bail.

The cricketers were also questioned by the London Metropolitan Police No charges were brought against them.

According to Dawn, Khawaja Najam, the team's security manager, told the investigating commission about large sums of money being confiscated from the room of one of the players.

"During the Scotland Yard search of the players' rooms at the team hotel, two police officers found cash in a bag and a small suitcase which they seized. Most of the cash was in the suitcase," the newspaper quoted Najam as saying. "I asked the police officers to put on record the amount of money they had confiscated and they did so immediately.

"I have retained that note and attached a copy of it which reads as follows: Room No. 714 - UAE Dh24,300, £29,787, US $12,617, Auz $10, 26,015 Pakistan rupees, Canadian $350 and 440 South African rand."

Butt told Sky News that £11,000 came from his daily tour allowance, £4,500 was from his extra entertainment allowance as team captain and £2,500 had come from the opening of an ice-cream parlour in south London.

The rest of the money, he said, was advance payment for a bat sponsorship.

From Aamer's room, according to Najam, the police found "a Tag Heuer mobile phone and possibly other mobile phones, £5,000 in cash, a few hundred US dollars and a white envelope with £2,500".

The ICC decided to suspend the three cricketers provisionally on September 2. Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, claimed the ICC was "playing to the public gallery" and they had "no business taking this action". He also described the players as victims "set-up".

Ijat Butt, the Pakistan Cricket Board chairman, then inflamed the situation by claiming he had prior knowledge of certain scoring patterns in the third ODI between Pakistan and England. He later withdrew the claims.

Haroon Lorgat, the ICC's chief executive, is confident their case against the Pakistan cricketers will "stand the test of scrutiny".

"We've worked hard at collecting all the evidence that we would require to make the charges stand," Lorgat told the BBC.

"If that is the case, than cricket will have lost one of its brightest jewels in Aamer. And he will have no one to blame, but himself."