/ 20 March 2012

Pakistan’s Amir claims his ‘brother’ duped him

Pakistan's Amir Claims His 'brother' Duped Him

Disgraced Pakistan cricketer Mohammad Amir said on Monday that former captain Salman Butt had betrayed their friendship by involving him in the spot-fixing scandal that has seen him banned from cricket and serving time in a British prison.

And the talented Amir again apologised to fans in cricket-crazy Pakistan for his role in the scandal by saying: “I ask for their forgiveness. I messed up.”

The highly-rated 19-year-old was released from jail last month after serving half of a six-month sentence for his part in the scandal during the Lord’s Test between England and Pakistan in 2010.

His former teammates Butt and Mohammad Asif are serving sentences of 30 and 12 months respectively, handed down by a British court in November, after the trio were found guilty of corruption and receiving illegal money.

ICC bans
The International Cricket Council (ICC) also banned all three players, with Amir receiving the minimum five-year punishment after he was found guilty of deliberately bowling no-balls as part of a plan orchestrated by Butt and agent Mazhar Majeed, also serving a jail sentence.

“I’m so angry with Salman,” said Amir, speaking publicly for the first time since his release in an interview with former England captain Mike Atherton. “He used to call me ‘innocent one’. Like how an elder brother would speak to a younger one,” he added. “He should have helped me instead of involving me in all this.”

Amir was once considered the hottest property in international cricket. He emerged on the scene in 2009 and was regarded as a better left-arm fast bowler than Pakistan great Wasim Akram was at the same age.

With 51 wickets in just 14 Tests, Amir was on the verge of getting the ICC emerging player award in 2010 — but then his career and life then derailed.

The charges related to bowling deliberate no-balls by Amir and pace partner Asif in the 2010 Lord’s Test against England.

What none of the players or Majeed knew at the time was that the scam was part of a sting operation put together by now defunct British newspaper the News of the World.

Amir said that he became entangled in the Lord’s plot the day before the Test because of fears over phone contacts he had with a businessman he knew as Ali, which Butt and Majeed exploited in a meeting in the car park of the team hotel.

“Suddenly he [Majeed] said ‘oh bro, you’ve got yourself in big trouble, you’re trapped, and your career is at stake’,” Amir recalled.

“I said ‘Bro, what’s happened?’. He told me that my calls and texts with Ali had been recorded and had reached the ICC.”

Majeed the trickster
Majeed, who said a friend had told him about the ICC “probe” then explained to Amir that the only way his name could avoid being linked publicly with that of Ali was if he did the agent the favour of bowling two no-balls to order.

Amir added: “I said ‘what?!’ And here there’s something crucial that I’d like to say at this point: I’d like to say how stupid I was.

“I mean on the one hand he was telling me that a report about me had gone to the ICC, and on the other that he wanted me to do two no-balls for him. I was panicking so much it didn’t even occur to me how ridiculous it was.”

“I knew that it was cheating cricket; that it was out of order, and that it shouldn’t happen,” he added.

Reflecting on how he got into trouble, Amir said: “I was stupid. I should have told someone.

“I didn’t do it for money. Thanks to Allah, I trust myself to distinguish between right and wrong. They [Butt and Majeed] told me that I was in trouble for texting Ali and what was in those texts. And they said that ICC had managed to record them.”

Amir, who faces an uncertain future, thanked his family and long-time mentor Asif Bajwa for their support.

“It’s a very difficult time but good people are boosting my morale and giving me courage.” — Sapa-AFP