Friday, 16 September 2011

Banned bowler Mohammad Amir admits

Mohammad Amir is in danger of an extension of his five-year suspension for spot fixing after playing recreational cricket in Surrey last weekend, with his protestation that he did not know he was breaching the ban unlikely to find any sympathy from the authorities.

The 19-year-old bowler who would have been one of Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Year in 2010 had he not been caught up in the spot-fixing scandal, hit 60 and took four for nine in an unpaid guest appearance for Addington 1743 against St Lukes in New Malden in Division One of the Surrey Cricket League.

Addington's captain, Ijaz Raja, supported his defence of ignorance, claiming that Amir, below, agreed to play only after being assured his appearance had been cleared with a League official. But the League's chairman, Paul Harrison, said the first he knew of Amir's involvement came when St Lukes mentioned it in the match report they submitted on Saturday evening – and even if he had been granted permission, that would be highly unlikely to cut any ice with the International Cricket Council, which has launched an investigation.

"If true, it is clearly a breach of the sanction imposed in February," the ICC's spokesman, Colin Gibson, said. "The ban is absolutely worldwide covering all levels and any activities connected with cricket."

Amir is due to face trial at Southwark crown court in October with his former Pakistan team-mates Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt, the captain, who are charged with a fourth man, Mazhar Majeed, with cheating and conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments. They deny the charges.

Amir was dealt with more leniently than Butt and Asif, who were banned for 10 and seven years respectively by the ICC in February.

"I would not be stupid enough to knowingly play in a match that I knew would contravene my ban," he said in a statement issued through the website. "Wherever I am going to play cricket, the world will know about it. I would not be stupid enough to play in a match where I knew that I would be taking a risk.

"I was informed by club representatives before the game that it was a friendly match, being played on a privately owned cricket ground. I asked the club representatives if the match fell under the jurisdiction of the ECB [England and Wales Cricket Board] and they informed me that the match did not. I spoke to several club representatives about the issue and they all told me that it was a friendly match and therefore would not contravene my ban from the ICC. I was informed that I was fine to play."

That version of events was confirmed by Raja. "I was short for one player and asked a friend of mine, who said that Amir was free," he said. "I said hang on, let me check with the league. So we called, and we were told no problem.

"We are a village team self-funded by the players. We have no official umpires, the players do the umpiring, so Amir did not think he was breaching his ban. We knew he was keen to get fit, we didn't pay him or anything, there was no contract. He did not stay for the whole game. If there has been any misunderstanding it is as a result of the assurances we gave him. If that was mistaken we apologise."

If not, Raja said that Addington would hope to field Amir again this weekend, when he may even have to pay his tea money, the match fee having been waived for his debut – although that remains highly unlikely, with Addington likely to be docked the 20 points they earned last weekend and warned against any repeat.

Harrison was awaiting further instruction from the ECB's recreational cricket department ahead of a League committee meeting, but said: "This leaves us in a bit of a quandary. The critical question that we as a league need to have answered in black and white before we can take any action is the ramifications of this gentleman's – or alleged gentleman's – ban. I've read the ICC tribunal decision but I'm no legal expert, and I need to find out from the powers that be what it actually means."

The League was first alerted to Amir's appearance by a footnote on the official match report submitted by St Lukes on Saturday night. He did not make any attempt to conceal his identity and posed for pictures with the St Lukes players.

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