Pakistan duo Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt will see their suspensions for spot-fixing expire at midnight on September 1, the International Cricket Council (ICC) announced on Wednesday (19).
Asif and Butt, along with paceman Mohammad Amir, were banned in 2011 over a spot-fixing case which shook the cricket world when it was revealed by the now-shut British tabloid News of the World in August 2010.
The Pakistan trio, along with their agent Mazhar Majeed, arranged deliberate no-balls during the Lord’s Test against England in 2010 in return for money in a deal made with an undercover reporter from the tabloid.
The ICC said both Butt and Asif have completed their rehabilitation.
“Both are eligible to play in domestic and international levels, on 2 September 2015 after fulfilling the specific conditions laid down by the independent Anti-Corruption Tribunal,” the ICC said in a press release.
Amir’s five-year ban was relaxed in January this year after the ICC amended its anti-corruption code, which allowed him to play domestic cricket in Pakistan six months before his ban expired.
All three players will have served five-year bans.
That was the compete sentence imposed on Amir, who differed from fellow seamer Asif and his then captain Butt in pleading guilty to his original charge.
“Amir will be eligible to return to cricket at international level at the same time, following permission being granted to him to return to play domestic cricket in Pakistan earlier this year,” the ICC said.
“As with all players and other participants in cricket, all three players remain bound to comply with the ICC Anti-Corruption Code and the anti-corruption rules of all National Cricket Federations.
“Consequently, if they should commit any further act of corrupt conduct they are liable to (i) further separate disciplinary proceedings for breaches of the relevant Code or rules and (ii) in the case of Asif and Butt and where such breach occurs during the suspended part of their original period of ineligibility, the activation of that suspended period of ineligibility.”
Wednesday’s announcement means Butt, Asif and Amir will be eligible for Pakistan’s series against England in the UAE in October, five years on from the Lord’s Test, although it is unlikely, given how long they have all been out of the game, that they will be selected.
Butt said he was relieved on hearing the decision.
“I welcome ICC’s decision and thank everyone who supported me throughout my bad time,” Butt told reporters. “It’s like a new lifeline for me and it’s only me who can understand what this means for me.
“I can’t explain how much I am excited about regaining my bread and butter again. I have suffered enough and I am a changed man now and learnt my lesson. I will continue to play my cricket with good spirit.”
Butt is likely to play for Lahore Blues in the National Twenty20 starting early next month.
Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Shaharyar Khan said he will wait for the written ICC decision on the two players before giving his reaction.
International cricket was rocked by allegations of match fixing in 1995 when Australian trio of Shane Warne, Tim May and Mark Waugh alleged then Pakistan captain Salim Malik offered them bribe to underperform during a Test in Karachi and a one-day match in Rawalpindi.
Malik was subsequently banned for life in 2000 by a judicial inquiry in Pakistan.
In the same year, the ICC’s problems multiplied when South African captain Hansie Cronje and India’s Mohammad Azharuddin were also banned for life in separate inquiries in their respective countries.
That forced the ICC to form its Anti Corruption and Security Unit in 2001, but administrators still admit that it is difficult to eradicate the threat of fixing completely, given the millions of dollars that change hands in illegal betting markets, mainly in Asia, during international matches.