LONDON: British newspaper Telegraph reports that more than 82 international cricket matches will be investigated amid allegations that a London businessman has been running a multi-million-pound match-fixing racket.
Sources said that the passports of the cricketers under investigation could be seized and that up to seven players could be questioned on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud. The rest of the squad could also be interviewed as potential witnesses.
Conspiracy to defraud carries a maximum jail term of 10 years, states the Telegraph report. Up to seven players can be questioned with regards to investigation into scandal.
While speaking to Express 24/7, legal adviser PCB Taffazul Rizvi said that Scotland Yard's investigation is underway and that no conclusion has been reached.
Britain's newspapers have said cricket's reputation was on the line in the alleged betting scam scandal, as they called for anyone found guilty to be thrown out of the game.
In their editorials, some also said the allegations were a bitter blow to Pakistanis, who looked up to their beloved cricket team for inspiration in a troubled country, something that should not be extinguished by the fall-out.
The Sun said cricket's survival depended on the untarnished integrity of its players. "There can be zero tolerance for cheats, even if their dishonesty is genuinely limited to bowling a no-ball to order," it said, calling for life bans if the evidence from the newspaper sting is accepted.
"Pakistan must be suspended from cricket, which sadly means scrapping the forthcoming one-day series."
"The shadow of corruption has hung over Pakistani cricket for 15 years. This scandal must be the last." The Daily Mail said the allegations could be the worst in cricket's history "institutionalised corruption".
It called on the International Cricket Council to banish anyone found guilty, "however senior and however many".
"Such a purge would be tremendously painful in the short term but it is the only way integrity and belief can be restored."
The Guardian said the affair showed that the sport itself needed fixing- as in put right. "Cricket cheating thrives in many forms: charges of match-fixing and betting coups coexist with a culture of ball-tampering, sledging, time-wasting and refusal to accept umpires' decisions," it said.
"Cricket must put its house in order fast. Nothing undermines the credibility of any sport more than the suspicion that what you are watching is in fact a fix."
The Daily Mirror said it was not just cricket lovers who would be dismayed to see the sport mired in controversy. "Money in one form or another sometimes seems to be taking over every aspect of sport."
"More must be done to help players and athletes, who are often very young, resist temptation and stand up to blackmail or intimidation. We also need to recapture the spirit of fair play that seems to have been driven out by soaring profits."
The Times pleaded for the cricketing world not to ostracise "a troubled nation".
"These are dark days for cricket, for professional sport, and for Pakistan," it said.
"In a time when Pakistan is balanced on an existential knife-edge, cricket represents liberalism rather than extremism; international engagement rather than isolation; the celebration of graceful civilisation rather than the cold nihilism of tribal and religious strife. Sport may only be sport, but in Pakistan cricket provides a vital bridge of engagement and mutual respect with the wider world. "
"The worst thing that could happen now would be for the rest of the world to give up on Pakistan, in cricket, or in anything else."
The Independent said the allegations were a blow to the spirit of the game. "This is more than the age-old tale of youth corrupted and disorientated by bright lights and luxury," it said.
"Misgoverned for decades, Pakistan has a political class that contains few people whom anyone seriously looks up to for moral inspiration -hence, in part, the almost fanatical devotion to a sport that supposedly incarnates the ideal of fair play."
"The people of Pakistan deserve better than to have it rubbed in their faces that this is not the case."
The Daily Telegraph said the claims undermined the integrity of the whole sport, not just Pakistani cricket. "Many will see it as a mirror image of the political corruption that is endemic to that country," it said, calling for anyone involved to be punished.
"Only then can a start be made to remove the stain on cricket's reputation."
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