LONDON: Pakistan cricketer Mohammad Asif said he was ‘surprised’ when he was found guilty by the jury at Southwark Crown Court after the spot fixing trial in November last year, after which he was sent to prison alongside fellow players Salman Butt and Muhammad Amir.
In his exclusive interview to Geo News and Jang Group of Newspapers after his release from Canterbury Prison in Kent on Thursday, the former world number two Test fast bowler expressed his joy at being released and not being deported to Pakistan, vowing that he was determined to clear his name and be back on the field again. “I couldn’t believe that I was found guilty by the jury,” said the ace cricketer who vehemently denies any part in the spot-fixing that rocked the world of cricket.
Accompanied by Ravi Sukul of Balham Chambers, who is dealing with Asif’s criminal conviction appeal in the UK, and Savita Sukul of SJS Solicitors, who argued successfully against Asif’s deportation to Pakistan and is in conduct of the International Cricket council ban, Asif expressed his resolve that his legal team will look into any “legal errors” in his case and will attempt to redress the legal mistakes. Asif said he will not speak about any matter which will prejudice his upcoming appeals and would prefer his legal team to deal with such matters. “I am hopeful that I will come out of the problem that I found myself in unwittingly.”
At the Southwark Crown Court former Test captain Salman Butt, 27, was jailed for two and a half years for his role as the “orchestrator” of a plot to bowl deliberate no-balls in the2010 Lord’s Test against England; Mohammad Amir, 19, who had been tipped to become one of the all-time great fast bowlers, was given six-month sentence.
Mazhar Majeed, 36, the London-based sports agent at the heart of the fixing scandal, was jailed for two years and eight months.
Asif said he was able to serve half a12-month sentence for his part in the spot-fixing scam by keeping himself busy in the gym and by regularly playing football and badminton.
Simple, easy going and professional, Asif continues to plead that he had nothing to do with the spot-fixing scam and he found himself caught with the fellow players only by association.
“Thanks to Almighty Allah. I am out from the prison. I am really happy, I have seen very hard time,” said the genius bowler.
Asif saw his release as a landmark step as he begins a new battle to clear his name. He thanked his fans and well-wishers for standing by him in the time of trials and tribulations. “I am so happy I have fans who are still supporting me in this way, through social media. I am in touch with them. They wanted to see me on the ground playing again.”
Looking relaxed, jolly and in super-fit shape, Muhammad Asif described how difficult in the beginning it was at the prison, which is reserved for foreign national criminals, who are normally deported soon after the completion of their sentencing.
The ace cricketer didn’t play much cricket in the prison because there were not many Cricket-supporting facilities but concentrated on staying fit by playing badminton and football. “These 6 months were difficult. Canterbury has a lot of foreign national prisoners but it has lots of gym and supporting facilities. We got ourselves busy and the time passed. We played football and badminton and used gym regularly. I trained regularly and I am in good shape now. The staff in the Canterbury were very supportive.”
Asif paid tribute to his family for supporting him and having faith in him, especially his father Hassan Deen, who has defiantly defended his son, and his loyal wife. “My family has been brilliant. No other family can defend the way they did it. My father has provided crucial support to me at a very difficult time. They took charge of a very difficult situation and all is fine. When in prison, I remained in touch with my family and my legal team.”
Answering a question on how he plans to regain his once glorious skill and ability to play the first class cricket, Asif remarked: “A fish will never forget how to swim. A bowler doesn’t forget how to bowl well. I have maintained fitness and I will try my best to keep up with this level of fitness. I am thankful to all those who have prayed for me. I would like to be back in the ground playing and I hope my fans will soon see me back. I would like my fans and well-wishers to continue praying for me,” said Asif with confidence.
Asif said the credit for successfully convincing the Home Office to let him stay in the United Kingdom and launch the appeals went to his legal team. “The support offered by my legal team was brilliant. They made me feel comfortable when I was in prison. I would wish to have many dedicated supporters like this. Times good and bad pass but I have been able to recognise who is with me and who is no