Karachi: Pakistan's suspended trio of Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer face an uphill task at next month's full hearing to be conducted by an independent tribunal appointed by the International Cricket Council (ICC).
Sources in the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) told IANS that the three players will most likely be found guilty of association with match-fixers and face life bans.
A recent statement by ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat suggested that the game's governing body will seal the case in its favour and also indicated that the ICC has gathered solid proof against the trio, who will face the tribunal in Doha on January 6.
According to sources, most of the evidence gathered against the players is in the form of recorded telephone calls and text messages through which ICC believes it will prove their association with match-fixers.
Salman, Asif and Amir were provisionally suspended last September after allegations of corruption were hurled at them by News of The World. The British tabloid alleged that Asif and Aamer bowled deliberate no-balls on the instructions of match-fixers.
Well-placed sources said that Salman and Asif will be handed life bans if proved guilty but the tribunal could show some mercy for 18-year-old Amir and he could walk away with a ban of two to five years.
The ICC, which suspended the players when the allegations were first made by the British tabloid, also held a hearing against the players' provisional suspensions in Dubai in October that was rejected by the one-man tribunal that comprised Michael Beloff.
While Salman and Amir had appealed against their provisional suspension, Asif chose not to and instead opted for a full hearing.
The hearing rejected appeals against the suspension, creating a ruckus between Salman's lawyers, who said that the tribunal was biased.
Beloff will also head January's full hearing against the trio along with fellow code of conduct commissioners Justice Albie Sachs of South Africa and Kenya's Sharad Rao.