Karachi: Pakistani sporting hero Imran Khan brushed aside calls to ban his nation from international cricket until corruption allegations are investigated, saying a country cannot be punished collectively.
Former England captains Ian Botham and Michael Vaughan have demanded Pakistan are kicked out of international cricket until a probe into their cricketers has been completed. Their calls follow allegations of spot-fixing against Pakistani cricketers during their ongoing tour of England, which triggered a war of words between cricket officials from the two countries.
Former Pakistan cricket captain Khan said a country cannot be thrown out on the basis of allegations. "In any form of illegal activity you cannot give collective punishment to a country and deprive millions of fans, more so because these are still allegations yet to be proven," Khan told AFP<?i>.
Pakistani cricket has been embroiled in the spot-fixing scandal since last month's News of the World report in which the British newspaper claimed several players took money to underperform during the Lord's Test against England.
Test captain Salman Butt and bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir were provisionally suspended by the International Cricket Council (ICC) earlier this month as British police interviewed the players.
The police completed an initial report and prosecutors are deciding whether to press charges. Khan said the only evidence comes from a newspaper report and its footage.
"The only evidence is that of News of the World footage showing someone (alleged bookie Mazhar Majeed) with money to be given to the players, and on that basis you cannot punish a country," said Khan, who played 88 Tests and 175 one-day matches for Pakistan.
He said the whole issue should be handled with common sense and urged all parties to refrain from making "inappropriate statements", referring to comments made by Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Ijaz Butt.
Butt accused England players of match-fixing in the third one-dayer across London at The Oval on Friday. "Butt was wrong in levelling allegations," said Khan, who now heads his own political party -- Tehrik-e-Insaaf (Movement for Justice).
"Even if any other team is involved that does not absolve you."Khan said Pakistan's cricket team has long been a target of British tabloids.
"Remember they called Wasim Akram and Waqar Younus cheats for ball-tampering when they destroyed England on the 1992 tour and when England won the Ashes series in 2005 the reverse swing became an art and skill.
"There are double standards," said Khan. "When England had fast bowlers there were no curbs on fast bowling but when the West Indies had a battery of fast bowlers it became a threat and so many curbs were put against fast bowlers like restriction on bouncers etc."
Khan stressed Pakistani cricket "has to put its house in order" adding that, "there should no longer be a PCB chairman nominated by President of Pakistan who is not accountable to anyone."