News of the World, the tabloid that brought the spot-fixing controversy to light this summer, is set to participate in the hearings of the three Pakistani players at the heart of the allegations. Sources close to the case have indicated that there is a "strong possibility" all pertinant people involved in the investigative story will appear in Doha between January 6 and11 as part of the evidence in the hearings of Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir. It is understood that in order to avoid a conflict of interest, the tabloid will be restricted from reporting the proceedings of the hearings.
In a story that sent ripples across the whole cricketing fraternity, News of the World alleged that the the tainted trio were involved in bowling deliberate, pre-planned no-balls in England's first innings of the fourth Test against Pakistan at Lords. Much of the published story involved a video sting operation in which Mazhar Majeed, an agent to the players, was filmed talking about the no-balls and supposedly taking payment for them from undercover reporters posing as a betting syndicate.
That evidence was handed to Scotland Yard and the ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU), who then began their own investigations and garnered more evidence. The UK's Crown Prosecution Service is currently considering whether the evidence passed on to them by police is adequate to warrant criminal prosecution against the players.
The ICC's response was quicker: It provisionally suspended the three, soon after the story surfaced, based on the ACSU's investigations. Since then, Butt and Amir have had their appeals against suspensions turned down by Michael Beloff QC, the head of the ICC code of conduct commission, in a hearing in Dubai. Asif decided not to appeal.
Beloff will now be part of the three-man tribunal - Justice Albie Sachs of South Africa and Sharad Rao, a lawyer from Kenya are the others - for the Doha hearings.
It has been claimed that views expressed inside the hearing were different to those expressed after that as public statements. One source mentioned that there was an informal agreement made during the Dubai hearing between lawyers and Beloff to not speak to the media about the case, which has not been the case.
"There is a need for these players to have legal representation that will not grandstand to the public and make things difficult for the players themselves," one source said. "The players should have the best possible defence they can."