Salman Butt admitted in court today that his agent repeatedly asked him to spot-fix Test matches and limited over games.
The former Pakistan captain insisted that he ignored all the corrupt requests from Mazhar Majeed, but admitted he failed to report his corrupt approaches to the ICC anti-corruption unit.
Instead, Butt’s lawyers turned on Mohammad Amir, and said the conspiracy to bowl no balls was organised between Majeed and the young bowler – without the captain’s knowledge.
Ali Bajwa, QC, defending Butt, said: “There was a very real and criminal conspiracy between Mazhar Majeed and Mohammad Amir. There could not have been any sensible or other innocent explanation … of the no balls”.
He argued that Butt was not party to that conspiracy.
Taking the stand to give evidence on the ninth day of the cricket corruption trial, Butt repeatedly denied that he had ever been involved in fixing. However he admitted that Majeed had pursued him for inside information, and to arrange spot fixing, throughout 2010. He claimed that he did not take the agent seriously and dismissed it as “showing off” and “bigging himself up”.
Butt said after the disastrous tour to Australia at New Year, in which Pakistan lost every game and were accused of fixing, Majeed sent him a text saying: “If there’s something going on give me a tip, tell me something.”
Butt said that he took it as a joke, and claimed that Majeed had sent other texts teasing him about the team’s poor performance.
However in May last year, at the T20 World Cup, Majeed sent another series of texts to Butt asking for Pakistan to deliberately throw away two wickets during the first 10 overs of a crucial match with South Africa.
Butt insisted that he ignored the texts and no “fix” happened. He said he then confronted his agent afterwards.
Butt told the court that he asked Majeed: “What do all these messages that you are sending mean? You must understand, these sort of things we have to report. You are my friend, we have known each other for many years.”
Butt said that Majeed replied that he was just “testing” him and “checking if you are ever doing something dodgy like that or not”.
The former captain said he “took his word” and admitted he did not report it to the ICC, which is a contractual obligation, because he knew it would end their friendship.
“I did not expect these sorts of things to come up,” Butt said. “I thought I knew him well enough.
“This is a person I had known for a number of years, I took his word. To report it would be to end a good relationship.”
The court heard that after the T20 World Cup incident, Majeed and Butt met again in Sri Lanka for the Asia Cup. Butt said that he had left the team base for a three hour dinner with Majeed and Kamran Akmal at the agent’s hotel, but denied that anything untoward had happened.
Pakistan then travelled to England for a series of Tests and one-day internationals.
Jurors have been told that after Majeed had met an undercover News of the World journalist, he attempted to set up Butt to play a maiden over at the Oval Test as proof that he could rig games.
The court has heard a secretly taped telephone conversation that reveals when Butt was asked to play out a maiden he replies in Punjabi “theek hai”, translated to jurors as “ok/fine”.
Giving evidence today he said he was merely humouring Majeed.
“There are different ways of interpreting ‘theek hai’,” Butt told the court. “I was trying to get rid of the conversation without offending anyone.”
Butt claimed he was “slightly suspicious” but added that he thought that Majeed was just “showing off that I might do him a favour”.
Asked if he was actually intending to play out a maiden, Butt answered: “Never in my life have I intended to do anything like that. I have always played to the best of my ability.”
The former captain said that his agent became a good friend, he would socialise with him, and that Majeed enjoyed the attention he got when he was around the players.
“To be with people who are recognised everywhere – he liked that. People would take photos and he was part of it. That was big for him.”
Butt wore an open necked blue shirt and dark jacket, and spoke with a soft voice from the witness box, often speaking directly to the jury. He sipped Pepsi from a plastic glass and had a new cricket ball beside him as a prop.
He started his evidence by saying to play for Pakistan was “the greatest honour” – and that when he was made captain, during the tour of England, it was “the best day of my life”.
A detailed account of his accounts estimated that he had earned £1.2million from cricket in the last seven years.
The jury laughed as he told of how Majeed’s failure to get him some sponsored Adidas clothing meant that in the middle of the Test at the Oval last year he had to buy a new pair of trousers at the ground’s merchandise shop.
In detailed discussions about cricket, he also revealed how a nightwatchman is known in Pakistan as “a goat that has to be sacrificed” and was later cut short by his lawyer as he started to explain the doosra to the jury, causing more laughter.
Butt denies accepting corrupt payments and that he was part of a conspiracy to cheat.
He will continue to give evidence tomorrow, when the case continues.
Follow RDJ Edwards in court on Twitter – @Cricketer_RDJ