Pakistan's ambassador to Britain says he believes the three Pakistani cricket players accused of match-fixing during the national team's tour in England are innocent.
Ambassador Wajid Hasan and Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Ijaz Butt questioned team captain Salman Butt, and starting bowlers Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif Thursday in London. Hasan said the three players insist they are completely innocent of any wrongdoing and will fight to clear their names.
The ambassador said Amir, Asif and Butt volunteered to be withdrawn from Pakistan's remaining matches in its series with England, citing severe mental stress due to the accusations against them.
Earlier Thursday, Pakistan's team manager, Yawar Saeed, said he had dropped the skipper and two bowlers from the roster for the tour's remaining Twenty20 and one-day international matches. England's Cricket Board said it welcomed the decision to withdraw Amir, Asif and Butt.
The PCB has said the three players are not suspended.
The Pakistani cricketers are in the southwest town of Taunton on Thursday to play a warm-up match against a local team ahead of facing the English national squad in a Twenty20 contest Sunday in Cardiff. Pakistan's team manager said he has sent for three replacements to bring the team back up to 16 players for the remainder of the England tour.
The British newspaper News of the World reported a story, accusing Butt, Amir and Asif of accepting bribes in return for making illegal plays deliberately in their final test match against England last week.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.