New Delhi:Former Pakistan coach Geoff Lawson has come out in support of tainted Pakistan players and said all these match fixing allegations against the players might not have anything to do with money.
"People have been quick to judge the Pakistani cricketers, but what is happening might have nothing to do with money. If these allegations of fixing are proved, it could be related to extortion, threats, and the well-being of their own family members," Lawson wrote in his column in Sydney Morning Herald.
Pakistan's current tour of England is under threat after allegations in 'The News of the World' tabloid surfaced that seven members of the team were involved with illegal betting syndicates.
The accused include captain Salman Butt, wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal and star bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer but Lawson has offered his support.
The former Australia fast bowler, who coached Pakistan from July 2007 to October 2008, believes criminal organisations target players with non-financial ways of ensuring matches go according to a certain plan.
Lawson said it won't be surprising if the illegal bookmakers had told players not to perform or else their families would be kidnapped or harmed.
Narrating one such incident during his tenure as the Pakistan coach, Lawson said: "A player who we had not selected for the game approached me, saying: 'I was told I would be playing tomorrow.' My response was, 'Well no, you're not, you've obviously been given the wrong information.'
"Then the skipper of the side called me late in the evening. I went to his room and he was standing there with a very sombre-looking selector. This selector said: 'We must pick [the player who had earlier approached me], I have been told that if he is not in the team tomorrow, my daughter will be kidnapped and I will not see her again'," Lawson said.
"Our chairman then called the President Pervez Musharraf, who in turn phoned the people behind the threats and said they had better reconsider or else. The next we heard the matter had been resolved," he added.
Lawson said it was inappropriate for the rest of the world to be judgemental about the Pak players.
He said there could be a host of other external influences that could affect a player's cricketing loyalties.
"We must also remember that we are judging these guys by the standards of our own country, when their situations are vastly different," he said.
"The first time I met Mohammad Aamer was when he was 16 years old, coming to an under-19s camp. He comes from a small village near the Swat valley and was delayed by three hours because the Taliban had closed the highway. That doesn't happen in this country. One thing that struck me about Aamer was his constant smile, his zest for the game. That has not changed.
"I will never condone any form of fixing, but we should consider that a cricketer might not be thinking of personal gain but of getting money to buy a generator for his village because they don't have electricity.
"I had a lot to do with Mohammad Asif and he was always missing training sessions to look after his sick mother. He has spent a lot of his money on looking after his family.
"If Salman Butt is involved in any match-fixing, I would be absolutely stunned. He is a very intelligent, polite guy and has done well since taking over the team. I cannot remember one incident in my time as coach of Pakistan that aroused suspicion of a fix.
"My first reaction to this latest news was sadness. These are people I know, people I call friends. This will probably be the end of some careers.
Lawson said he doesn't want to see the cricket administrators banishing the current Pakistan team.
"We have seen them survive some incredible on- and off-field turmoil. You shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater."
(With PTI inputs)