London: A year on from the spot-fixing allegations that rocked the cricket world, Pakistan's Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif appeared in court as the trial into one of the sport's greatest controversies began.
Former opening batsman and ex-Test captain Butt and swing bowler Asif sat in at the start of the case at Southwark Crown Court in central London. They are yet to speak as two hours of legal arguments ensued and an appropriate jury was sworn in after lunch with a mixture of racial backgrounds and sexes (six men and six women). Both players were asked if they had any objection to the jury formed and they said: 'No objections'.
Just 30 minutes was required after the lunch break to settle on a jury and Justice Cooke informed the court that proceedings would resume at ten the following morning. Cooke told the jury: "I think you will find this an interesting and unusual case." He also suggested that some of them would be aware of the case because of its high-profile nature but they were ordered not to research it or to discuss the case outside of the jury room
Butt and Asif, who flew in at the weekend from Lahore, are facing the possibility of a custodial sentence if deemed guilty, though both are pleading not guilty. They are facing charges of conspiracy to cheat, and conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments, following the Lord's Test in August last year when they allegedly conspired to bowl pre-determined no-balls.
Both wearing suits, without a tie, they sat in a dock sealed off by a Perspex screen with holes in for hearing purposes. Butt sat alone and listened intently, often leaning forward with a concentrated look on his face. Asif was accompanied by a Punjabi interpreter. Butt's barrister, Ali Bajwa QC, immediately informed Justice Cooke that his client did not require the services of an interpreter because he had a confident grasp of English.
Behind the players' dock sat interested journalists taking up every seat in the public gallery. They would no doubt have been pleased when Justice Cooke noted early on that they could 'tweet' from the courtroom as long as they did it quietly. With reporting restrictions in place, the detail of the legal arguments cannot be repeated at this stage.
But Justice Cooke did agree to three clauses that he later read out to potential jurors who were walked into the courtroom. They were told they would need to be available for up to five weeks, and were also informed that they would need to fill out forms asking three questions and if they answered 'yes' to any of them they could not sit in the jury.
The questions were: 1) Have they or any family members ever worked as a professional journalist or currently work in that capacity. 2) Do they or any family members earn their living from professional cricket? 3) Are they or family members working in the gambling industry?