London: Former Pakistan captain Salman Butt denied ever asking Mohammad Asif or Mohammad Amir to cheat and bowl pre-planned no-balls, a court heard on Friday during the eighth day of the alleged spot-fixing trial in London. (Also read: Salman never pressurised me to bowl no-balls: Asif)
"There's no way I could tell Amir or Asif (to cheat)," Butt said in a police interview played to the court. "They are the two players that most teams would want to have. When we pick our team those are the first two names that we have to write."
The jury at Southwark Crown Court heard a transcript of police interviews with Butt in September last year, shortly after the publication of an undercover investigation into alleged corruption by the Pakistan cricketers and Mazhar Majeed, released in the News of the World.
The transcript was read out in role play format between policeman at the time Detective Constable John Massey and Sarah Whitehouse for the prosecution. Butt sat in the dock, wearing a dark grey jacket and royal blue shirt, following a printed transcript of the interview. He was sandwiched by Asif and a female interpreter.
In the first police interview, in which Butt attributed Majeed's predictions of the no-balls coming true as "a freak occurrence", he denied ever accepting money for corrupt purposes. Butt also said Majeed had no influence over him as the agent had boasted during the News of the World investigation.
"I don't think anybody could influence me to cheat my country," Butt said. "I play this game for the love of the game and for the love of my country."
He added: "I have played at all levels for Pakistan and in ten years of playing for Pakistan I have never had any charge against me. This is the first time I have had a charge (against me)." He also denied knowing of a culture of cheating in the Pakistan team.
Butt said he had been happy with Majeed as his agent because he brought him generous earnings from endorsements outside of his cricket duties. These included payments of £16,000 and £30,000 for endorsing Majeed companies Blue Sky and Capital Cricket.
Butt also was heard to say on the tapes that Majeed arranged a sportswear and cricket equipment deal for him with Adidas that earned him £800 per international match plus bonuses. "He brought me things like the Adidas contract," Butt said, "which was a big thing to me as no other Pakistani had that."
The opening batsman also revealed how Majeed had "talked about" a potential sponsorship agreement with Tag Heur watches, in which he would have received a new £3,000 watch every three months, plus money after six months. A contract with a shoe company was also discussed that would see his name sewn into the shoes.
Butt and Asif 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 with Majeed, teenage fast bowler Amir and other people unknown to bowl pre-determined no-balls. Butt and Asif deny the charges.
The case continues.