It's going to be an important week in the lives of former Pakistan skipper Salman Butt and speedster Mohammad Asif as both try to overturn the ban imposed by the International Cricket Council for spot-fixing in 2009.
While Asif's appeal against his conviction and five-year sentence will be heard at the Court of Arbitration for Sports in Lausanne on Thursday, Butt's hearing will come up the following day. Butt will be appealing against his 10-year suspension. Both have served almost two-and-a-half years of their bans.
The third player, Mohammad Amir (or Aamer), also pulled up for spot-fixing, is not appealing against his five-year ban, according to reports. All three were found guilty by an ICC tribunal in Doha in January 2010. Their careers crashed when a News of the World sting operation arranged for three no balls to be bowled at pre-agreed times during England's first innings of the Lord's Test in exchange for 150,000 Pounds (1 Pound = Rs 84).
Butt will be accompanied by his solicitor Yasin Patel while Asif, who is already in Switzerland, will be represented by his lawyer Ravi Sukul. Their careers crashed when a News of the World sting operation arranged for three no balls to be bowled at pre-agreed times during England's first innings of the Lord's Test in exchange for 150,000 Pounds (1 Pound = Rs 84).
According to The Telegraph, Asif will maintain that the no balls he bowled in the controversial Lord's Test were an accident. Asif was unaware of the spot-fixing plan hatched among News of the World, Butt and his agent, Mazhar Majeed, said Sukul. .
"He is saying he never agreed with anyone to bowl that no-ball deliberately. He admits he bowled a no-ball at Lord's but he also bowled four no-balls in the previous Test match at the Oval a few days before. In cricketing terms they were not dissimilar to the one he bowled at Lord's.
"Those four no-balls at the Oval were never questioned by anyone because it would have been accepted that they were bowled unintentionally and in the usual course of the game, yet he bowled them," said Sukul.
Claiming that the bans were "excessive", both Sukul and Patel are aiming to find flaws in the prosecution procedures that nailed the Pakistan cricket stars.
The odds are clearly stacked against Asif and Butt, but if the appeals are successful, it may mean an immediate return to international cricket. It will also raise questions over ICC's disciplinary procedures and their effectiveness.