‘Pain over with Asif’s release’

PAKISTAN cricketer Mohammad Asif’s release from prison has brought an end to six months of pain for his family, his father has said.

Asif, 29, was yesterday freed from jail in Britain after serving half of a 12-month sentence over a spot-fixing scandal and was taken by his friend Mohammad Haroon to his house in suburban London.

“Asif was very happy at his release and his first words were ‘thanks Almighty,'” Haroon, a cricket coach and Asif’s mentor, said by phone from London.

He said Asif would hold a press conference after consulting his lawyer.

Asif was jailed in November after being found guilty of conspiring to cheat and conspiring to accept corrupt payments over deliberate no-balls bowled during the Lord’s Test against England in August 2010.

In the Pakistani village of Machikay, some 40km from the eastern city of Lahore, Asif’s family voiced relief at his release.

“I have spent these six months in pain but I am sure that it’s over now,” said his father Hasan Deen, a farmer. “I have not talked to him for seven months but I am happy that his difficult days are over.”

Pakistan’s captain for the infamous Lord’s Test, Salman Butt, is still serving a 30-month term while bowler Mohammad Aamer was released in February this year after completing half of his six months in a youth prison.

All three players were also banned by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for violating the players’ code of conduct, but Mr Deen backed his son to make a strong return to the game.

“My son is a lion and lived as a lion even in the jail. He has not played for two years but I am sure that if he comes on the field he will shock everyone with his bowling,” said Mr Deen, busy supervising the wheat crop on his fields.

Asif’s lawyer Ravi Sukul said Asif had begun an appeal against his criminal conviction and will soon proceed with an appeal against his seven-year ICC ban in the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Asif’s brother Ashraf said the whole village was eagerly anticipating his return and insisted he was an innocent party in the scandal.

“We strongly believe that Asif didn’t do anything wrong, because he was so good at cricket that he was trapped by some people,” said Ashraf.

“I am sure that he will play again.”

Mr Deen said he felt no anger towards his son despite his involvement in one of the most shameful episodes in the history of Pakistani cricket.

“I am not angry with him, why should I be? He will be welcomed back home and if he wants to play cricket I will not stop him,” he said.

Agent Mazhar Majeed was jailed for 32 months for his role in orchestrating the plot to bowl no-balls to order.

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