'I have done absolutely nothing wrong' - Ashfaq Ahmed pleads innocence after ICC corruption charges

Opening batsman was already suspended by Emirates Cricket Board

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - October 14, 2019: The UAE's Ashfaq Ahmed hits out during the ICC Mens T20 World cup qualifier warm up game between the UAE and Scotland. Monday the 14th of October 2019. International Cricket Stadium, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Ashfaq Ahmed has denied any wrongdoing after being charged with five counts of breaching cricket’s anti-corruption rules.

The opening batsman was formally banned from the sport on Sunday, as the corruption crisis in UAE cricket deepened.

Ashfaq and Amir Hayat, the fast bowler, face a variety of charges. They include “seeking, accepting, offering or agreeing to accept any bribe or other reward” to “influence improperly” aspects of international matches.

They also relate to failing to disclose gifts, hospitality “or other non-contractual benefits” with “a value of $750 or more”, as well as failing to report approaches to engage in corrupt conduct.

The duo were suspended indefinitely by the ICC. It takes the number of UAE players currently banned pending the corruption investigation to five.

Ashfaq, though, refutes the charges, claiming he has never accepted bribes or improperly influenced matches.

"I have done absolutely nothing wrong," Ashfaq, 35, told The National.

“The UAE was my second home. I'm forever grateful to the country that gave me so much – an opportunity to play at the highest level, the means to earn a living and, most importantly, respect.

“And that is why I cannot imagine compromising everything I have earned to do something like this.

“I cannot do this to the UAE, which has given me so much, including transforming an ordinary cricketer to an international one.

“Maybe I made a mistake. Maybe I should have reported those people who spoke to me in Ajman to the ICC.

“But for such a small mistake I don't deserve this kind of punishment.”

Ashfaq was thrown out of the UAE team hotel in Abu Dhabi after two matches of the T20 World Cup Qualifier last year.

He was suspended by the Emirates Cricket Board, the domestic ruling body for the sport, and has not played since.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - January 23rd, 2018: UAE's Amir Hayat in action during the match between the UAE and Scotland. Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018 at ICC Academy, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

His departure from the squad came at a torrid time for the national team, who were attempting to qualify for a competition that had been due to be played in Australia this month.

On the eve of the qualifier, three players were suspended by the ICC, and charged with a variety of corruption offences.

Mohammed Naveed, who had been the side’s captain, Shaiman Anwar, and Qadeer Ahmed are all awaiting judgement. They have not played formal cricket again since.

Ashfaq’s defence is similar to that of Naveed. The former captain acknowledged that he had failed to report an approach by someone claiming to be a representative from a T10 franchise.

Ashfaq also says he met someone at a domestic match in Ajman who told him “they were planning to acquire a franchise in the T10 League and were looking to hire players”.

“I didn’t know what to say, because I didn’t make anything of it and walked away,” Ashfaq said.

“One day I received a message from someone, just saying hi.

“I saved the number on my phone to check the profile of the person.

“The profile photo was of the woman who had come up and spoken to me in Ajman. But that was the end of that.”

One of the charges facing him is of failing to disclose “full details of any approaches or invitations received by [him] to engage in corrupt conduct under the anti-corruption code”.

“I have no inkling of who these people are,” Ashfaq said.

“As an international cricketer, you meet lots of people all the time. Even at a small cricket match, there will be hangers-on. People come up and say hi. But it’s not like you know for sure that that person is corrupt.

“There is no way of knowing. People don’t walk around with ‘I’m corrupt’ written on their foreheads.

“So I really don’t see why I’m being punished. I have done nothing wrong. And I have said all that I know to the ICC.”

Ashfaq and Hayat have 14 days from September 13 to respond to the charges. Hayat could not be contacted for comment.