Former Pakistan coach Lawson supportive of players

Geoff Lawson said players in the current squad may have been forced to get involved in spot-fixing by threats against their families.

Geoff Lawson, the former Pakistan coach, said players in the current squad may have been forced to get involved in spot-fixing by threats against their families. Lawson, who coached Pakistan from July 2007 to October 2008, said criminal organisations sometimes pressure players in non-financial ways to ensure matches go according to a certain plan.

"[The allegations] could be related to extortion, threats, and the well-being of their own family members," Lawson wrote in his column in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper. "It would not surprise me if illegal bookmakers have told players that if they do not perform X and Y, their families will be kidnapped or harmed." The former Australian fast bowler said he learned a lot about outside influences on the players when he coached the Pakistan team. "I gained some incredible insights into the workings of the country and the team," he said.

He told the story of a team selector who claimed he had been told his daughter would be kidnapped if a certain player did not play in a match. "The skipper of the side called me late in the evening. I went to his room and he was standing there with a very sombre-looking selector," Lawson wrote. "This selector said: 'We must pick [the player], I have been told that if he is not in the team tomorrow, my daughter will be kidnapped and I will not see her again'."

That matter was resolved eventually, Lawson said, but there were a host of other external influences that could affect a player's cricketing loyalties. "I will never condone any form of fixing, but we should consider that a cricketer might not be thinking of personal gain but of getting money to buy a generator for his village because they don't have electricity," he said. "I had a lot to do with Mohammad Asif and he was always missing training sessions to look after his sick mother. He has spent a lot of his money on looking after his family."

Lawson also had words of support for Salman Butt and Mohammad Aamer, saying: "If Salman Butt is involved in any match-fixing, I would be absolutely stunned. He is a very intelligent, polite guy and has done well since taking over the team. "[And] it would be the greatest tragedy if a young man like Aamer has been led astray." Malcolm Speed, the former International Cricket Council chief executive has called for Pakistan to be suspended from the game over the allegations, but Lawson said "positive leadership" at the helm of the country's cricket board would be a better solution.

"I don't think Pakistan should be banished," he said. "We have seen them survive some incredible on- and off-field turmoil. "You shouldn't throw the baby out with the bath water. "When I was there, the board did not have people with vested interests. They were business people who treated people fairly." * Press Association