DOHA - Former Pakistan Test captain Salman Butt has dismissed claims he will receive a life ban for his role in cricket's alleged spot-fixing scandal.
Butt and pace bowlers Mohammad Asif and teenage quick Mohammad Aamer are all accused of conspiring in the bowling of deliberate no-balls on last year's tour of England - claims they all deny.
Some reports have claimed that Butt and Asif could be banned for life while Aamer may be handed a five-year suspension by the anti-corruption tribunal which will announce its decision on Saturday.
"I don't believe in what the media is saying," Butt told AFP, reacting to British media reports that he and Asif will be banned for life and Aamer for five years.
"My lawyer (Yasin Patel) terms the case as 50-50, so at the moment I don't want to say much.
"Cricket has been my livelihood, so I want that to carry on and I hope every Pakistani fan prays for me."
Aamer's lawyer Shahid Karim refused to comment.
The tribunal met over six days in January, reading written and hearing audio testimony as well as seeing video evidence.
Despite almost 50 hours of deliberations, the three-man tribunal decided to delay a decision.
The tribunal learnt Thursday that they would be pre-empted by the British Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), who will announce on Friday whether they face legal action in England following a separate investigation by London's Metropolitan Police.
A CPS spokeswoman told AFP there was no connection between the timing of their announcement and the ICC hearing in Doha, saying: "We make decisions when we are ready to make them."
The timing and severity of the Doha decision will be crucial with the World Cup in South Asia starting in two weeks' time and with the International Cricket Council (ICC) under pressure to clamp down on illegal bookmakers.
Butt, Asif and Aamer were provisionally suspended by the ICC in September 2010, with the world governing body's code of conduct carrying a minimum five-year ban if corruption charges are proved.
The maximum punishment is life out of the game.
The scandal came to light when Britain's News of the World claimed that seven Pakistani players, including Butt, Aamer and Asif, took money from agent Mazhar Majeed to obey orders at specific stages in the Lord's Test in August.
Scotland Yard detectives raided the team hotel in London, reportedly confiscating a huge amount of money from Butt's room.
The three-man independent hearing was led by code of conduct commissioner and leading lawyer Michael Beloff of England, aided by Justice Albie Sachs from South Africa and Kenyan Sharad Rao.
All three players have serious legal heavyweights going in to bat for them with paceman Asif, 28, represented by Allan Cameron, brother of British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Butt, 26, is represented by British-based lawyer Yasin Patel, while 18-year-old fast bowler Aamer's legal team is headed by Shahid Karim from Pakistan.
While the ICC has made clear it will not be comment until a verdict is reached, chief executive Haroon Lorgat told the BBC recently he was confident of the case against the players.
"We need to send out a strong message and that is part of what we want to achieve," Lorgat said.
"We've worked hard at collecting all the evidence that we would require to make the charges stand."
Beloff had said in January that the three-man tribunal needed more time to consider the issues against the Pakistan trio.
None of the players or their lawyers commented at the time although Aamer told reporters earlier that the six-day Qatar tribunal had been one of the hardest times of his life.
"You can see my eyes are sore because I have not been able to sleep for the last few days," he said.
"I have been talking to my parents and they have tried to raise my confidence. I know a lot of people are praying for me because its a matter of my career."
Former Pakistan players expressed disappointment that no verdict was reached.
"It's absurd," former captain Zaheer Abbas told AFP. "The International Cricket Council has kept the players hostage for the last five months and now they have deferred the decision, which is inexplicable."
The scandal is seen as the worst in cricket since that of South Africa's Hansie Cronje.
A decade ago the former South Africa captain, who died in a mysterious plane crash in 2002, was revealed to have accepted money from bookmakers in a bid to influence the course of games as well as trying to corrupt his team-mates.