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Pak player faces rape charge
- Australian woman complains about incident in hotel room

Jan. 21: The scandal-prone Pakistan cricket team was hit by allegations by a young Australian woman that one of its members raped her in a hotel room.

More used to reporting their own national players' antics ' remember Shane Warne's dirty calls and messages' ' the Australian media found a foreign object at the receiving end of charges of sexual misdemeanour.

The Herald Sun said the woman has told sexual assault counsellors that she had been raped by the player in his hotel room when the team was in Melbourne for the Boxing Day Test last month.

The media reported the alleged assault without naming the player.

The woman has not gone to police who, however, admitted that they were aware of the allegation but were powerless to investigate unless a formal complaint was made.

A spokeswoman for the Centre Against Sexual Assault, where the woman has reported the incident, told the Sun: 'There are very good reasons for that (not going to the police), but they are confidential and I am not prepared to discuss them.'

The Pakistan touring party, participating in a one-day tri-series with the home team and the West Indies, was apparently not aware of the incident.

(Our Special Correspondent in Calcutta adds: Cricket Australia (CA) was informed of the allegation over a fortnight ago but chose not to brief Pakistan's team management then because of the first tsunami fundraiser in Melbourne on January 10.

'Apparently, CA didn't wish something unsavoury to mar the build-up to that historic game' Moreover, the Asian squad had Pakistani players,' a source said from Sydney.)

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) released a statement saying it had ordered a 'thorough investigation'.

A PCB spokesman said: 'If, God forbid, this allegation is proved, the absolute strongest and harshest possible action will be taken.'

Currently in Sydney ahead of a game against Australia on Sunday, the Pakistan team was stunned by the allegation.

Coach Bob Woolmer said: 'We don't know what the truth is and what actually happened'. Personally, I don't think anyone in the dressing room was involved.'

Team manager Haroon Rashid was quoted by the media as saying he would discuss the complaint with the accused player, indicating that he knew his identity.

He did ask, however: 'Why should she be in his room'

'If there is no consent, why would she be in somebody's room'

The PCB questioned why the incident had come to light after three weeks.

Spokesman Abbas Zaidi said: 'It is something very intriguing that an incident that happened three or four weeks ago ' with no lawyers hired and no police complaints made ' had been reported in the media.'

The board, however, stressed that it would take 'exemplary action (if) the alleged charge is found to have a basis in truth'.

Pakistani players have at times found themselves in the news for the wrong reasons on foreign tours. Allegations of drug abuse, brawls in nightclubs and night-outs with women have dogged them in the West Indies, South Africa and Australia.

There were also persistent match-fixing charges.

Last year, a Test cricketer was accused by the husband of a Pakistani model of molesting his wife. The incident allegedly occurred during Pakistan's home series against Bangladesh in the year before the complaint was made in the summer of 2004.

After an internal inquiry, the cricketer was let off with the board dismissing the allegation as a 'private matter'.

Whether or not the allegation is true this time, there will be a huge sigh of relief in the Australian dressing room that it is not one of them who is in the public eye for an act of sexual indiscretion.

Warne has twice faced allegations ' once in England when he was playing for the Hampshire county and another time while touring South Africa. The first time it was phone sex and on the second occasion, dirty text messages on the cellphone.

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