Ijaz Butt and company put Pakistan cricket in quandary: Younus and Yousuf axed from all teams

* Malik, Naved get one-year bans along with fines
* Hefty fines on Afridi, Kamran and Umar for violating discipline

LAHORE: In these days of crisis in the beloved land, it is not important to state that the Pakistan cricket has gone to the pot considering that just everything else too has gone to the pot, including the pot as well.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has done it again. PCB’s 76-year-old chief Ijaz Butt has put Pakistan cricket in quandary by accepting the recommendations of an inept inquiry committee, formed to look into the reasons behind the disastrous tour to Australia,

for axing and banning a number of senior players and implementing hefty fines on others. Surprisingly, the committee, comprising of Ijaz’s cronies and strangely enough board’s legal advisor who has nothing to do with cricket, did not inform the public the real and precise reasons why Pakistan were thrashed black and blue at the hands of Australians and why the players have been banned and fined.

The biggest and most unexpected action is axing of batsmen Mohammad Yousuf and Younus Khan for an indefinite period from all formats of national teams. The duo, two senior most current players, will not play for Pakistan but will be eligible for county and domestic cricket.

All-rounders Shoaib Malik and Rana Navedul Hasan have been banned for a year with fines of Rs 2 million each, wicketkeeper-batsman Kamran Akmal and all-rounder Shahid Afridi have been fined Rs 3 million each while batsman Umar Akmal, brother of Kamran, is fined Rs 2 million for various misdemeanours.

Kamran, Umar and Afridi are also put on probation for six months. This is the first time in Pakistan cricket history that the PCB has taken such a strong disciplinary action against so many players at one time.

Action had been expected once details of the inquiry committee’s recommendations were leaked in the press last week. Ijaz had followed it up by saying ‘more than significant action’ would be taken against the players. The punishments are set to impact the composition of Pakistan’s Twenty20 World Cup campaign.

According to sources, the national selection committee has been taken aback by the recommendations of the inquiry committee with the team set to defend their World Twenty20 title in the West Indies in April-May. While the punishments for Malik, Naved, Afridi and Akmal brothers were expected, the action against Yousuf and Younus has caught most people off-guard. “Yousuf and Younus,

keeping in view their infighting which resulted in bringing down the whole team and their attitude has a trickledown effect which is a bad influence for the whole team, should not be part of national team in any format,” the committee recommended in its report.

The behaviour of Yousuf seems to be the main factor behind his punishment but why Younus, who was not even part of the Australian tour, has been sentenced is beyond one’s comprehension. He twice stepped down from the captaincy last year with player unrest against his leadership the underlying cause both times.

Sources told Daily Times that one member of the committee, who also served as manager of the team and against whom Younus had complained to the PCB chief, wanted to settle scores with Younus. “That member of the committee succeeded in taking his ‘revenge’,” sources added. Yousuf led a winless tour to Australia and engaged thereafter in a public battle with Malik.

The inquiry committee apparently had serious reservations over the attitude and commitment shown by Malik and Naved in Australia where they were accused of not cooperating with the management. The captain, coach and manager on the Australian tour had reported Malik and Naved for misbehaviour and not cooperating with the management a fact confirmed by some other players who appeared before the probe committee.

Malik’s name has figured persistently at the centre of speculation over the last year in inciting player unrest within the team, though nothing substantial has appeared in public to back that up. In contrast, the cases of Akmal brothers and Afridi are straightforward. The brothers have been fined for their behaviour in the aftermath of the Sydney Test; Kamran was dropped by the board but insisted publicly he would be selected in the run-up to the third Test.

Younger brother Umar was alleged to have feigned an injury to not play the Test in protest, though he did eventually play. Afridi was punished for the ball-biting incident in the Perth ODI, where he was captain. “For the shameful act of Afridi, which has brought the game and country into disrepute, he be fined Rs 3 million,” the report said. It is pertinent to mention that the ICC has already punished Afridi by giving him a two-match ban. The fine on Afridi seems to be a case double jeopardy.

The PCB said that the radical disciplinary action would go down as a historic day for the sport in Pakistan. “The recommendations of the committee will go a long way to arrest the continuing decline in Pakistan cricket and improve the state of cricket in Pakistan,” the PCB added. But this is not a great moment for the country. Nothing, perhaps, sums up the contradictions of Pakistan cricket, and the abyss into which it has descended. Pakistan cricket has been lurching from disaster to disaster for a very long time, marked by endemic indiscipline and a stunning lack of professionalism in all too many fronts.

The cull has been carried out, ostensibly, in a bid to curb indiscipline and player power. But the action has jolted the very foundation of Pakistan cricket. Ijaz’s style of management has made Pakistan cricket a laughing stock around the globe. Ijaz and his comrades, whose hullabaloos damaged the game in the country more than ball-tampering and match-fixing issues combined, must share a portion of the blame for the disastrous tour Down Under.

Pakistan cricket needed a big surgery since Oval controversy 2006 to curb the unruliness and unbridled player-power. Had the previous team and board managements taken the correct and tough decisions at right time, Pakistan cricket would not have been bleeding like this. Pakistan is a unique country where controversies never seem to end, thanks to our self-serving players and board officials who consider themselves beyond accountability.

No doubt, indiscipline and infighting issues were getting out of control and something had to be done. And it has to be admitted that at some point tough decisions should be taken. But untimely and unwise decisions always have a negative effect. Ijaz and his friends did this just to divert attention from their own failings. Pakistan may or may not be able to retain the Twenty20 title in the West Indies, but one thing is sure that all the axed and banned players will be back soon enough and Pakistan cricket will go on the way as it did before: dysfunctional in the extreme. Time has come to clean up the mess in the board being run by self-centered, shameless, and amateur people.

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