Team selection delayed until Shoaib Akhtar ‘pays up’

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Senior Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) officials and national selectors seemed to be on a collision course after Pakistan delayed naming their preliminary squad for the Champions Trophy following a dispute with controversial pacer Shoaib Akhtar over the payment of a seven million rupees fine.

The selectors had included Shoaib in a 30-man provisional list for the Champions Trophy but some Board officials disapproved it, saying that the fast bowler cannot be a part of it until he pays the fine.

With PCB chairman Nasim Ashraf not in the country, it was left to Shafqat Naghmi, the Board’s chief operating officer, to resolve the issue after it snowballed into the newest controversy to hit Pakistan cricket.

Naghmi has summoned the national selectors to the Board headquarters in Lahore on Monday (July 14) to discuss the provisional list. The PCB has decided to name the Champions Trophy probables after the meeting.

The Board landed itself in an embarrassing situation when the preliminary list was leaked to the media before it was officially announced.

The list was due to be released on Friday — the deadline set by the International Cricket Council (ICC). A PCB official, however, said that the ICC has relaxed the deadline till July 15.

“It (the announcement of the list) is not an issue,”
Mansoor Sohail, PCB’s media director, said.
“The list will be released after the meeting between Board officials and the selectors on Monday,”
he added.

While Sohail tried to play down the episode, this correspondent has learnt that the selectors were unhappy at the way PCB officials have tackled the issue. Sources said that the selectors included Shoaib and another controversial pacer Mohammad Asif in the list after getting permission from Ashraf before he left for England for a week-long visit. They weren’t expecting other PCB officials to question the list.

According to well-placed sources, it was Zakir Khan, PCB’s Director of Cricket Operations (International), who raised an objection on Shoaib’s inclusion in the list. Zakir has had problems with Shoaib in the past and the two are not the best of friends.

But Naghmi made it clear that Zakir’s objection came because of an entirely different reason.

“We have a policy or a vision for the first year to concentrate mostly on the 26 players we are paying a monthly salary or retainer to,”
Naghmi told.

“This pool numbers 26 and we needed 30,”
he added.
“We had also decided that if any extraordinary talent outside this pool emerges, then we have men like Mudassar Nazar, Aaqib Javed and Haroon Rasheed at the academy who spot this talent.

“So anytime the selectors pick outside this 26, a committee headed by Zakir Khan needs to just approve that these are the guys we should pick. That was scheduled for this morning but couldn’t happen and will now happen on Monday,”
he added.

When contacted by ‘The News’, chief selector Salahuddin Ahmed made it clear that the selection committee will accept any decision made by the PCB Governing Board.
“It (Governing Board) is the supreme authority and its decision will be final,”
he said adding that the selectors had picked the best players in the provisional squad.

Of those best players, two are disputed.

Shoaib is the main bone of contention. He was banned for five years on April 1 this year over repeated breaches of discipline but later the punishment was reduced to 18 months but he was slapped with a Rs 7 million fine.

Later, Shoaib filed a petition with the Lahore High Court against the ban and fine last month. The court suspended the ban but refused to clear the fine until the case is taken up for regular hearing in September.

The board’s legal opinion suggests that Shoaib will become eligible after he pays the fine.

“We got the written court order today,”
Naghmi said.
“They suspended the ban but not the fine. We have asked our lawyer whether Shoaib becomes eligible after paying the fine and the lawyer believes that is the case. We’ve sent a letter to Shoaib to pay the fine by Monday.”

The second player in question is Asif. A PCB fact-finding committee is to probe an incident that led to his detention in Dubai last month for allegedly carrying a banned drug.

The three-man committee, which includes Naghmi, Zakir and Nadeem Akram, will begin its work from Monday, after receiving documents related to the case from Dubai.

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