Apr 07 - 13, 2008

LAHORE: Pakistan Cricket Board's decision imposing five-year ban on speed merchant Shoaib Akhter has started a new controversy putting PCB chairman Dr Nasim Ashraf in a difficult situation.

On one side, Shoaib Akhter has vowed to fight on by appealing against a five-year ban on him to represent Pakistan while the PML-N people are openly questioning the ban and action of Dr Nasim Ashraf. The newly elected PML-N MNAs from Rawalpindi-Islamabad, Muhammad Hanif Abbasi, Dr. Tariq Fazal and Malik Ibrar Ahmed who also attended Shoaib's press conference urged the authorities to remove PCB Chairman Dr. Nasim Ashraf and to reverse verdict against Shoaib.

Cricket analysts say if the issue is politicized, it may lead towards big reshuffle in the PCB. In cricketing circles, there are people of both camps- one group is vehemently castigating the PCB action while the other group which has some interests with the board is supporting the action.

Federal Sports Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif said that the decision to impose five- year ban on Shoaib Akhter must be reconsidered for the larger national interest and for the survival of the cricket.

Expressing his dissatisfaction over the ban on fast blower Shoaib Akhtar, he termed it a "harsh" decision and said it would not be acceptable for the nation. He was of the view that this decision of PCB would develop "breaches" within the team, which would ultimately harm the cricket.

Asif further said due to policies of PCB, the cricket players were suffering adversely, as a result of which the national cricket team was facing multifarious problems and many outstanding players had already left the cricket team.

On the other hand, Federal Minister for Culture and Youth Affairs Khawaja Saad Rafique said the government would review the decision of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) regarding ban on Shoaib.

According to him, this decision brought anxiety among the youth. Players like Shoaib Akhtar were our national asset and taking such decision could be harmful for cricket in the country.

Former test cricket Mohammad Ilyas also strongly criticised PCB for taking what he said unjustified decision against a talented cricketer. He alleged the policies of the PCB are causing great harm to the game of cricket in the country.

Former test cricketers Aaqib Javed and Haroon ur Rashid said the board had kept Shoaib under watch and despite repeated warnings and punishment Shoaib did not mend his ways. There should be no compromise on discipline, Aaqib said.