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January 25, 2007
Shoaib Akhtar has been fined by Pakistan's team management in South Africa for his role in a televised spat with Bob Woolmer, the Pakistan coach, during the second Test at Port Elizabeth, as details of what actually transpired emerge.
A PCB official confirmed to Cricinfo that Talat Ali, Pakistan's manager, had fined Shoaib an undisclosed amount - US$2500 according to unconfirmed reports - and the matter was likely to be investigated further. "He has been fined for that incident and we will look into the matter further. The chairman is there in South Africa so they will discuss the issue," he said.
The incident occurred on the second morning of the Test, TV cameras capturing pictures of a clearly incensed Shoaib having a heated discussion with Woolmer. Inzamam-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain, was seen to placate matters shortly after.
Woolmer told Cricinfo that there was an argument, but refused to go into further details about the nature of the incident. "Shoaib and I did have a disagreement. It got heated as well, which was unfortunate and maybe could have been handled better," he said.
He also denied, categorically, that he had threatened to resign at any stage, as reported in an Urdu newspaper, The Daily Express, if no action was taken against Shoaib. "That is just rumour-mongering. I did no such thing at all and neither do I intend to. Talat Ali has taken the action he felt appropriate and that was his decision."
Though there are conflicting reports, it appears that the argument was over Shoaib's fitness. Having arrived in South Africa ahead of the second Test - he was left out of the squad originally because he was considered unfit - Shoaib lit up the first day, taking four wickets in 11 overs to help bundle out the hosts for a paltry 124. But in a twist typical of much of his career, Shoaib picked up a hamstring injury and told the team management during morning practice on the second day that he could not bowl any more in the Test.
"After he told the management, his commitment was questioned," eyewitnesses told Cricinfo. "It was a crucial Test and obviously he was needed to bowl in the second innings. But Shoaib argued that the injury was genuine and was picked up during his first-day spell, because of the heavy ground he was bowling on. Naturally there was frustration and it carried on in the dressing room, where cameras got hold of it. The situation threatened to turn ugly there but Inzi intervened eventually."
Since the argument, a doctor in South Africa confirmed a hamstring injury though it was uncertain about how long it would keep him out. One report suggested he was out for two weeks while another said he was "fifty-fifty" for the third Test. In the end, the management decided to send him back to Pakistan, along with Umar Gul who is carrying an ankle injury.
The incident caps what appears to be a strangely dysfunctional tour thus far for Pakistan. While results on the field have been promising - and a five-wicket series leveling win was memorable - off the field there has been tension and growing frustration within the camp, especially over the long injury list.
Gul and Shoaib Malik have been injured since almost the beginning of the tour and apart from Shoaib's single-day return, Mohammad Hafeez and Inzamam have also suffered niggles and knocks. It is also being said that Inzamam is deeply unhappy with the selection committee for first having Shoaib hoisted upon him and then for not allowing Shabbir Ahmed to go as cover for the third Test. Inzamam had asked for him, but the request was turned down by the selection committee, who understandably don't want to stand accused of sending another unfit player on tour.
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