December 23, 1999

PCB request for change in teleconference date

Karachi, Dec 22: The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) ad hoc committee on Wednesday admitted that it has received a 20-minute video footage and a letter from the International Cricket Council (ICC) who have objected to the bowling action of tearaway fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar.

A PCB spokesman refused to disclose the contents of the letter by ICC cricket manager operations Clive Hitchcock, but he acknowledged that the video included bowling actions of Shoaib from warm up matches as well as from Test matches in Australia.

"On Tuesday afternoon, the PCB received the video footage and letter from the ICC on the bowling action of Shoaib Akhtar," PCB secretary Shafqat Rana said from Lahore on telephone.

Rana confirmed that the ICC has fixed Dec 30 as the date for the teleconference of its nine-man advisory panel on illegal deliveries to discuss Shoaib's bowling action. Pakistan will be represented by former captain Imran Khan.

Nevertheless, Rana added that the PCB has requested the ICC to either hold the teleconference on Dec 26 or after the conclusion of the tri-nation series in Australia which begins on Jan 9 and concludes on Feb 6.

Rana said the request has been made because the Pakistan cricket team leaves for Australia on Dec 29 "and it would be an unkind act for Shoaib if he is declared ineligible to play in the series after being suspended by the advisory panel."

Rana, however, stressed that Shoaib Akhtar will not be pulled out from the team despite the latest turn of events.

"He has been selected and will accompany the team to Australia because the ICC letter doesn't say that Shoaib Akhtar can't play until cleared by the advisory panel," Rana said.

Nevertheless, sources in the cricket board said the officials were contemplating pulling out Shoaib Akhtar from the Australia-bound team. Sources added that Shahid Nazir and Waqar Younis were being considered for selection. But they stressed that final decision will be announced on Friday when PCB chairman Lt-Gen Tauqir Zia holds his first press conference in Lahore.

John Reid, who was the match referee in the three-Test series between Australia and Pakistan, had questioned the legality of Shoaib Akhtar's bowling action. He was supported by Peter Willey and Darrell Hair who officiated the Perth Test which Pakistan lost by an innings.

Hitchcock says in the letter: "...the report by the match referee has made it clear that not every delivery is affected but all three officials were concerned about the straightening of Shoaib's arm immediately before a bouncer or an express fast delivery."

However, Shafqat Rana said a five-man panel of the PCB, comprising former Test players, categorically rejected Reid's observation.

He said that on Tuesday afternoon, Javed Miandad, Ramiz Raja, Intikhab Alam, Zakir Khan and he, along with PCB chairman Lt-Gen Tauqir Zia, manager of the team Brig (retd) Khawaja Nasir and Col. Pervaiz watched the 20-minute video.

"All the members were of the unanimous opinion that Shoaib Akhtar's bowling action had no fault. His arm, as observed by everyone, was straight before the release of the ball," Rana said.

Shafqat Rana said the PCB was dejected and upset with John Reid's report. He said Reid was the match referee in last year's three-Test series in South Africa between Pakistan and South Africa where Shoaib Akhtar played in all the matches.

"But Reid never mentioned in his report that he had suspicions about Shoaib's bowling action. Now all of a sudden, when Darrell Hair stood in the Perth Test, Reid came up with this theory," the PCB secretary said.

Pakistan captain Wasim Akram angrily dismissed doubts over the legality of Shoaib Akhtar's bowling action.

"I think I have played the highest number of Test and one-day games. And I can say with conviction that there is nothing suspicious about Shoaib's bowling action. It's perfect," Akram said from Lahore.

The 33-year-old pacer questioned how can a fast bowler's action be challenged after he has played 13 Tests and 29 limited overs internationals, including the entire World Cup. "He has played before the best umpires and match referees. Now either they were wrong or the Perth Test officials are wrong."

Wasim Akram said it was unjustified to fixed teleconference date a day after the team would be have left for Australia. "We are getting the date (for the teleconference) seven days before we are embarking on the tour. Now tell me, how can a captain chalk out his strategy.

"Similarly, no one can imagine what Shoaib Akhtar would be going through because at this stage he doesn't know if his career has been brought to a grinding halt or not."

The captain said it would be a great loss to cricket if a charismatic bowler like Shoaib Akhtar is restricted from playing. "Cricket needs players like Shoaib Akhtar. But instead of giving them a pat on his back, the authorities are adamant to end his career. It is sheer injustice."

Shoaib Akhtar has refused to make any comments saying he is bound by the PCB players code of conduct.