'I have been victimised' - Shoaib
A day after being banned by the PCB for five years, Shoaib Akhtar lashed out at the decision, claiming the board had targeted him for special treatment.
"I have been victimised, I have been pinpoint targeted," Shoaib said at a packed and heated press conference in Islamabad. "I should be told what I did and when I violated discipline. I am what I am because of Pakistan but my punishment is also because I am Pakistani. Banning a guy who played for his country with high fever is wrong."
As had been widely expected, moves to overturn the ban are already underway. The newly-elected prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gillani has told the board chief Nasim Ashraf to review the case again. Hanif Abbasi, a member of parliament from Shoaib's constituency, has also promised to bring up the matter in the national assembly.
And Shoaib himself was typically bullish, warning that he would go to great lengths to contest the ban. "I will not go down without a fight. Even my doping case was mishandled," he said. "I will appeal, as is my right. If that fails I will go to court, if that fails then I will go to the Supreme Court."
It is unlikely that the case will go that far. The PCB is likely, in coming days, to come under increasing pressure from a variety of political sources to overturn the decision, most likely when Shoaib appeals to the board itself. Ashraf is a close associate of President Musharraf (patron of the PCB), whose various political opponents are now in power following general elections in February. Talk of an administrative change has already begun.
Shoaib was hauled up for comments he made after not being offered a contract by the PCB, in which he lashed out at domestic tournaments, pitches and the administration in general. Complicating the matter was the fact that he was on a two-year probation after hitting team-mate Mohammad Asif with a bat before the World Twenty20 last year, an act which also saw him banned for 13 matches and fined over US$50,000. The board had insisted at the time that any further breach would result in an automatic life ban.
Shoaib has, of course, escaped bans in the past, most notoriously when a two-year ban for doping was controversially overturned on appeal in December 2006.