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March 8, 2010
The inquiry committee looking into Pakistan's disastrous tour to Australia has recommended a string of harsh punishments against a number of Pakistan's senior-most players, ranging from heavy fines to bans.
The recommendations have still to be approved by the board chairman - and they could yet be turned down - but Cricinfo has learnt that the committee has called for the Akmal brothers and Shahid Afridi to be fined for various misdemeanours and for Shoaib Malik and Naved-ul-Hasan to be banned for up to a year from international cricket.
If implemented the measures are likely to represent some of the harshest punishments taken against Pakistan players and will further throw the composition of Pakistan's squad for the World Twenty20 into considerable disarray. None of the players, it is believed, are certain to make the 15-man squad for the tournament at this moment.
The six-man committee completed its report last week and sent it to Ijaz Butt. The chairman held a meeting with the selection committee on Monday in which he briefed them on the contents of the inquiry committee's report. He warned the selectors - now headed by Mohsin Khan - that he had "shocking news" for them and proceeded to inform them of the details of the report.
Pakistan's winless tour to Australia began promisingly, but swiftly deteriorated after the second Test in Sydney, where the tourists suffered a shocking defeat. Thereafter the touring squad unraveled; first the Akmal brothers seemed to openly challenge the touring management, Kamran insisting he would play in the final Test in Hobart despite the board having released a statement saying he would be dropped.
Younger brother Umar was at the centre of a brief storm, in which it was alleged that he had feigned an injury and refused to play in Hobart if his brother was dropped. The report recommends fining the brothers between Rs 2-3 million and that they be put on a probationary period for their behaviour after the Sydney Test.
The tour ended with Afridi being banned by the ICC for two games after he was caught biting the ball in a bid to tamper it in the last ODI in Perth. The report calls for a similar fine and that he also be put on a probationary period during which he not be considered for the captaincy. Afridi was Pakistan's Twenty20 captain but that status now is in doubt.
The situation for Naved and Malik is altogether more serious; both have been accused of significant breaches of discipline. Though the specifics are unclear, it is thought that the pair had problems with Mohammad Yousuf, who was captain for the Tests and ODIs. Yousuf and Malik have long been at odds with each other and the pair engaged in another slanging match soon after returning to Pakistan. Malik has consistently been at the centre of accusations of intrigue and factionalism within the team since he was removed as leader last year.
Sources told Cricinfo that Butt is incensed with the players and is willing to go through with all the recommendations. At the meeting with the selectors he told them to prepare a squad for the World Twenty20 but to keep question marks over this group of players and to keep their options open. The squad was due to be announced on Monday but will be delayed, at the very least, to next week; the selection committee has filtered down the probables to 21 for now.
Butt has urged the selectors to look for fresher faces, telling them that he intends "to give a lesson to these players and convey to them the message that nobody is indispensable."
The trickiest decision may well be over the captain of the squad. Malik and Afridi seem to be out of the picture now; Younis Khan and Yousuf do not play the format and are not in the probables. Amazingly that could leave Misbah-ul-Haq, should he be picked, as a candidate and though some TV reports said his name had been put forward by the selectors, attendees at the meeting said no names had yet been discussed.
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But you can't expect a turnaround unless pitches, umpiring and practice facilities are simultaneously improved