Afridi wants contract, NOC reinstated
Two days before he is due to appear before a PCB disciplinary committee, Shahid Afridi and his lawyers asked the board again for justice, which in this case centred around an appeal to reinstate his central contract and NOC before the June 8 hearing. Flanked by Syed Ali Zafar and Mahmood Mandviwalla of the legal firm Mandviwalla & Zafar, the trio refused, however, to rule in or out Afridi's appearance at the hearing.
Much of an energetic press conference at the Karachi Press Club - Afridi's first public appearance since his return on Sunday night from the UK - reiterated the demands of the four-page letter the legal firm sent to the PCB over the weekend, as reported by ESPNcricinfo. Both lawyers stressed repeatedly that they were asking only for a due process to be followed and that the act of suspension of the central contract and NOC withdrawal were punishments before the player had been heard.
"Due process means if there is an accusation against someone, he should be allowed to defend that," Zafar said. "He should have a legal representative there, his point of view should be allowed and a fair and just inquiry should happen and then a decision. What has happened is that a showcause notice has been sent, he has been accused of things and a punishment given. We say you can give punishment, but hear out our player first. It is a principle of natural justice."
Soon after he was sent a showcause notice, Afridi responded to the board and accepted that he had violated the code. But Zafar insisted that guilt or innocence was not yet the matter. "There is no admission of guilt or innocence," Zafar said. "We have only said, carry out the proceedings but that the NOC and the suspension of contract, take that back and listen to us first. After that, make a decision. They have acted without hearing us out. This is our position and this is the right legal position. We are hopeful that they will make the right decision. It is just the way they have adopted currently shows that they have judged beforehand."
In a press release issued a few hours before the press conference, the board said it would allow Afridi a legal representative at the hearing, one of the demands of Afridi's lawyers. But both Zafar and Mandviwalla said they had received no such communication yet and refused to say definitively whether that meant Afridi would appear at the hearing or not. However, the PCB's legal advisor Taffazul Rizvi told ESPNcricinfo that after the press conference, Afridi's lawyers had been told they will be allowed in, though they had yet to respond to it.
"If this process remains, then that [not appearing] is an option," Zafar said. "But if they really write a letter to us saying that a lawyer is allowed then we can think about it. We have no issue appearing but if this process remains, we cannot go."
Afridi's arrival at Karachi airport on Sunday night drew thousands of supporters. Indicative of his popularity and background as a Pathan resident in Karachi, the occasion even saw a rare unity among the city's strongest and constantly bickering political parties, the MQM and ANP. "I wanted to thank the public and the support I was given last night. People are saying that this is a political issue but when I got out of the airport, I saw flags of MQM, ANP, PPP (the ruling party), and especially the Pakistan flags. This is not a political thing. Many feel what I have done is right and that what has happened with me is wrong."
Afridi has been in touch with political figures through the mess, though he would only say that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari - whom he bumped into at a dinner in London, he said - were keeping abreast of matters. "They know who is right and wrong, this is about power and who has that we all know," he said.
Otherwise he reiterated much of what he has been saying over the past week. He was upset that he had heard of his removal through the media, he wanted his NOC back, he was not seeking a fight, merely justice. "I am not here to fight, I am a cricketer, I want to play cricket. I want what is my right," he said. "If they don't want me to play for Pakistan, but at least let me play domestic cricket or county cricket. I want my right, my NOC."
He did warn, however, of the implications such a dispute between player and board can have on both current and future players. "An example should be set for cricketers of the future. Many things were a problem under my captaincy, whether that is management or anything else, there were problems. Until those things are solved….if I come back and those problems are still there, they will only increase over time. Those things need to be cleared so future cricketers don't suffer and focus purely on cricket.
"There are other senior players who are having problems, but because of central contracts they don't say anything. They worry about their careers. It is not just me who has the problem. If I get out of the way today, one of them will come up. We want to finish these issues and focus on cricket. The way the board is treating all players is wrong. This is not how you finish player power, by humiliating them. I have played 13-14 years and I don't want to finish like this, I want to leave with respect."
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of ESPNcricinfo