Shaharyar denies ICC concern over Shoaib's action
Shaharyar Khan, the Pakistan Cricket Board chairman, has denied that Shoaib Akhtar's action is being closely monitored once again by the ICC, following a maelstrom of rumour and speculation over the last week that suggested the fast bowler was under scrutiny. "The ICC has told me there is nothing against Shoaib because if there was it has to come out and be reported to them," Shaharyar told Cricinfo. "No report has been received, nothing has been done and the status quo that his action is fine remains."
Since the second Test at Faisalabad, where Shoaib put in fiercely quick spells on the third afternoon and fourth morning, there have been whispers about ICC's concern with Shoaib's action. Cricinfo has learnt from sources close to the team that one of the on-field umpires during the Test had privately expressed his concern over some deliveries Shoaib bowled to the Pakistan management but did not report it officially.
The fires were fuelled further by Greg Chappell's comments during the subsequent Test at Karachi, in which he is alleged to have said there was "something seriously different" about Shoaib's action. Those remarks set off a separate furore altogether, with the PCB, at one point asking the ICC to investigate whether what Chappell had said constituted a violation of the ICC code of conduct.
Shaharyar said that matter had now been laid to rest. "We were concerned about the comments made about his action. I went to the ICC and said if Chappell has actually said them they are against the code of conduct. They said if we lay a formal charge, the case will be examined. Subsequently we have not laid a charge because the statements have not been corroborated. We received a reply from the ICC saying Chappell had been informally spoken to and he said he had been quoted out of context. If he says it is out of context then we don't lay a charge and it is over."
But with Shoaib pulling out of the ODI series due to a stress fracture in his ankle - he will miss the Sri Lanka tour - rumours have only gathered more steam. Reports in India claimed he had been pulled out for fear that he would be called again. And locally, there has been talk of communication between the ICC and the PCB, in which the former has brought to attention the deterioration in Shoaib's action to the home board. It has been construed by some as an implicit warning of sorts that he may be called if his action isn't rectified.
A few days ago, a local newspaper questioned whether Shoaib was missing the ODI series because of his ankle injury or due to concerns he might be reported during the series. Shaharyar was adamant, however, that no such communication has been passed on from the ICC. "Nothing of the sort has happened. Malcolm Speed has not asked me not to bowl Shoaib. In fact, the ICC has said he has been reported three times and has been passed fit to play. There is nothing from the match referee or the umpires so there is nothing for us to do. His ankle is genuinely bad. He bowled when he shouldn't have against England and he has damaged his other ankle by avoiding putting pressure on one ankle. It is a genuine injury and that is the only reason he is not playing."
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo