Misbah-ul-Haq, who did so much to steer Pakistan away from the 2010 spot-fixing scandal, has spoken of his disappointment at having to face up to another case of corruption in Pakistan cricket. Six years ago, Misbah took over a Test side gutted by the sudden loss of its captain and opener, Salman Butt, as well as its new-ball pair of Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir. This time, he was already captain of the Islamabad United side from which Sharjeel Khan and Khalid Latif were chargedfor alleged breaches of the PCB's anti-corruption code.
"Nobody wants Pakistan and Pakistani players to be associated with fixing again," Misbah told ESPNcricinfo. "After six years of hard work such things happening again is a matter of great concern and disappointment. I am really disappointed. But, I think whenever such things happen, you have got to be very strong to face them. Forget about the individuals who are responsible and try to make sure that things are not happening again; move forward, try to perform better, try to be disciplined and improve the reputation around the world."
This latest case, during the ongoing Pakistan Super League, has come as the Lord's trio stands all but reintegrated into the Pakistan system. Misbah has captained Amir at the international level through the course of 2016, while Butt and Asif are back playing domestic cricket. ESPNcricinfo understands Butt is also in contention to make the national squad for the tour of the West Indies in March. But given what has happened in the PSL, the PCB could be forced to rethink that situation.
Frustratingly for the Pakistan board, the latest incident has come after six years of concerted effort to tighten its anti-corruption code and practices. Men's and women's teams, at all levels, are given lectures before any tour or series, emphasising the dangers of corruption, as well as the ways in which approaches might occur. Players are given literature in Urdu as well. At the domestic level, apart from the regular programme, Amir, Asif and Butt gave anti-corruption lectures in which they spoke about their experiences.
Both Sharjeel and Latif are Pakistan internationals. Sharjeel, especially, was on the verge of becoming a vital cog in the national side. He has played 25 ODIs and 15 T20Is since his debut in December 2013, and over the last year or so, blossomed into the kind of opener Pakistan needed, especially in limited-overs cricket. He was one of the few bright spots in Pakistan's chastening tour of Australia recently, from the time he made his Test debut in Sydney to his three fifties in the ODI series. Potentially, under the PCB's anti-corruption code, he could be facing a life ban.
Losing Sharjeel and Latif, along with Andre Russell before the season began for an anti-doping code violation, has hit Islamabad hard as they try to defend their title. At the halfway stage of the PSL, they have two wins and two losses.
"It obviously affects you when your match-winners and best players go down, but then, there are other boys on the bench raring to go in, and they are equally good," Misbah said. "There are tough situations, but it's about the environment and the winning habit so that it doesn't matter who comes and goes. The boys take inspiration from every win. They are building up, they are getting the confidence, and with couple of victories, we have a way forward in this PSL. They know their roles, they are always ready to chip in and win us games. Our squad is capable enough to retain the title this year."
Islamabad retained their 17 players this season. The core of their side, however, is an aging one, with several of them over 35 years old. But for Misbah, that is an asset.
"Philosophy is just to have players who have better understanding about the game," he said. "Players who are fit for the game, know their roles, handle pressure very well, and if there are younger players around, then they have good chance in making in our squad as well. It's not deliberate, but this is actually helping us because we have players from around the world who are mature and experienced in this format. This is actually an advantage for us in many ways as we have players who are mentally strong."