Ashraful plays in USA with BPL probe ongoing
Mohammad Ashraful, the former Bangladesh captain currently serving an indefinite suspension by the Bangladesh Cricket Board after confessing in June 2013 to being involved in corrupt activities during the Bangladesh Premier League, was recently allowed to participate in a tournament that was formally sanctioned by the USA Cricket Association. The event, the $20,000 cash prize LA T20 Championship, took place in Los Angeles from May 23-26.
Speaking to ESPNcricinfo, USACA executive secretary Mascelles Bailey said he was unaware of any banned player participating in the tournament. He acknowledged that event organisers had applied for and received sanctioning approval from USACA. However, Bailey says unless there are people employed on the ground to monitor specifically who is playing, it is difficult for USACA to police.
Despite prior warnings that anyone playing with a banned player may face discipline, he said the players who took part in the tournament will not be reprimanded if they were unaware of Ashraful's presence.
Aside from Ashraful, the event featured former West Indians Ricardo Powell and Mervyn Dillon, former Karnataka players Neravanda Aiyappa and Bharat Chipli, Canada captain Jimmy Hansra as well as former South Australia and Victoria wicketkeeper Adam Crosthwaite and his brother James. There were also 13 recent USA national team players who participated including three - Japen Patel, Elmore Hutchinson and Srini Santhanam - who were part of USA's squad at the 2013 World T20 Qualifier in the UAE. The other 10 USA players include Ryan Corns, Aditya Mishra, Nauman Mustafa, Timil Patel, Abhimanyu Rajp, Saqib Saleem, Ravi Timbawala, Aditya Thyagarajan, Saurabh Verma and former USA U-19 captain Shiva Vashishat.
"If a person doesn't know, why would you penalise somebody? We would have to make further precautions going forward," Bailey said. "They were already told not to participate in any tournament where a banned player is playing. I would assume they would know better by now. If they knowingly did that then it's a different story."
As recently as May 15, USACA sent a memo notifying members that they should not be playing in any tournaments that are unsanctioned and that any international players that may be participating need formal approval. It followed Danish Kaneria's involvement at the unsanctioned USA Friendship Cup T20 in Houston, Texas. Five players contracted by the Pakistan board were fined by the PCB for playing in the USA Friendship Cup without obtaining no-objection certificates.
Bailey said the sanctioning process laid out by USACA includes submitting a list of international players who may be appearing at the event. This list is then forwarded on to the ICC for approval. However, LA T20 Championship organiser Mehul Dave said he was instructed that only players currently under a national contract needed approval. Since Ashraful is currently not under contract with the BCB, his name was not submitted.
Prior to the LA T20 Championship, Danish Kaneria was also scheduled to appear at the tournament, but Dave says that several teams raised concerns about playing at the same tournament as him because of the fines and warnings that were handed out following Kaneria's involvement at the USA Friendship Cup T20. Dave said he spoke with the management of Indian Lions CC, Kaneria's team, and they agreed to remove Kaneria from their roster for the LA T20 Championship.
Yet, no such concerns appear to have been raised about Ashraful's involvement and his face was printed on tournament flyers promoting the event. "There are some technical things with Mohammad Ashraful," Dave said. "He's not a banned player, just temporarily suspended. That is what I was told by the team that he represented. We acknowledged that with everyone else and everyone was okay with him participating so that's why he played. There's a different level of suspension. Danish Kaneria has a life ban from the ECB and he's not allowed to play any kind of ICC event and that is not the case I believe with Ashraful."
The BCB released a statement in June 2013 at the time of Ashraful's initial confession stating that he would be prohibited from playing in any BCB events.
Ashraful played at the 12-team tournament for Pegasus CC who lost in the semi-finals to eventual champion LA Cavaliers. Pegasus is captained by Nazim Shirazi, a former Bangladesh opening batsman who represented the country at the 1982 ICC Trophy in England before moving to Los Angeles in 1985. Shirazi personally invited Ashraful to play in Los Angeles. He said he did not hesitate to have Ashraful play for his team because the BPL's corruption investigation is ongoing.
"I asked him about his situation," Shirazi said. "He said, 'Yeah, the investigation is going on but until the investigation is completed I won't be playing any games in Bangladesh.' I said, 'We have a tournament coming up if you'd like to come and play. It's a private tournament.' He asked me if we are associated with the ICC. I said no. So then he said, 'Okay. I'll come over.'"
Ashraful remains in Los Angeles and has been invited to continue playing with Pegasus until he returns to Bangladesh. Pegasus participated in the USACA sanctioned LA T20 Championship, but they play on a weekly basis as part of the Southern California Cricket Association. The SCCA is no longer a member of USACA and is instead affiliated with USACA's rival governing body, the American Cricket Federation.
"He's playing amateur cricket in a public park, private games," Shirazi said. "We're not associated with the ICC. We don't have any affiliation with USACA. Stopping him while he's under investigation to play in a public park with amateurs, I don't think that would be the right thing on our part. But if the investigation is completed, he's found guilty, then obviously we have to honour that."
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna