Middle-order batsman Umar Akmal has been out of favour for a while, but he has stormed back into the headlines with an explosive attack against Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur. In a press conference in Lahore, Akmal accused Arthur of using abusive language against him and barring him from using coaching facilities at the National Cricket Academy, saying he had to "earn that right".
Akmal said he was "insulted" by the head coach and deprived of the opportunity to "improve myself". The PCB took swift notice of his outburst, issuing a show-cause notice demanding he respond within a fortnight.
The latest saga in Akmal's downward spiral of a career began when he was named in a national high performance camp organised by the NCA. He pulled out, citing a knee injury and according to him, had informed the relevant officials - including head coach Mushtaq Ahmed - and excused himself for five weeks, during which he intended to undergo rehabilitation with his private trainer in England. Despite returning earlier than expected, the camp had already concluded.
"I had gone to England for rehabilitation of my knee injury," said Akmal. "After I recovered, I went to the NCA to start working on my fitness and training. But the coaching staff doesn't want to work with me at all. When I asked why all those international coaches didn't want to work with me, they responded that they wanted to prioritise working with players who had central contracts. I said that I too am an international Pakistan cricketer, and if my fitness is lacking - and I admit that along the way my fitness has been found wanting - they should help me.
"I then went to talk to the chief selector (Inzamam), but he referred me to Mickey Arthur. Arthur took me back to Inzi bhai's room and started scolding me and using bad language in front of Inzi bhai, which I found demeaning and insulting. It's not even my fault, and I find it painful that anyone should be allowed to swear at me. I accept my fitness isn't up to the mark, and I am trying to work on it, and I asked to be allowed a trainer to help me. But Mickey said I shouldn't even have come to the NCA, and should be playing club cricket instead."
Arthur confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that an exchange had taken place with Akmal, in which he informed Akmal that as he was no longer a contracted player, he needed to earn back the right to use the NCA.
"I did tell him [Umar Akmal] a few home truths and said he was always looking for excuses instead of looking at himself," Arthur said. "I also told him that he had to earn the right to use our support staff because he is not a contracted cricketer. He can't just walk in here and demand what he wants."
Arthur has over the last year made improving Pakistan's fitness standards a central focus of his coaching tenure. On various occasions, he has been candid, and at times censorious, when airing his views about the fitness of a number of Pakistan players, including Akmal. The PCB has thrown its support behind his fitness campaign, and given him free hand to axe players who did not meet his fitness standards.
Akmal was sent back home from England after failing two fitness tests leading up to the start of the Champions Trophy - despite initially being included in the squad. Akmal had previously been dropped from a tour of the West Indies in April for similar reasons. He was excluded from that squad after he was the only player, out of 31, to fail the fitness test during a camp held at the National Cricket Academy in March.
"He [Mickey] shouldn't be swearing at me like that, it is like he's abusing all of Pakistan," complained Akmal. "You look at any cricket match, and you'll see he's swearing at one player or the other. I want to reveal this to the public and to all my fans. I request the chairman [Najam Sethi] to take this issue very seriously. When the head coach is allowed to swear at someone whenever they wish, that is unacceptable. As a Pakistani, I could not stomach it.
"I want to tell them that even when I try to do something good, I am prevented from doing so. When I take pictures with my fans, they, too, tell me to work on my fitness, and I feel they are right. But now I want to rectify this, everything is being snatched away from me. Why do academies exist? They exist to correct our mistakes. Now you should tell me what to do; I am a Pakistan player."
With Arthur's position stronger than it has arguably been at any point in his stint as Pakistan coach in the wake of the Champions Trophy triumph, Akmal's outburst is likely to make an already ropey international future more uncertain still.