Rajasthan Royals legspinner Pravin Tambe, who has also played for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy, has participated in a private T20 tournament in the USA alongside Mohammad Ashraful, who is currently serving a five-year ban imposed on him by the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) for his role in fixing during the 2013 Bangladesh Premier League.
The Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA), the governing body for cricket for Tambe's state team in India, said the player had not sought permission to participate in the tournament and it was unaware of his involvement. When contacted for a response, Tambe said he had been unaware that it was an official tournament and that he did not know of Ashraful's involvement in it until he took the field for a game.
Apart from Tambe, Bangladesh internationals Elias Sunny and Nadif Chowdhury, who are contracted first-class cricketers with the BCB, and other Bangladeshi players also played with Ashraful in a T20 tournament in the USA. The BCB, also unaware of their participation, said no permission had been requested and that it would conduct an inquiry into the matter.
An ICC spokesperson said he would revert once he had more information, when asked whether the players had violated any code of conduct by playing alongside or against a banned player. Officials from the BCB and MCA also responded in a similar manner.
The website of Laurel Hill Cricket, a T20 tournament in New Jersey, mentions Tambe and Royal Challengers Bangalore bowler Harshal Patel as attractions in the competition, though Patel has not participated in any of the games and has actually been playing a tournament in India during this time.
Tambe, however, played with Ashraful for South Gujarat CC Jrs against Bulls on July 27. As Tambe does not have a BCCI contract, he had to obtain clearances from the MCA, but the association's joint-secretary Dr PV Shetty confirmed Tambe had not sought a no-objection certificate. The BCCI did not reply to an email asking for a comment.
Tambe told ESPNcricinfo that he had been in New York between July 23 and 31 to visit friends but had no idea that the cricket he was playing was a competitive tournament or that his name had featured on Laurel Hill Cricket website.
"I had no idea it was an official tournament," he said. "I had just gone there to visit my friends in the US for a week of holidays and I was enjoying. I did not even have a kit with me."
Tambe said he played a match for Holmdel CC on July 26 and his friends on the team said they were going to play a practice game the next day. He went along to play on July 27 and said that only when entering the field did he take notice of Ashraful's presence.
"I was told it was a practice match. When I went to the ground I realised it was Twenty20 match," Tambe said. "Till I went into the ground and stood at my fielding position I had no clue that he [Ashraful] was also playing. Even my friends did not know. They were told that some other friend had got him."
When asked why he did not pull out from the match as soon as he spotted Ashraful, Tambe said he found himself in a helpless position. "I did not know he was also playing. And I just went there to play a simple game of cricket with my close friends. I told my friends and the organisers I would not like to play in any other game after the incident."
Tambe said that because he was not aware of it being an official tournament he did not ask the MCA for permission. He also said he had not been paid for his participation in the Laurel Hill Cricket tournament. At present, Tambe is in the UK playing for Rainford Cricket Club in the first division of the Liverpool District Cricket competition. He said he had been playing for Rainford for more than a decade and has the necessary clearances from the MCA to do so.
While Tambe teaming up with Ashraful appears limited to one T20 match, Bangladesh cricketers Sunny, Chowdhury and Shaker Ahmed played several games with the banned cricketer, in tournaments in New Jersey and Michigan. Former Bangladesh international Tapash Baisya also played with Ashraful for a team called Bangladesh Tigers XI in a tournament that ended on August 2.
In July, nine current and former Bangladesh cricketers took part in an unofficial indoor tournament in which Ashraful also played. The BCB chief executive Nizamuddin Chowdhury said the board would look into the matter because of the frequency of such events. "We have to look into the board's guidelines exactly and then comment on it," Chowdhury said. "Since it is happening frequently, we will look closely… We have to see the board's anti-corruption rules and procedures before we can say anything about it."
When Ashraful was originally banned for eight years - it was later reduced to five with two years suspended - in June 2014, Justice Khademul Islam, the convener of the probe committee, had said: "He will not be able to take part in any authorised cricketing activities anywhere in the world."
Chowdhury said the ban on Ashraful was in tournaments under the jurisdiction of recognised cricket bodies. "The tournament or match you are referring is outside our jurisdiction," he said. "Number two, the players within our first-class contract who have participated in an unauthorised cricket event without board's permission, or without NOC, will be addressed in accordance with the board's policy.
"It won't be right to comment whether it is disapproved cricket or not. What we understand is that this is not official cricket. Whether this is a neighborhood tournament, we have to find out."
Some of the other players who participated in the Michigan and Laurel Hill Cricket tournaments were Farveez Maharoof (Sri Lanka), Xavier Marshall (West Indies) and John Campbell (Jamaica); Fahad Babar, Akeem Dodson, Jasdeep Singh, Durale Forrest, George Adams and Muhammad Ghous (USA), Rizwan Cheema, Ruvindu Gunasekera, Navneet Dhaliwal, Satsimranjit Singh Dhindsa and Saad Bin Zafar (Canada).
Additional reporting by Nagraj Gollapudi and Amol Kharadkar