The Pakistan Cricket Board will not block any efforts by Saleem Malik to open up his own cricket academy. In a report in The News, a senior official from the PCB confirmed, "As far as we are concerned, he is banned from playing international, domestic and club cricket. But we can't stop any individual from doing something to earn a living. As long as it does not involve him playing any competitive cricket, we have no problem." The report went on to state that the board would not support or offer any assistance to the academy.

The PCB were reacting to news yesterday that Malik, a former captain currently serving a life ban for his alleged involvement in the match-fixing scandal that rocked the game a few years ago, was planning to set up an academy to help solve the batting crisis in Pakistan cricket. Malik, who was banned from the game four years ago after being found guilty in the Justice Qayyum Report on match-fixing, plans to set up the coaching academy in Lahore later this year.

Talking to AFP, Malik had said, "I want to start a new career as a coach because everyone I meet asks me why I don't start coaching budding players. I would want the PCB to avail my services. I have already found the site in Lahore and hopefully will start coaching later this year, because I realise my duty as a former player to overcome the shortage of good batsmen in the country." Now 41, Malik has played no cricket for four years, but said, "I follow cricket with the same interest of my playing days."

He continues to maintain his innocence as well, arguing, "My whole career was destroyed by a one-sided ban because nothing was proved against me. I was cleared by the first inquiry [the PCB inquiry in 1995]. It's a universal law that you are innocent until proven guilty and I have been desperate to clear my name."

Malik has filed several appeals against the ban, including one in the High Court, which have been rejected. His present appeal is pending in the Supreme Court (Lahore Bench). The PCB has refused to review the ban.

Malik was one of three international captains banned for match-fixing in 2000 - Mohammad Azharuddin and the late Hansie Cronje being the others who were implicated. Cronje apart, the others have consistently pleaded innocence of any wrongdoing. Malik played 103 tests for Pakistan, scoring 5,768 runs at an average of nearly 44, with 15 hundreds.

He also played 283 ODIs, scoring 7170 runs. His alleged penchant for bookies aside, he will be remembered by many as a gifted and wristy strokemaker - unfairly labelled by Imran Khan as a flat-track bully, despite his Headingley heroics - and among the best batsmen this country has produced. And one of the first batsmen, as Scyld Berry recalled, to dominate Shane Warne.