Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent
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Umar Akmal's troubled cricket career has hit its biggest roadblock yet, with the PCB handing him a ban from all representative cricket for three years after he failed to report details of corrupt approaches made to him ahead of this year's PSL. During the hearing on Monday, Akmal accepted that the incidents which formed the basis of the two charges pressed against him by the PCB had taken place, but pointed out that the circumstances were such that they did not merit reporting to the board.
The PCB had formally charged Akmal with two breaches of its anti-corruption code for two unrelated incidents on March 20. The charges come under Article 2.4.4, which deals with: "Failing to disclose to the PCB Vigilance and Security Department (without unnecessary delay) full details of any approaches or invitations received by the Participant to engage in Corrupt Conduct under this Anti-Corruption Code".
Akmal represented himself at the hearing, while the PCB was represented by lawyer Taffazul Rizvi. ESPNcricinfo understands that Akmal told Justice Fazal-e-Miran Chauhan, the disciplinary committee chairman, that the two incidents did take place, the conversations he had were questionable, as were the individuals present at the time, but he had his own reasons to not report them to the PCB. Rizvi argued, saying that Akmal was trying to deploy the "heads-I-win-tails-you-lose" approach, which is not acceptable in any court of law*.
Akmal's case had gone directly to the PCB disciplinary panel after he opted to forego the right to a hearing before the anti-corruption tribunal, where he could have pleaded his innocence and contested the charges. His decision not to do that meant, in effect, that he would accept whatever sanctions Justice Chauhan imposed on him.
Afterwards, a PCB statement said that Akmal had been heard "at length" before the verdict was passed.
Lt Col Asif Mahmood, PCB's director of anti-corruption and security, said, "The PCB doesn't take any pleasure in seeing a promising international cricketer being declared ineligible for three years on corruption charges, but this is once again a timely reminder to all who think they can get away by breaching the anti-corruption code.
"The anti-corruption unit regularly holds education seminars and refresher courses at all levels to remind all professional cricketers of their obligations and responsibilities. And even then, if some cricketers decide to take the Code into their own hands, this is how things will pan out."
While Akmal has never before been sanctioned for breaching any anti-corruption codes, this might not be the first time he had faced a corrupt approach. In 2018, he claimed in a TV interview that he had been offered money to spot-fix at the 2015 World Cup, separately claiming that he had also been made an offer to skip certain key matches against India. It wasn't clear whether Akmal had reported these alleged approaches to anti-corruption authorities, but he has never before faced sanctions from either the PCB or the ICC for the same.
The ban comes as the most significant setback to 29-year-old Akmal, whose career has been littered with ups and downs. Repeated incidents of indiscipline since his debut in 2009 have meant that he has been fined and suspended, and an inability to stay fit has led to penalties as well. Recently, in September 2017, he copped a three-month ban for publicly criticising then Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur, and earlier this year, he was reprimanded by the PCB for misbehaving after failing a fitness test, reportedly exposing himself to a trainer in frustration at one point.
However, his quality as a batsman meant that Akmal stayed in contention despite the issues. When it seemed like Arthur had sidelined him for good, he was handed a surprise call-up for a home T20I series against Sri Lanka last year, in what was Misbah-ul-Haq's first assignment as head coach. He was dropped again after consecutive golden ducks, but strong domestic performances meant the possibility of another call-up was never far away.
* Story updated at 5.10pm GMT after updates from Taffazul Rizvi.