The PCB has struck against its players with a venom unseen in recent memory, carrying out the deepest cull of a senior cricket team in many years and banning and fining seven of its top players after the side's disastrous, winless tour of Australia. It has banned Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf, from playing for Pakistan in any format for an indefinite period, while handing out one-year bans to Shoaib Malik and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan. Shahid Afridi and the Akmal brothers were fined Rs2-3 million [$24,000-35,000] for various misdemeanours and put on six-month probations.
Action had been expected once details of the inquiry committee's report recommendations were leaked in the press on Monday and Ijaz Butt, the PCB chairman, had followed it up by saying "more than significant action" would be taken against players. While the punishments for Malik, Rana, Afridi and the Akmal brothers were expected, the action against Yousuf and Younis has caught most people off-guard.
"Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan, keeping in view their infighting which resulted in bringing down the whole team, their attitude has a trickledown effect which is a bad influence for the whole team should not be part of national team in any format," the board said in its statement issued on Wednesday.
The PCB has stopped short of calling the punishment a life ban. "They will not be part of any Pakistan team in any format from here on," Taffazul Rizvi, the board's legal advisor told Cricinfo. "A life ban means they cannot play domestic cricket or any other similar cricket, but we are not stopping them from that. They can play domestic cricket or county cricket here and abroad."
Typically there was confusion and the board later appeared to climb down by clarifying that this was not the end of their careers. In a statement released at least six hours after the original release, the board said, "that the recommendation of the Committee is not a life ban on these cricketers. There is no specified term in the recommendation for these two players. As and when the PCB deems appropriate, these players will be considered for selection for the national team."
Rizvi refused to elaborate on the nature of the pair's cases, but it is believed that the board had generally had enough with the two. Younis twice stepped down from the captaincy last year with player unrest against his leadership the underlying cause both times. Yousuf's sins are equally unclear, other than that he led a winless tour to Australia and engaged thereafter in a public battle with Malik.
The cases of indiscipline that have led to one-year bans on Malik and Rana, similarly, have not been expanded upon. "Rana Naved ul Hasan and Shoaib Malik be fined Rupees Two million. They should not be part of national team in any format for a period of one year."
Malik's name has figured persistently at the centre of speculation over the last year in inciting player unrest within the team, though nothing substantial has appeared in public to back that up. "We cannot discuss the specifics of the incident as we are under oath," Rizvi said. "But obviously we have taken action after much consideration and based on solid information."
In contrast, the cases of Akmal brothers and Shahid Afridi are straightforward. The brothers were fined for their behavior in the aftermath of the Sydney Test; Kamran was dropped by the board but insisted publicly he would be selected in the run-up to the third Test. Younger brother Umar was alleged to have feigned an injury to not play the Test in protest, though he did eventually play. Kamran has been fined Rs 3 million, Umar Rs 2 million and the pair are on probation.
Afridi was punished for the ball-biting incident in the Perth ODI, where he was captain. He has already been punished by the ICC, who immediately gave him a two-match ban. "For the shameful act of Shahid Khan Afridi, which has brought the game and country into disrepute, he be fined Rupees 3 million," the board said. "A warning be issued to him by the Chairman PCB and he be put on probation for 06 months, during which his conduct be strictly monitored."
The bans were handed down by an inquiry committee which comprised former players Wasim Bari, Zakir Khan and Yawar Saeed, besides Wazir Ali Khoja, a member of the PCB governing council, and Rizvi. The committee held hearings on February 12th, 13th and the 27th, and looked into reports from former coach Intikhab Alam, manager Abdul Raqeeb and newly appointed coach Waqar Younis, who was the bowling consultant during the Australia tour. Besides the players who were punished, the committee questioned Intikhab, Raqeeb, opener Salman Butt, assistant coach Aaqib Javed, the physio Faisal Hayat and the PCB's cricket analyst Mohammad Talha.
Attention will turn now to how the players will respond. Legal action or appeals will be a consideration though Rizvi insisted the board was on solid ground. "We are on good ground with this," he said. "The PCB has done it thinking it is the right thing to do. It sets an example for the future."
As a whole, the action is almost unparalleled in even Pakistan's troubled history. The 2000 Justice Qayyum report had similar repercussions but that was about the graver concerns of corruption. This cull has been carried out, ostensibly, in a bid to curb indiscipline and player power.
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo