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Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar, 32, has been banned for five years by a disciplinary committee of the PCB for violating the players' code of conduct. The ban extends to cricket for and in Pakistan but will leave him free to play in the Indian Premier League (IPL), which begins later this month.
Legspinner Danish Kaneria, also charged with criticising the PCB, was let off with a severe reprimand as it was his first offence.
Shoaib had appeared before a disciplinary committee in February after being charged with publicly criticising the Pakistan board for offering him a retainership instead of a contract. The board had offered contracts to 15 players, based on a formula that took into account their performance, but Shoaib was demoted to a retainership from the Category A contract he held last year.
"The board has lost confidence in Shoaib Akhtar and therefore felt his presence in the field was damaging to the Pakistan team, for Pakistan players and for the image of Pakistan cricket," the PCB chairman, Nasim Ashraf, told AFP. "The committee has recommended a five-year ban for Shoaib Akhtar. He will be ineligible to play in Pakistan or to play for Pakistan anywhere else in the world. [It is] a sad day for me and for Shoaib Akhtar. He is such a talented player."
Shoaib, 32, said he was "deeply disappointed and hurt" by the decision. "I will go to court and fight against the ban."
He also dismissed Ashraf's claims that he was a negative influence on the team and vowed to make a comeback. "Ask the captain (Shoaib Malik), ask coach Geoff Lawson and they would vouch for me. I had played with high fever on the India tour (last year), which proved my commitment," he said. "I bowl fast so I am prone to injuries, but I have given my heart, soul and body to this team. I know some vested interest did not want me to be the part of the team, but I will be back."
Shoaib, who can appeal this decision, was already on two years' probation for hitting Mohammad Asif with a bat before the start of the World Twenty20 in South Africa in 2007. That offence saw him fined 3.4 million rupees ($52,000 dollars) and banned for 13 matches, and left him facing the prospect of a life ban today.
He felt the ban was stiff punishment for the offence. "I was demoted from central contract 'A' category, which was very hurtful and as a reaction I said something. I have apologised to the PCB, before the disciplinary committee and before everyone," he said. "So I thought that they would take a lenient action, but this harsh decision has effectively ended my career. I still want to play for my country."
Kaneria, Ashraf said, had been let off with a severe reprimand and has been barred from issuing any press statements. In his column on bigstarcricket.com, Kaneria said he felt he deserved more respect as an established senior player in the side and was not satisfied with the board's explanation of his demotion from category B to C in the central contracts.