As was widely expected, the PCB has reduced or written off the punishments of four players who the board had only recently found guilty of various misdemeanours in the aftermath of an ill-fated, winless Australian tour over the turn of this year. The indefinite ban on former captain Younis Khan was lifted, the Rs 3 million fine on captain Shahid Afridi, for ball-tampering, was revoked entirely, while the fines on the Akmal brothers for acts of indiscipline were reduced.
Ever since Shoaib Malik's one-year ban was removed last week, the PCB had indicated that the punishments for other players would also be lifted. At a press conference to announce Pakistan's Asia Cup squad two days ago, board chairman Ijaz Butt revealed that he had already recommended these measures to the independent arbitrator overlooking the appeals of the players. Butt staunchly defended the overturning, telling Cricinfo it wasn't a u-turn, just the following of "a constitutional process."
The decisions were announced by retired judge Irfan Qadir after the latest set of hearings on Saturday morning. Afridi, he explained, had already been punished by the ICC, which had banned him for two Twenty20 internationals, so the question of a second punishment was not on. "The ICC has written a letter to the PCB indicating that the second punishment is wrong," Qadir told reporters after the hearings in Lahore. "I must appreciate that Afridi accepted his wrongdoing. He accepted that he should not have done it but since he realised it himself I thought that was good and so removed the order on him."
Much the same reasoning was applied to the Akmal brothers, whose fines have been reduced to Rs1 million. The brothers accepted their mistakes. "They were candid in accepting their disciplinary issues. The PCB wanted to halve the fines [Kamran was fined Rs3 million] but I felt all players should now be treated on a par and so brought it down to Rs1 million."
Younis' case was expected to go on longer as his lawyer Ahmed Qayyum had insisted he would seek no compromised relief and fight to clear his name fully. Qayyum's persistence, Qadir indicated, won out. "There were many applications from the lawyer but there was no delay from my end. I asked Talib Rizvi [PCB's legal advisor] what the main allegation was against him. He said it was an open-ended ban and he should not be part of a Pakistan squad. Now that he has been considered for a squad, it means the PCB has reconsidered him so I have simply set aside the order."
The orders leave undecided for now the fate of only two from the seven originally punished. Rana Naved-ul-Hasan is likely to get the same relief at his next hearing on June 19, while the door has also been left open for Mohammad Yousuf - who retired in protest at the punishment - to come back should he wish to.
Butt insisted that this wasn't a u-turn, only the outcome of following the procedures laid down in the board's constitution. "We only followed the process as it exists in the PCB constitution. There is an allowance in the constitution for punished players to appeal and they did and this is the result," he told Cricinfo.
However, he admitted that other factors came into play. "There were many appeals from many quarters which asked us to reconsider the punishments. For example the national assembly committee on sports met and the chairman asked me, after detailed discussions with a number of people, to review the decisions. I said there is an appeals process already in place and it is on and we are looking at it as we should and that we will review them. The independent arbitrator was appointed and he took into account many things before coming to this. A process has been followed."
Butt argued that the decisions would not send the wrong kind of message - that acts of indiscipline would go unchecked by the board - to the players. "Not at all. A loud and clear message has been conveyed to the players. On the Asia Cup and England tours I have left the entire responsibility of discipline in the hands of the captain and manager. If there is a single act of indiscipline, they have my backing to send the player back without even consulting me or anyone in the board. Already in the West Indies [for the World T20], the players were better and performed better."
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo