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Shoaib axed from Pentangular Cup

Shoaib Akhtar's ongoing war with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) took yet another twist with the fast bowler sacked as captain and removed from the regional side he was leading in the Pentangular Cup. Shoaib, however, insists that he is opting out of the tournament for personal reasons and has now expressed his desire to win back a contract with the PCB. He also reiterated his wish to play in the Indian Premier League.

"My absolute priority in my cricket career has always been to take wickets for Pakistan and help my country win matches," Shoaib was quoted in a media release by his agent. "I am hopeful of entering a new contract with my board very soon."

Shoaib had been asked by the PCB to take part in the domestic tournament, as captain of the Federal Capital Areas (FCA) team, to prove his fitness for future international matches. He led his side to a draw against Punjab in the first round of matches, though only bowled 18 wicketless overs in short spells as FCA's bowling was hammered by Salman Butt.

The decision to sack him, sources confirmed to, was taken by the FCA team management, citing poor performance, indiscipline and the negative influence he has on team-mates. The decision will raise eyebrows in any case, but more so as it comes in the wake of a continuing spat between Shoaib and the board.

Shoaib has been openly critical of the board's policies, particularly in awarding central contracts, for which he was overlooked. He has also publicly refused to respond to the board's demands for an explanation of his comments, arguing that as he wasn't contracted to them, he isn't bound to answer to them. If he is found guilty of indiscipline or breaching the players' code of conduct, he could well be gone from Pakistan cricket, as he is already on a two-year probation period, in which any indiscretion could result in an automatic life ban.

Shoaib, however, told Dawn, a leading daily, that he was opting out because of his sister's wedding. "I am busy in my sister's wedding, therefore, at the moment I am not available for any more matches and am not sure if I will be free for the last match of the cup also."

Dismissing the recent speculation on his involvement with the IPL, he said, "My commitment to the IPL is absolute. There is a lot of talk flying around players at the moment regarding the new Twenty20 competitions, but I have signed with the IPL and I am so excited about the upcoming bid process and finding out which franchisee I will play for". He also said he has spoken with the IPL commissioner Lalit Modi and wished to play a "big part" in this venture.

Shoaib will be arriving in India ahead of the bidding process in Mumbai on February 20 to hold talks with the IPL franchisees. His agent David Ligertwood said that Shoaib has agreed in principle to the IPL contract and he will sign before February 17.

The IPL contract with him is for a period for three years and Shoaib said he was looking forward to play in India. "I am in it for the long haul [with IPL]. I cannot wait to interact with the local fan base and become one of their 'own' players. If I am able to win even a fraction of the 'love' the Indian people have for their players it will be amazing. And I will be giving everything I can to try and achieve that for the next three years and hopefully beyond."

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