Shoaib Akhtar has been cleared to play in the IPL after the Appellate Tribunal decided to suspend his five-year ban for one month, until they reconvene on June 4. The PCB has, in turn, granted Shoaib a No Objection Certificate to feature in the IPL, where he will play for the Kolkata Knight Riders.
Lalit Modi, the chairman and commissioner of the IPL, confirmed that Shoaib will play the tournament. "We look forward to Shoaib playing for us," Modi said. "I am going to call him immediately and invite him to come to Kolkata tonight or tomorrow morning."
Farrukh Aftab, the head of the three-man tribunal, announced the decision. "We have suspended the ban for one month and the next hearing will be held on June 4," Aftab told reporters in Lahore. "Had we not suspended the ban, he could not have been played the in IPL, which we thought was injustice to Akhtar."
Meanwhile, Shoaib expressed relief after his clearance. "This is a great relief for me as I am keen to play in the IPL," Shoaib said. "But this is just one battle won and we still have to win the final case."
The tribunal's decision to grant Shoaib a temporary reprieve comes after his lawyers pressed for the suspension of his ban.
Earlier, the tribunal, on April 30, had decided to uphold the PCB's ban on an interim-basis. Shoaib was banned for comments he made after not being offered a contract by the PCB, in which he lashed out at domestic tournaments, pitches and the administration in general. He made the comments while on a two-year probation after hitting team-mate Mohammad Asif with a bat before the World Twenty20 last year. Shoaib has the additional burden of dealing with a Rs 22 crore (approx US$3.37 million) defamation suit filed against him by PCB chief Nasim Ashraf.
The Knight Riders franchise, which signed him for US$425,000 in the player auctions, would welcome his arrival and hope for a turnaround in their fortunes. The team has suffered four consecutive losses after winning their first two games. Shoaib returns to one of his memorable hunting grounds, the Eden Gardens in Kolkata, where the team has five remaining home games. His was a revelation in his first Test at the venue, picking up eight wickets in a match-winning effort.