Shoaib Akhtar's troubled career has taken yet another twist following a decision by the Pakistan board to send him back from Pakistan's 15-man squad for the ICC World Twenty20 after a dressing-room scuffle in which he was alleged to have hit fellow fast bowler Mohammad Asif with a bat.
In a press release, Talat Ali, the Pakistan manager, who is currently with the team in Johannesburg, said, "The decision has been taken on an incident that took place yesterday [6th September] afternoon at the Centurion Park after the practice session of the Pakistan team. It was reported to us by Asif that Shoaib had hit him on his leg with a bat and abused him."
"The tour management committee made us aware of the incident last night and conducted an immediate inquiry into the event," Nasim Ashraf, chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), told Mag4you.com. "They got their facts and decided Shoaib had to be sent back for allegedly hitting Mohammad Asif with a bat. The board was informed of the decision and we have approved it."
Further action against Shoaib has not been ruled out once he returns. The bowler was already on six weeks' probation following a breach of discipline last month after he left a training camp in Karachi without informing officials. Two hearings were held, after which it was decided that a monetary fine would be suspended pending his behaviour. Ashraf indicated that action would be likely.
"When the team management returns [from the tournament], the board will launch a full investigation and disciplinary hearing into the matter. Further action based on that is likely," Ashraf said.
The sorry development means that Pakistan finds itself in the spotlight at a major international tournament once again for all the wrong reasons. Shoaib and Asif were sent back on the eve of their opening match at the ICC Champions Trophy last year, after they had tested positive for banned anabolic steroids. During the World Cup in March, Pakistan's disastrous performance took backstage to the death of Bob Woolmer.
The decision will be a blow to the team's chances at the tournament, as Pakistan's strength was widely considered to lie in a pace attack that included Umar Gul and Rao Iftikhar Anjum. No decision has been taken yet on a replacement though initial reports suggest Mohammad Sami may be called up. In any case, a replacement will also depend on approval from the ICC's technical committee. The Participating Nations' Agreement, which every team signs when taking part in ICC tournaments, refers to the replacement of players and there is provision for a player to be replaced for reasons other than injury: "Except for medical grounds, players may only be replaced in exceptional circumstances such as family bereavement or where a player is suspended and such suspension relates to an incident which is unrelated to the Event."
"It is a very sad situation and is a blow not only to the team, but also to the image of the nation," Ashraf admitted.
Though it is too early to say just yet, Shoaib's future must look extremely bleak after this latest incident. He has played just one day of Test cricket and a handful of ODIs since January 2006, missing out through a combination of injuries and the doping scandal. This is merely the latest in a long line of controversies to have dogged his career.