Saturday, August 16, 2008

Shoaib's Champions Trophy participation in doubt

The drama between Shoaib Akhtar and the Pakistan board continues.

Just three days after completing a remarkable comeback into the Pakistan squad for the Champions Trophy, Shoaib Akhtar's participation in the tournament was again in doubt after the Pakistan board served him an ultimatum saying he could play only if he paid the fine of Rs 7 million (approx US$105,000). The latest statement is yet another u-turn by an embattled Pakistan board, which had earlier softened its stance over the fine and cleared his selection.

Tafazzul Rizvi, a PCB lawyer, confirmed that Shoaib had been served a legal notice to pay the fine, failing which he would be dropped from the squad. "We have asked him to pay the fine or it would not be possible for us to retain him in Champions Trophy squad," Rizvi told PTI.

The PCB had earlier agreed to defer the payment of the fine till after Shoaib's appeal against the 18-month ban is heard in the court in September, a board official claiming at a press conference for the squad announcement that legal and cricket matters should be kept separate. But Rizvi justified the board's decision by saying: "There is no court order saying he should not pay the fine. Even if the court upholds his petition against the ban and fine it will be refunded to him but he has to pay the fine now."

Shoaib was initially banned by the board for five years, but the sentence had been reduced to 18 months by an appellate tribunal in June, which also imposed the fine. A Lahore High Court suspended the ban after Shoaib complained against it, but it did not pass any order on the fine. A final verdict on the ban is expected when the courts restart in September.

The Champions Trophy starts on September 12, with Pakistan playing the first match against West Indies.