While the team’s captain Misbah-ul-Haq refused to be drawn on the issue, the team’s manager, Col Naveed Akram Cheema, was unequivocal about their probity despite the recent inclusion of Wahab Riaz, Umar Akmal and Imran Farhat, three players mentioned during the spot-fixing trial in which three former team mates, Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir, were handed jail sentences.“I’m absolutely clear and confident that the team are clean,” said Cheema in Dubai.
“I think all those who were involved in the unfortunate incident have been imprisoned. As far is Wahab Riaz was concerned, there were no charges and that is what it is.”The names of Wahab, along with Kamran Akmal, the team’s former wicketkeeper and brother of the two Akmals in the current Test squad, both cropped up during evidence. Indeed, Aftab Jafferjee, QC for the prosecution, claimed the pair’s roles raised “deep, deep suspicions.”
Akmal has now been dropped, as was Wahab for a while, but the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) were obviously concerned enough to write to the International Cricket Council (ICC) asking them to clear Wahab to play in this series against England.The ICC replied, saying the selection of players was none of their business, though they are currently sifting through the court evidence and will evaluate whether any further action needs to be taken against Wahab and any other player mentioned.“As far as I am concerned nothing special has been pointed out against these guys,” said Cheema.
“No allegations which we have received against them. The PCB has introduced a code of conduct and anti-corruption code. All these guys have been told and are following that code of conduct in letter and spirit.”In the spirit of cricket hardening its stance against corruption, MCC, following a meeting in Cape Town of their world cricket committee, headed by former Australian captain, Steve Waugh, has called for life bans to be introduced for the more high-profile guilty parties.At present, the ICC have banned the 26-year old Butt for 10 years, five of them suspended, but under MCC’s proposals his career, along with any other captains, vice-captains and coaches caught out, would be over.
Nothing has been proven against Wahab, Farhat or Usman Akmal, though as none of them played in the recent Test series against Sri Lanka their selection against England, given the history of conflict between the sides, was provocative to say the least.Yet if the trio do present an obvious flashpoint, Misbah, like Andrew Strauss, seems keen to put any lingering animosity between the sides firmly behind them.“I think everybody knows in both teams that we just have to forget the past and concentrate on the present and future,” said Misbah, who feels that conditions in the UAE will help his side.
“I don’t think we need to build bridges to win good relations just to play cricket in the true spirit. Our target is to produce really good and hard cricket.”They’ve been mightily impressive too given the upheavals of losing three key players to HM Prisons, winning Test series against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and drawing another against the West Indies.Pakistan cricket is like the hydra from Greek mythology – cut off one tentacle and two grow back more strongly. It even works on the micro level too with Saeed Ajmal, their match-turning off-spinner alleged to have developed a new delivery, “the teesra” (which means the third one), to add to his off-break and doosra.
Such robust regeneration was something Ijaz Ahmed, coach to the PCB XI England play over the next three days, alluded to as well, when asked if the next generation of players were more temptation-proof when it came to corruption.“The talent in Pakistan, we have seen many cricketers come through the process,” said Ijaz ahead of the game at the ICC Global Academy in Dubai on Wednesday.“At the moment the team is really focusing well, nothing else. They have been good, they just go back to their room at 10 o’clock at night – they don’t go anywhere else. They are only concentrating on cricket at the moment.” – Thetelegraph