Shoaib~~s pull out sparks of a major controversy

Published: Saturday, February 19, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Karachi:Paceman Shoaib Akhtar's withdrawal from the Indian tour less than 24 hours after being fined and reprimanded for indiscipline has triggered off a heated debate in the cricket-mad country.

Experts, former players and followers of the game have come up with all possible conspiracy theories as Pakistan team's first full tour of India in six years continues to be dogged by controversies.

"Shoaib Akhtar's withdrawal is a body blow for Pakistan. The Indians must be celebrating. Pakistan, I think, have lost the series even before it has started," former Test fast bowler Sarfraz Nawaz said from Islamabad.

"In a nutshell, it is a clear case of mishandling a star player. I don't think the PCB had sent out positive vibes by first issuing show-cause notice and then making Shoaib appear before disciplinary committee.

"At a time when the player needed support and confidence-boosting, the PCB put unnecessary pressure on him from right, left and centre," he said.

Sarfraz, who helped Shoaib improve his bowling action, recalled last year's episode when India toured Pakistan and said Shoaib was humiliated that time also.

"If you remember, Shoaib underwent tremendous strain and tension when the PCB constituted a medical commission to probe if the fast bowler had deliberately under-performed citing fitness during Rawalpindi Test," Sarfaraz said.

Even though Shoaib insisted his withdrawal from the Indian tour had nothing do with the fine of $500 and reprimand from the PCB disciplinary committee on Thursday, sources close to the maverick fast bowler gave a new twist to the tale, disclosing that Shoaib had requested the PCB to allow him to stay in Australia a request that was rejected and for which he was eventually fined for delayed departure by six days.

Shoaib wanted to stay with the team so that he could train under the supervision of South African trainer to regain fitness for the India tour. But the PCB turned a deaf ear to his calls.Nevertheless, when Shoaib reported at the National Cricket Academy, trainer Grant Compton had already left for South Africa, sources said.

Senior cricket correspondent Waheed Khan agreed: "The Board appeared least bit interested in getting him fit before the Indian tour, or else what is the explanation for calling him back from Australia knowing well that foreign trainer Grant Compton was due to leave on a vacation and the team trainer and physiotherapist were also on due to proceed on short leave."

Another theory floating in the air was that Shoaib had pulled out because of the cold war between him and the team management.

"Shoaib has taken a very calculated risk. He knows that if the tour ends in disaster, he will replace Inzamam-ul-Haq as captain for the West Indies tour. But he is also aware that if the tour is a success, the tag of him being indispensable will go down the drain. It is a risk he has been forced to take because of cold war between him and the team management," a close aide of Shoaib said from Lahore.

Waheed compared Shoaib's case with Sarfraz Nawaz who was also dropped by Asif Iqbal for the 1979 tour of India.

"A successful management is one which can still get such difficult players to perform for the country. Sarfraz didn't go to India in 1979 in similar circumstances and we were soundly beaten there.

"I think the Board, the captain, coach and manager could have handled this whole issue in a more dignified and sensible manner. It would have been better if they had held a frank across the table discussion with him and told him clearly what they wanted from him if he wanted to continue playing for Pakistan. This was not done."

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