Pakistan send Akhtar home after attack on Asif

Published: Friday, September 7, 2007, 16:31 [IST]
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Pakistan sent Shoaib Akhtar home from the Twenty20 championships in South Africa Friday after hitting teammate Mohammad Asif with a cricket bat, plunging the troubled team into fresh chaos.

Akhtar struck new ball partner Asif on the leg after they had a blazing row during a practice session in Johannesburg on Thursday, the Pakistan Cricket Board said.

"The tour management has heard the two players and they have decided to send Shoaib Akhtar back. The Pakistan Cricket Board fully endorses this decision," PCB chief executive officer Shafqat Naghmi told AFP.

"Shoaib Akhtar will be returning on the first available flight."

The bust-up happened after Pakistan held a practice session at Centurion Park in Johannesburg, just five days before their opening match in the tournament against Scotland, Pakistan team manager Talat Ali said.

"It was reported to us by Mohammad Asif that Shoaib Akhtar had hit him on his leg with a cricket bat and abused him," Ali said in a statement.

"After this, the team management investigated the incident and after recording the statements of both Mohammad Asif and Shoaib Akhtar, decided to send Shoaib back to Pakistan immediately," he added.

The team management had sent a request for a replacement for Akhtar to the PCB in Pakistan, while Asif would be fit to play, the PCB said.

Akhtar's exit from the tournament is the first major challenge for new coach Geoff Lawson, the former Australian fast bowler who arrived here in August to coach the often fractious Pakistani team.

Pakistan are due to open the Twenty20 World Cup against Scotland at Durban on September 12 before facing arch-rivals India at the same venue two days later.

The 32-year-old Akhtar has been dogged by controversy and injury.

He was involved in a doping scandal when he and Asif tested positive for the banned steroid nandrolone last year. Akhtar was banned for two years and Asif for one year, but the bans were overturned.

Akhtar missed the World Cup in the Caribbean due to a knee injury and his comeback was delayed after Pakistan's two one-day matches against Scotland and India were washed out last month.

He has played just four one-day matches and two Tests in the last 19 months.

The Pakistani team has also been mired in controversy.

New coach Lawson is the replacement for Bob Woolmer, the former England batsman found dead in his hotel room in Jamaica after Pakistan crashed out of the World Cup in a first round loss to minnows Ireland earlier this year.

Police initially thought Woolmer had been murdered but later said his death was from natural causes.

In August 2006 Pakistan forfeited the Oval Test match against England, the first time a team had done so in Test history.

The match was declared forfeit by umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove when the Pakistan players stayed in their dressing room after the tea interval, in protest at a five-run penalty for ball tampering.

Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq was later cleared of ball tampering but found guilty of disrepute in relation to the post-tea no-show at the Oval. He was banned for four one-day matches.

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