And so PCB has done the expected. Even though the decision came from the tribunal with former PCB chairman retired Lt Gen Tauqir Zia and ex-Pakistan captain Wasim Bari as its members, there is this feeling that PCB officials were pressing for it. And when it comes to the members, well they have been known to take the popular decision that would please the bosses. Hark back to 2010 and the hearings after the tumultuous Australian tour where Kamran Akmal kept dropping Hussey and the Pakistani batsmen ensured that Pakistan lost from a winning position eventually losing the series 0-3. In the hearings at the Gaddafi Stadium chaired by Wasim Bari, the assistant manager Aaqib Javed accused Kamran Akmal of failing to run out the batsmen when he could have. Mohammad Yousuf (the captain on that tour) admitted to plotting against Younis Khan in Sharjah along with four other cricketers and pointed to one of the tribunal members as having encouraged them to do so and coach on that tour, Intikhab Alam, admitted to telling Yousuf that Shoaib Malik was a termite that would eat away at team spirit.
Eventually, the only fatality of that finding was a one year ban faced by Younus Khan. Yousuf was given one too but recalled for the England tour that summer. On that tour, Aaqib Javed went again as assistant manager and Kamran Akmal as the wicketkeeper. The co-accused by Yousuf went as an official. So much for Wasim Bari being fair. All he did was follow the PCB officials’ contempt for Younis Khan because he was too upright and principles for them.
Now they have boxed in Sharjeel. No one has seen the evidence unlike what the British placed on the table while sentencing Salman Butt, Asif and Amir. The five year ban, with the first half of it from all forms of cricket and the second half allowing for domestic cricket provided good behaviour in first half, can only be judged once one sees the evidence. So far, ever since the revelation after the opening game of PSL, all we have heard is that Sharjeel agreed to play two dot balls and eventually did. No recordings, no witnesses, nothing has come on record for the general public or at least the media.
Perhaps it will come in the long written order from the tribunal. We might get to know then whether the tribunal members did a good job. Or whether they faced the heat from PCB who would have been left red faced had it turned out to be a freedom ticket for Sharjeel. When his lawyer files the appeal he may just do it in a public court and then the evidence will have to be made public. Unless the public court feels it is an internal matter and the tribunal has the final say.
But it does seem harsh, the punishment. Five years is what they gave Ajay Jadeja after he and Azharuddin (given life) were found guilty of match fixing in 2000. And what they gave the Pakistani trio in 2010. In both cases, the evidence was overwhelming. And when Marlon Samuels of West Indies was banned for interacting with bookies (and probably executing a deal), it was for two years and he could play international cricket again. Sharjeel, even after good behaviour after two and a half years will have to wait double that period to do so.
Can it be then that the underdogs seem to come from down south. First it was Danish Kaneria who was cleared by the Essex police, banned by the ECB and without giving any incriminating evidence to PCB got them to ban Danish locally. Seems you are an underdog if you are from down south where the KCCA remains toothless to protect its kin from the excesses of PCB.
Yet Mohammad Irfan and Nasim were given one year and six months ban earlier for not reporting approaches, and only after they had played out the PSL. And Irfan can come back after six months, which would be in September, meaning he can play from this season. And Nasir Jamshed has got separate hearings although his career for Pakistan virtually ended after a horrendous 2015 World Cup. No investigation was ever conducted on what were clearly suspicious ways of getting out and dropping of crucial catches.
Now there are more judgments expected in case of Khalid Latif and Shahzaib Hasan, both from Karachi, which are likely to be less harsh as they offer no threat to being selected for Pakistan again.
Nothing, of course, has been done against the owners of Islamabad United, for whom Sharjeel, Khalid Latif and Irfan played in the PSL. Except that they have let go Wasim Akram, who is linked now to the new PSL side from Multan.
On the international front, there has been the story of two more underdogs: West Indies and Bangladesh. West Indies more so, because they were playing in alien conditions, having been decimated in the first Test where they lost 19 wickets in a day to lose by an innings, yet the panache they showed in the second Test where in traditionally seaming conditions, they outfoxed England especially on the last day.
And how ironic that in 127 years no batsmen had ever scored twin hundreds at Headingly, due to the history of the pitch and a climate favouring seam and swing bowlers. But the one to do so was so less known that some of the greatest batsmen ever to play on this ground. That would include visiting batsmen like Sir Donald Bradman and Ricky Ponting of Australia, George Headley and Sir Vivian Richards of West Indies, Hanif Mohammad and Javed Miandad of Pakistan, Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar of India and Graeme Pollock and Barry Richards of South Africa.
And of course a line of great English batsmen who had countless more occasions in Tests and county cricket to achieve this. That list would include Sir Jack Hobbs, Sir Len Hutton, Wally Hammond, Peter May, Colin Cowdrey, Ken Barrington, Geoff Boycott (Yorkshireman also who played more than others on this ground), Graham Gooch, David Gower, Kevin Pietersen to name a few.
That Kraigg Brathwaite almost did it earlier in the day was an amazing fact itself. That would have made him the first and that would have meant that two lesser known West Indians would have done what the greatest couldn’t do. To top that it came in a 300+ chase, rare in Test cricket and very rare at Headingley.
And then to Bangladesh. Less so because they did it in home conditions on a spinning pitch against an Australian side traditionally weak against the turning ball. Nevertheless, to win in such thrilling style while defending a total under 300 and with Australia’s two best batsmen well set overnight deserves accolades.
The hero there was Shakib Al Hasan with both bat and ball picking up ten wickets and a near hundred. What an improvement he has made over the years to be ranked now as the world’s top all-rounder and how well Bangladesh have picked themselves up ever since the World Cup in Australia in early 2015. They deserve every success as it can be seen how hard they fight for it and how skilfully they manage it.
Yes, a week of underdogs. Some for the best, some for the worst. But certainly so. •