Even before the action could heat up the field, the second edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) has witnessed a shocking fixing scandal which is threatening to consume some of their leading names. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and the International Cricket Council (ICC) have launched an investigation into an international syndicate seeking to corrupt the tournament by taking advantage of various vices.
Under PCB’s Anti-Corruption Code, Pakistan’s latest white-ball hope Sharjeel Khan and his T20I opening partner Khalid Latif were provisionally suspended for the remainder of the tournament. While the likes of Zulfiqar Babar and Shahzaib Hasan were questioned by the concerned authorities and subsequently cleared to play, pacer Mohammad Irfan is still under investigation. Another major development has seen Nasir Jamshed receive a provisional suspension from all forms of cricket.
The central contracts (Category C) of Sharjeel and Latif have also been suspended with immediate effect. Unlike those two players, Jamshed does not possess a central contract nor is he a part of any PSL side. According to various reports, Jamshed was the one who introduced the Islamabad United trio of Sharjeel, Khalid and possibly Irfan, to bookies.
PCB Chairman Shahryar Khan said, “We have evidence against the players and we are into further investigation. Sharjeel was on my flight back from Dubai, but we did not meet. I am disappointed and angry that after doing so much for these cricketers, they still did something so disgraceful. Under no circumstances will the PCB condone actions of a few individuals to bring disrepute to the game of cricket or taint the image of Pakistan.”
However, a day later, the 82-year-old claimed that Sharjeel and Khalid had met with him on the flight and he went on to tell them that they had ‘embarrassed their families and the whole nation‘.
Pakistan cricket embroiled in yet another controversy
The Express Tribune reported that Sharjeel and Khalid had admitted to meeting bookies in a hotel lobby but denied the charges of corruption imposed on them. After their mobile phones were confiscated and scanned for investigation purposes, they were sent back home. The bookies supposedly offered 500,000 PKR and gave them bat grips of specific colours to signal accordance on the field.
Shahryar maintained, “The PCB took the lead in the Pakistan Super League scandal, unlike the time when the International Cricket Council (ICC) had caught three Pakistani players involved in the 2010 spot-fixing scandal. Once the investigation has been finalised, a disciplinary committee will be formed headed by a senior judge. I want to make it clear that the PCB wants deterrent punishments for anyone who is really guilty.”
Already, parallels have been drawn with the infamous 2010 spot-fixing scandal. Seamers Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif and then skipper Salman Butt were banned for five years after being proved to be guilty of colluding with bookies in the Lord’s Test against England. While the left-arm pacer has been recalled to the Pakistan team across all formats, the other two players returned to the domestic circuit.
Plenty of former skippers including Shahid Afridi and Javed Miandad have attributed the recent mess to PCB not enforcing strict punishments to the above-mentioned cricketers. They claimed that there has been a prevailing mentality among corrupt players who feel they can return to action after serving brief bans.
Guilty players could face stringent punishments
With three of their players caught in the quagmire, Islamabad United are still reeling from the aftermath of the fixing scandal. Amidst flagging crowd attendance, the PSL itself stands in considerable danger of losing its image and credibility. Following a controversy-free and financially successful inaugural season, the brand value is plummeting rapidly.
PSL Chairman Najam Sethi insisted, “We had some credible information that things were not right. Last year this was a toddler’s league and not many bookies were interested in it. But this time around the PSL is bigger so these bookies are interested. They are covering their tracks and making a run for it as we speak.”
It has to be kept in mind that a player can be punished for even failing to report the attempts of bookies to communicate with them for fixing purposes. Shahryar categorically declared that both Sharjeel and Latif were involved in spot-fixing while showcase notices will be issued to Irfan.
However, Sharjeel’s father asserted that his son had informed him of being set-up by malicious forces. Khalid himself claimed to have never done anything wrong after invoking God’s name as his witness.
Under fire for their inadequate approach towards the 2010 spot-fixing scandal, PCB are understood to be pushing for life bans for those proven guilty of spot-fixing this time around. As a result, the careers of Sharjeel, Latif and Jamshed appear to be heading towards terminal decline, while Irfan‘s future is also in serious jeopardy.