What’s the story?
Islamabad United coach Dean Jones has described the team’s ordeal following the fixing scandal which hit the second edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) last week. In a column for the Sydney Morning Herald, the former Australian batsman shed light into how the defending champions’ dressing room was left shaken by the alleged involvement of some of their players.
Jones wrote, “Only 12 hours after our great win (against Peshawar Zalmi in the opening game), I was urgently called in to speak to our director of cricket, cricketing icon Wasim Akram, and our owner, Ali Naqvi. They told me that two of our most senior players – Sharjeel Khan and Khalid Latif – were provisionally suspended for alleged involvement in corruption. I felt like I was about to vomit. Wasim and I were almost in tears. We had invested so much time to get these two boys into form and playing for Pakistan.”
“Then our beloved captain Misbah-ul-Haq arrived and he was given the news. Misbah's immediate response is one I will never forget. He just froze. His face and body looked like the life had been drained out of it. He could barely breathe, let alone speak.”
Sharjeel and Khalid were suspended for the rest of the tournament under Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) Anti-Corruption Code. Along with both batsmen, left-arm seamer Mohammad Irfan was questioned as part of the investigation.
The heart of the matter
Islamabad United have some of the game’s most respected cricketers in their team management. While coach Jones was known to be a pioneer in the modern-day art of ODI batting, director Akram and skipper Misbah have led Pakistan with distinction. Despite comprising such experienced campaigners, the mood in the camp took a serious jolt as a result of the fixing episode.
While Sharjeel and Irfan played in the tournament opener against Zalmi in Dubai, Khalid was left out. The left-hander was dismissed for 1 after he looked to play across the line. However, the fast bowler chipped in with two wickets in Islamabad’s thrilling victory.
The investigation into an international syndicate seeking to corrupt the tournament is well underway. Having been sent back home and their Category C central contracts suspended, Sharjeel and Khalid could face stringent punishment if found guilty. Amidst talks of receiving a show cause notice, Irfan is not out of the woods yet either.
Jones revealed that Akram tried to lift the team’s morale by giving them an emotional talk involving a personal tragedy. The coach’s words clearly reiterate the harrowing effect that a fixing episode can have on those who share the same dressing room. In such uncertain times, the presence of battle-hardened names in the team management is extremely vital to lift the players’ spirits.