KARACHI: Even before the first ball has been bowled in the HBL Pakistan Super League 2020, the fifth edition of the competition was rocked early on Thursday when it emerged that Quetta Gladiators batsman Umar Akmal has been suspended indefinitely under the PCB Anti-Corruption Code.

According to a Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) media release, the 29-year-old has been prevented from taking part in any cricket-related activity until the outcome of the inquiry initiated against the controversial right-handed batsman.

“Umar Akmal has been suspended with immediate effect under Article 4.7.1 of the PCB Anti-Corruption Code, which means he cannot take part in any cricket-related activity pending the investigation being carried out by PCB’s Anti-Corruption Unit. As this is an ongoing investigation, the cricket board will not make any further comments,” the media release said.

The Article under which Umar had been withdrawn from the tournament reads as under:

“Where either (a) the PCB decides to charge a Participant with an offence under this Anti-Corruption Code; or (b) the PCB considers that there are other exceptional circumstances relevant to a Participant (for example, where any relevant police authority has arrested and/or charged a Participant with an offence under any relevant criminal law in respect of facts or circumstances that may also constitute an offence under this Anti-Corruption Code), it shall have the discretion, in circumstances where it considers that the integrity of the sport could otherwise be seriously undermined, to Provisionally Suspend the Participant pending the Anti-Corruption Tribunal’s determination of whether he/she has committed an offence. Any decision to Provisionally Suspend the Participant will be communicated to the Participant in writing, with a copy sent at the same time to the ICC and, where applicable, the National Cricket Federation to which the Participant is affiliated.”

Anti-Corruption Unit to carry out investigations against ‘bad boy’ of Pakistan cricket

In the meantime the Quetta Gladiators management made the following statement: “Quetta Gladiators would like to state that the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is already investigating the matter of Umar Akmal and the franchise will not make any comment until the inquiry is concluded.”

However, according to sources the latest chapter in Umar’s eventful but incident-packed career came about after the PCB Anti-Corruption Unit found strong evidence against him. The sources further claimed the player also had links with bookmaker.

According to sources, Umar was allegedly approached by a bookie and subsequently failed to report the matter to the anti-corruption authorities as per the procedures laid down by the PCB.

Last week disgraced Pakistan opener Nasir Jamshed was sentenced to a 17-month prison term along with two others by the UK’s National Crime Agency for his involvement in a spot-fixing scandal during the Bangladesh Premier League in 2016.

The 33-year-old Nasir was already facing a 10-year ban imposed on him by an anti-corruption tribunal in 2018 for his role in the spot-fixing scandal before the start of PSL in 2018 that saw Sharjeel Khan — who will be playing for Karachi Kings in this edition after fulfilling the requisitions set by the anti-corruption unit and completing a rehabilitation process — along with his the then Islamabad United team-mate Khalid Latif both slapped with five-year ban in 2019 by the PCB, who also sentenced Pakistan pacemen Mohammad Irfan and all-rounder Mohammad Nawaz for their involvement in the scandal.

The menace of corrupt practices in Pakistan cricket is not anew and the most infamous of all episodes was when ex-Pakistan captain Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir along with bookmaker Mazhar Majeed were all handed prison sentence a British court after being found guilty of being part of a pre-arranged plot where Asif and Amir both delivered extraordinary no-balls during the Lord’s Test against England in August 2010.

The PCB further announced Quetta Gladiators applied for a replacement and picked discarded Pakistan all-rounder Anwar Ali following the approval of PSL’s technical committee which is headed by the board chief executive Wasim Khan and includes Bazid Khan, Marina Iqbal, Sameer Khosa and Dr Sohail Saleem as members.

Anwar — who has been picked from the Silver category and played in 22 One-day Internationals and 16 T20 Internationals for Pakistan between 2008 and 2016 — has featured in all the previous PSL editions. In 32 matches, the 32-year-old all-rounder has scored 191 runs and claimed 23 wickets.

Umar, the youngest of the three brothers — Kamran and Adnan being the other two — all of whom have played for the country at the international level, seldom stays away from controversies but appears in hot waters this time.

Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2020