UMAR Akmal leaves after appearing before the disciplinary committee on Monday.—AFP
UMAR Akmal leaves after appearing before the disciplinary committee on Monday.—AFP

LAHORE: Umar Akmal’s controversy-filled career took a turn for the worst on Monday when the Pakistan batsman was banned from all forms of cricket for three years after failing to report match-fixing approaches before this year’s Pakistan Super League edition.

Pakistan Cricket Board’s disciplinary committee chairman retired Justice Fazal-e-Miran Chauhan found the 29-year-old guilty of breaking anti-corruption codes after a brief hearing of the PCB, which charged the player with two breaches, at the National Cricket Academy.

Umar, who turns 30 in May, withdrew a challenge to the charges last month. He decided to represent himself at the hearing, while the PCB was represented by its legal adviser Taffazul Rizvi.

His ban is effective from February 20, when he was provisionally suspended by the PCB under its anti-corruption code — which states a player must report being approached to fix games — hours before he was due to represent Quetta Gladiators in PSL’s opening match in Karachi.

While Umar did not speak to the press, Taffazul soon after the decision appeared in a video conference and gave answers to certain questions.

“He has the right to appeal against the punishment in 14 days after receiving the detailed judgement,” he said.

Tafazzul was asked about the severity of the punishment considering other cricketers like Mohammad Nawaz and Mohammad Irfan, who were also guilty of the same charges, were handed punishments of three and six months respectively.

“Umar tried justifying his actions which is why he received a strict punishment,” he said.

“Furthermore, he was approached twice and he didn’t report them. His first reply [submitted to the disciplinary panel on before the deadline of March 30] was confusing as on one hand he was confessing to his crime while on the other he was justifying it.

“In the case of Nawaz, he reported approaches himself after some delay while Irfan had confessed about his misdemeanors.”

Tafazzul added that it was “not in PCB’s jurisdiction” to named those involved in making these approaches.

“Umar Akmal was charged with two breaches of Article 2.4.4 of the PCB Anti-Corruption Code in two unrelated incidents on 17 March,” said a PCB news release. “On 9 April, the PCB referred the matter to Chairman of the Disciplinary Committee after determining that the batsman had not requested for a hearing before the Anti-Corruption Tribunal.”

The PCB director of anti-corruption and security Lt Col Asif Mahmood said the punishment was once again a timely reminder to all who think they can get away by breaching the anti-corruption code.

“The PCB doesn’t take any pleasure in seeing a promising international cricketer being declared ineligible for three years on corruption charges, but this is once again a timely reminder to all who think they can get away by breaching the anti-corruption code,” he said.

“The anti-corruption unit regularly holds education seminars and refresher courses at all levels to remind all professional cricketers of their obligations and responsibilities. And even then if some cricketers decide to take the Code in their hands, then this is how things will pan out.

“I request all professional cricketers to stay away from the menace of corruption and immediately inform relevant authorities as soon as they are approached. This is in their as well as their teams’ and country’s best interest.”

‘HARSH VERDICT’

Umar hails from a cricketing family with two of his brothers Kamran and Adnan Akmal having also represented Pakistan. Babar Azam, Pakistan’s current Twenty20 captain, is a cousin of Umar. Umar’s father-in-law is legendary Pakistan spinner Abdul Qadir.

Kamran leapt to Umar’s defence after the verdict was announced, claiming it was ‘harsh’.

“I’m surprised at the length of the suspension handed out to him,” said Kamran, a former wicket-keeper/batsman for Pakistan and one of the most consistent performers in the domestic circuit. “Punishments given to other cricketers were of a very small time period but the one handed out to Umar is very harsh. Umar will use his right of appeal against the punishment, after receiving the detailed judgment.”

Umar’s career has been marred by disciplinary problems since he burst onto the scene with a century in his first Test in 2009.

He was arrested in February 2014 after a scuffle with a traffic warden who stopped him for a signal violation and was sent home from England in 2017 when he failed a fitness test before the Champions Trophy that Pakistan won.

He last represented Pakistan in two Twenty20 Internationals against Sri Lanka in Lahore last year, falling to first ball ducks on both occasions and was dropped.

He has so far played 16 Tests, 121 One-day Internationals and 84 Twenty20s for Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, April 28th, 2020

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