There is no such thing as an uneventful and dull Pakistan Super League (PSL).
First, it was a league that was played thousands of miles away from the country it bore the name of. Then there was that nasty spot-fixing scandal of 2017, followed by the national quest to bring the tournament along with the big names in world cricket to Pakistan.
When the A-listers finally started warming up to the idea of traveling to Pakistan, Covid-19 struck and made it an annual routine to cut up the PSL into two halves.
This year, the league's seventh edition is being staged in Pakistan in its entirety for the first time. No international stars refused to visit and Covid-19 has also been on the wane. Just when we thought we would finally get a regular, run of the mill, controversy-free PSL, James Faulkner happened.
The allegation and subsequent clarification
One fine morning last week, the Australian all-rounder shocked the PSL fraternity by announcing that he was quitting the league on account of the “disgraceful treatment” meted out to him by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and PSL management.
He accused the cricket board of not “honouring my contractual agreement” and “continuing to lie to me”.
Faulkner dropped his twin tweets like bombshells and it spread like wildfire. The last we checked, the tweets had accumulated collective likes to the tune of 60,000, in addition to 10,000 retweets. No prize for guessing the territory from which most of this Twitter activity or borderline celebration was coming from.
The PCB swiftly proceeded to issue a clarification, explaining what Faulkner’s grievances were and what the board had been doing to remedy them before the cricketer quite literally threw a tantrum, with his helmet landing on the chandelier of the hotel he was staying at.
Now, no matter what the nature of a quarrel and the history of opposing entities, it's never right to form an opinion without independently verifying the facts. But such have been the affairs of Pakistan cricket over years and decades that one would be tempted to believe Faulkner's story.
Truth lies in the details
If you analyse circumstantial evidence in this particular case, however, Faulkner's account appears to come out hollow. The PCB has been dealing with overseas players for years now and not once has there been an issue of payment. In fact, at one point it was believed that the PCB was actually overpaying foreign talent and almost pandering to them just to lure them to Pakistan.
In the ongoing edition of PSL as well, each franchise has at least half a dozen overseas players on their books. Neither this lot, nor those who played in earlier editions of the PSL have ever complained of being stiffed by the PCB.
In fact, the send-off given to Afghanistan's Rashid Khan by the Lahore Qalandars and the way he described his PSL experience directly contradict Faulkner's account.
Moreover, Faulkner's version of his payment row with PCB would have held greater value had the picture of his helmet tangled up in the PC chandelier not made the rounds on Twitter. To have a disagreement with an authority is one thing but to take it out on a completely different entity is totally another.
What if that helmet had landed on someone's head? In fact, Faulkner does have a history of rash behaviour. In 2015, the Aussie was banned from driving in the UK and fined £10,000 after he was involved in a car accident.
In the latest episode, the PCB, in consultation with all the franchises, decided to ban Faulkner from PSL for life but more needs to be done. Perhaps, the cricket board should take up the matter with Cricket Australia and if that does not do it, the Court of Arbitration for Sport also remains an option.
The CAS is often approached for mediation by athletes and sports bodies over a variety of matters, but mainly related to doping scandals and payment disagreements.
In 2016, the CAS famously upheld the decision to keep Russian athletes banned from participating in Olympics following the revelation of a state-sponsored doping network. The PCB itself took the CAS route in 2020 and saw the Swiss court impose a hefty Rs4.25m fine on Umar Akmal, although it provided some relief to the cricketer as well to hold him accountable.
If Faulkner's account is accurate, then he should be compensated and apologised to. But if the PCB and the chandelier are telling the truth, then the Aussie should not be allowed to hurt the PSL brand and legal options must be exhausted.