Akhtar ban suspended to pave way for IPL

Lahore, May 4:

A Pakistani appeals tribunal on Sunday suspended a five-year ban on fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar for one month to allow him to compete in the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket tournament.

The 32-year-old paceman received the ban in April for a series of discipline violations, including his public criticism of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) after he was not offered a central contract.

“We have suspended the five-year ban for one month,” tribunal head Justice Farrukh Aftab said, adding that Akhtar’s appeal of the ban will be heard June 4.

The tribunal had temporarily upheld the ban last week but cleared him to play cricket outside the country. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), however, would not allow Akhtar to play until the ban was overturned.

“We had to suspend the ban because it was stopping him from playing in India and it would have been tantamount to additional punishment on Akhtar,” Aftab said.

Two other tribunal members — former Test cricketer Haseeb Ahsan and businessman Salman Taseer — did not attend Sunday’s hearing. “I got the consent of Taseer on telephone, but Ahsan could not be contacted,” said Aftab, who was assisted by senior advocate Khawaja Sultan.

The fiery cricketer, who has a history of discipline problems and injuries, struck out at the PCB in January after he did not make the list of 15 contracted players.

Akhtar was already on two years’ probation for hitting teammate Mohammad Asif with a bat a few days before the Twenty20 World Championship in South Africa last September.

Akhtar had accused PCB chairman Nasim Ashraf of demanding a commission from his contract for the Indian event, saying his refusal led to the five-year ban.

Ashraf has responded by suing Akhtar for alleged defamation and has demanded $3 million in compensation. The legal proceedings began in a civil court on Saturday, and the court has summoned Akhtar to answer the charges on May 16.