Pakistan cricket never ceases to amaze. OK, Shoaib Malik deserved to be punished for the divisive role he played on the abysmal tour of Australia, but what are the charges against Rana Naved-ul-Hasan? Umar Akmal had it coming for feigning an injury in support of his brother, Kamran. Shahid Afridi's sentence can still be explained, though it lacks merit - he should not be punished for the same crime twice.
The Pakistan Cricket Board yesterday handed out life bans to their former captains Younus Khan and Mohammed Yousuf from playing international cricket in all formats, only to later renege on their verdict following protests in Hyderabad where supporters burned cricket bats in a brief demonstration. "The PCB wishes to clarify that the recommendation of the committee is not a life ban on these cricketers," read the PCB's second statement of the day.
"There is no specified term in the recommendation for these two players. As and when the PCB deems appropriate, these players will be considered for selection for the national team." Players who have been found guilty of match-fixing have escaped with much lighter sentences than these two, but the greater tragedy is that no one in an official capacity has bothered to explain the sins of Younus and Yousuf.
How do you explain a public verdict when the charges against them are kept a secret? Younus was not even part of the team until midway through the tour of Australia and Yousuf's only fault seems to be that he was captain of a faction-ridden team, who lost every game they played against one of the world's best sides. If anyone deserved banishment, it should have been Shoaib Malik, the "mischief maker", according to Yousuf, but he was punished with a one-year suspension. It seems being from Sialkot, the same district as Ijaz Butt, the Pakistan cricket chief, helped his cause.
If Butt, the president of the PCB, is patting his back over this cull, then he just needs to turn around and see the world laughing at him. The PCB is still suffering the fallout from the attack on the Sri Lanka team bus last March and still cannot entice touring Test nations to visit, instead holding one-day series in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, to raise desperately-needed funds. They have already suffered enough embarrassment over the past year and these decisions are sure to add to that unsavoury catalogue with a few court challenges. Younus and Yousuf will undoubtedly seek legal recourse - they have already started getting that advice - and Butt's tribal justice is unlikely to impress many in the courts.
If the purpose of this circus is to send a message to the players, then I am afraid it will miss its target. It has not worked before: Shoaib Akhtar's perpetual disciplining has not put the other Pakistan cricketers on their best behaviour. So the problems lie elsewhere, probably at the desk of Butt and the patron of Pakistan cricket. The game is going the way of the nation. Maybe India could help. Matches against their arch rivals have always been a uniting factor for the Pakistan dressing room.
And there are plenty of perks that come with it, one of them being the hefty endorsement deals. But, there is a big Butt there. India have made it clear they will not play Pakistan as long as he is their cricket chief. He would do well to take a leaf out of Harry Truman's "The Buck Stops Here" mantra and do the greatest service he can to Pakistan by banning himself. If not, a team and a cricket-mad nation, will continue to suffer. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org