Pakistan’s ODI captain Azhar Ali and allrounder Mohammad Hafeez have agreed to ‘unconditionally’ return to the ongoing training camp in Lahore, two days after they chose to stay away due to Mohammad Amir’s presence at the camp.
Amir, who is in the selection mix after serving a five-year ban for his role in the 2010 spot-fixing scandal, was one of the 26 probables named for the pre-season conditioning camp in the build-up to the New Zealand tour. On Thursday, both Azhar and Hafeez were scheduled to join the camp after completing their domestic matches, but they did not do so. Azhar went on to state that he would not attend the camp “as long as Amir is there.”
The players, however, decided to join the training camp after meeting with PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan.
“They both met and decided to join the training camp,” Khan said, after a final meeting with the players. “I do respect their concerns but some of them, I told them, are not acceptable. So they understood and confirmed that they are on the same page with us and now we are looking forward to the success of the team.”
Amir had been allowed to return to cricket ahead of schedule by the ICC in January this year and has impressed in Pakistan’s domestic first-class competition and in the Bangladesh Premier League. He was also signed up by the Karachi Kings franchise for the upcoming Pakistan Super League. Khan urged both players to respect Amir and extend their full support to the bowler who has completed his punishment. Apart from the five-year suspension, Amir was given a six-month jail sentence and he served half of it at the Portland Young Offenders Institution in Dorset.
“We have also conveyed that for a while we have only selected Amir in the training session and he has not been selected in the national team so far,” Khan said. “But if so [Amir is selected] then they both have to stand with him and should not see him with suspicion or behave badly with him. It is now their responsibility – Azhar as captain and him [Hafeez] as a senior player – to take him like a family. We, at the same time, will ensure that Amir stays on course and does not commit any mistake in future.”
Hafeez was happy that Khan had agreed to listen to his reservations and said he will continue to oppose corruption on principle.
“My stance has been simple all the way, that anyone who damages the pride and integrity of the country should not be given a chance again,” he told the media, after agreeing to return to the camp. “It was my principle stance and will remain the same throughout my life.
“I am happy that the PCB chairman heard my reservations and agreed to safeguard our concerns for the sake of Pakistan cricket. Playing cricket is my passion and I don’t need to convince people about my talent. I know I am an average player but I won an honour to represent Pakistan and I vow to contribute to the success of Pakistan. I will, in my humble capacity, continue to support every player.” ‘
In November, Hafeez had reportedly turned down an offer in the Bangladesh Premier League from the Chittagong Vikings franchise, which had enlisted Amir. Hafeez told ESPNcricinfo that he could not play “with any player who has tarnished and brought a bad name to the country”.
On Saturday, Hafeez stressed his stance was not directed at a particular individual. “I also want to clarify that my stance wasn’t against any one individual but it was for all who have committed [corruption],” Hafeez said. “I have forgiven all who have damaged the integrity of the Pakistan cricket through corruption but I, in principle, am against corruption and will keep holding this stance forever. I hope people will understand and support me.”
NEO Monitoring Report