Umar Akmal ban appeal to be heard on July 13 after coronavirus delay

Umar Akmal‘s appeal against his three-year ban will be heard next Monday on July 13 by an independent adjudicator at the National High Performance Centre in Lahore. The adjudicator is a former Supreme Court judge, Justice (retired) Faqir Mohammad Khokhar, and notices have been issued to both Akmal and the PCB with regards to the timing of the hearing.

The appeal was set to be heard on June 11 but became yet another victim of the coronavirus pandemic, coming at a time when cases were increasing rapidly across Pakistan and lockdowns were imposed across Lahore. As a result, it was postponed; and now that the date of the new hearing has been confirmed, Akmal is set to learn his fate in a week’s time.

Akmal was banned for three years by the PCB on April 27 for failing to report corrupt approaches and was found guilty of two breaches of the board’s anti-corruption code. The charges come under Article 2.4.4, which deals with “failing to disclose to the PCB Vigilance and Security Department (without unnecessary delay) full details of any approaches or invitations received by the Participant to engage in Corrupt Conduct under this Anti-Corruption Code”. While each charge carries a three-year ban, they are being run concurrently.

The severity of the punishment was at the time considered surprising, but it emerged he had been handed the stiffer-than-expected penalty for failing to show sufficient remorse. Players who had fallen foul in a similar manner to Akmal previously were handed far lighter sanctions, with Mohammad Irfan banned in 2017 for six months, while Mohammad Nawaz was given a two-month ban.

Three weeks later, Akmal announced he would contest the decision on grounds that the length of the ban was unprecedented for a breach of the nature he had been found guilty of committing. According to the PCB’s code, the appeal does not mean a fresh hearing will have to be conducted, with the appeals process limiting itself to “a consideration of whether the decision being appealed was erroneous”.

The ban has come as the most significant setback to 29-year-old Akmal, whose career has been littered with controversy. Repeated incidents of indiscipline since his debut in 2009 have meant that he has been fined and suspended on several occasions; and an inability to stay fit has led to penalties as well. In September 2017, he copped a three-month ban for publicly criticising then Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur, and earlier this year, was reprimanded by the PCB for misbehaving after failing a fitness test, reportedly exposing himself to a trainer in frustration at one point.

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