A team divided: Hafeez, Azhar snub camp to protest Amir’s inclusion

Senior duo unhappy with board’s decision to bring tainted bowler back in the fold.

Amir showed remarkable form on his return, taking 22 wickets in the non-first-class event followed by 34 in four qualifying rounds of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. PHOTO: SHAFIQ MALIK/EXPRESS


Serious problems have arisen for Pakistan cricket and its board after former T20 captain Mohammad Hafeez and current one-day skipper Azhar Ali refused to train alongside tainted pacer Mohammad Amir in the national training camp in Lahore for the tour of New Zealand.

The incident instantly became international news and plenty of discussions took place on different forums, putting Pakistan cricket in the limelight again.

Both Azhar and Hafeez believe that Amir should not be allowed to play for Pakistan again after his indictment — along with teammates Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt — in the infamous 2010 spot-fixing scandal.

It would be pertinent to mention here that both Azhar and Hafeez went to the National Cricket Academy (NCA) for their fitness tests but did not take part in the training camp.

The team management and senior player Shahid Afridi tried to resolve the matter, but both Azhar and Hafeez stood firm on their stance that they will continue avoiding the camp until Amir is there.

“Amir’s presence in the national training camp is not agreeable to us and this is how things will remain,” one of the players told The Express Tribune. “We feel strongly about this matter and won’t sway from our principles.”

He added that the team received a lot of unfair flak as a result of the trio’s doings “Nobody realises the humiliation we faced after what they did and how we were abused in the UK and wherever we went after the spot-fixing issue,” said the player. “It took us several years to rebuild the reputation of our team and country and we can’t see it being ruined again.”

Spin-bowling coach Mushtaq Ahmed and T20 skipper Afridi wanted to discuss the issue at length with the two players, but the latter duo decided to return home instead of staying at the NCA till evening.

It was also learnt that the players in questions had earlier told chief selector Haroon Rasheed and the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) senior officials that selecting Amir would have consequences. Nevertheless, the 23-year-old was included in the training camp.

Former captain Ramiz Raja said the situation has placed the PCB in a tight spot. “The PCB needs to sort out this issue sooner than later, before Pakistan cricket makes headlines for the wrong reasons again,” said Ramiz. “Azhar and Hafeez have made important contributions for Pakistan, so it will be a tough call for the board to decide how to deal with matter and move forward.”

The seasoned commentator added that many people — including him — are against Amir’s return to the team as they feel it would set a wrong precedent.

Meanwhile, the PCB said they were making moves to convince Hafeez and Azhar, adding that they would respond to media in more detail only after meetings are completed. 

Published in The Express Tribune, December 25th, 2015.

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