Will the PCB waive Sharjeel Khan’s suspended sentence?

Uncertainty surrounds the immediate future of Sharjeel Khan, the Pakistani opener who is serving a ban for five years for his role from the 2017 PSL spot-fixing scandal. Half of Sharjeel’s five-year sentence was suspended, meaning that after this week, on August 10, a decision has to be made on if the suspended part of the sentence kicks in right away or later.

The major problem is apparently the Sharjeel has continued to show a reluctance to state public guilt for his part in the incident – since the PCB desires – before his suspended sentence is waived. According to the PCB’s code of conduct, the waiver applies only when the participant fulfils the board’s criteria to facilitate their reintroduction into cricket. Article 6.7 of this code states that a player gets mechanically re-eligible to play cricket on completion of the period of ineligibility, given they have completed anti-corruption education sessions to the gratification of PCB’s vigilance and safety department. Additionally, an admission of guilt and remorse, is vital for it to take place, and Sharjeel has done none of those things so far.

On the opening night, Sharjeel and Khalid Latif, playing for Islamabad United, were charged with five big breaches of their PCB’s anti-corruption code, also found guilty on all five counts with a three-man tribunal. Sharjeel could potentially have obtained a life ban, but was handed the minimum required punishment on every one of his fees. Latif obtained a five-year ban, with no prospect of a waiver prior to the period ended.

During his prohibit, Sharjeel maintained his innocence and denied all fees, appealing against the ban before the independent arbitrator, only to have it refused. Since then he’s been weighing up his options, contemplating whether to challenge the banning further, but choosing instead to write into the PCB chairman Ehsan Mani and requesting him to use his discretion to waive the rest of the ban.

With the August 10 deadline approaching, Sharjeel wrote to the PCB last week and requested them to devise a rehabilitation and education programme that he could take part in – a measure that he believes would allow him back into the match. Whether the PCB sees it that way – and doesn’t insist upon the apology and show of remorse – is not yet understood. The board is assessing their legal options and has not publicly commented on it so much better. It does, however, present a test case for your governing board, for when Sharjeel has been given the green light, questions will inevitably be asked about the seriousness with which they take rehabilitation of prohibited cricketers, and the meaningfulness of suspended sentences.

Sharjeel finds himself in a similar scenario to Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif, that had been prohibited from the ICC for ten and seven years respectively, together with the possibility of a suspended sentence following five decades. They had continued to deny guilt or obligation until well into their bans, only to finally own up, a movement overwhelmingly viewed as a cynical attempt to ensure the suspended sentence wasn’t activated. Both returned after five years, but neither of these played international cricket .

This was compared to Mohammad Amir, who after an initial period of denial, admitted to his guilt before his trial in court and then in an interview with Michael Atherton at 2012. Amir also took up the rehabilitation programme and was welcomed back with open arms after the conclusion of his ban by both the PCB and the majority of the Pakistan public. That he had made several public appearances expressing guilt and was actively part of anti-corruption lectures worldwide played a major part in his return and eventual approval by the cricket fraternity.

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