Shahid Khan Afridi has been banned for two Twenty20 internationals after being found guilty of ball-tampering during Pakistan’s two-wicket loss to Australia at the WACA in Perth. He was charged with an article 2.2.9 offence of the ICC Code of Conduct which relates to “changing the condition of the ball in breach of Law 42.3 of the Laws of Cricket”. Afridi, leading Pakistan for the second time in an ODI, in the absence of Mohammad Yousuf, was caught on TV cameras apparently biting the ball on a couple of occasions. The incident was reported to the on-field umpires by the TV umpire and after a chat with Afridi, the umpires changed the ball immediately.
Afridi admitted to tampering the ball, but added the practice was common among all teams. “I shouldn’t have done it. It just happened. I was trying to help my bowlers and win a match, one match,” he told Geo TV, a Pakistan-based news channel. “There is no team in the world that doesn’t tamper with the ball. My methods were wrong. I am embarrassed, I shouldn’t have done it. I just wanted to win us a game but this was the wrong way to do it.”
Afridi was called into a hearing with the match referee Ranjan Madugalle immediately after the match. “Shahid Afridi has been banned for two T20Is after the incident,” a team official told Cricinfo. “He pleaded guilty to the charge.”
The punishment puts Pakistan into a quandary because Afridi is their Twenty20 captain and they end their tour of Australia with a Twenty20 in Melbourne on February 5. Yousuf, who captained Pakistan in Tests and ODIs, is not part of the Twenty20 squad and Younis Khan, who was captain before the tour of New Zealand which preceded this one, has retired from the format. Shoaib Malik, who was captain in all three formats this time last year, might be one of those in the running. Afridi will also now miss the first Twenty20 against England in Abu Dhabi in February.
“It’s unacceptable,” Intikhab Alam, the Pakistan coach, said. “It shouldn’t have happened but it happened and I feel sorry for him. Being a captain you should be above everything but unfortunately it’s happened.”
Kamran Akmal, the Pakistan wicketkeeper, is likely to take over as captain in Afridi’s absence, for he is the team’s vice-captain. However, his own form with the gloves has been poor. He was dropped for the third Test in Hobart, following a debacle in the previous Test in Sydney, where he dropped Michael Hussey thrice to give Australia a chance to sneak back into the match and eventually beat Pakistan by 36 runs.
Afridi’s antics were part of a bizarre finale to the game, which sealed a 5-0 win for Australia. Opener Khalid Latif was tackled by a fan who broke through the security cordon and ran on to the field. Police have spoken to Latif, who is not thought to be seriously injured. But action is likely to be taken against the spectator and Pakistan’s management will also look at the incident in further detail.
“I thought it was disgraceful,” Australian seamer Clint McKay said. “Something you don’t want to see ever. For someone to go out there and to touch one of their players is not on. Hopefully it all gets put to bed and he gets a right whack. It’s probably the worst thing that can happen on a cricket field, so hopefully it gets stamped out and we don’t see it again.”