Cricket: ICC objects to Shoaib's action

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The Independent Online
THE BOWLING action of Pakistan's Shoaib Akhtar has been questioned by the sport's governing body. The Pakistan Cricket Board has confirmed it has received an official objection from the International Cricket Council over the legitimacy of the fast bowler's deliveries. But the PCB will not withdraw him from the Australia-bound squad, the secretary Shafqat Rana confirmed.

"We have received different clippings of Shoaib's bowling action from Test matches and games during the Australian tour and a letter of objection from the ICC," he said. "We have registered our protest in the reply and will not withdraw Shoaib from the team because we are not asked to do so by the ICC. We will protect him to our best ability because he is our most talented player."

According to Rana, the letter from the ICC manager of cricket operations, Clive Hitchcock, said Shoaib's case has been referred to a nine-member advisory panel on illegal deliveries which is to discuss the issue on 30 December in a tele-conference. Pakistan will be represented on the panel by its legendary fast bowler and World Cup-winning captain Imran Khan.

The ICC referee, John Reid, of New Zealand, who officiated the recent Pakistan-Australia series in November, had conveyed his suspicions over Shoaib's action to the game's governing body. "A panel of experts has watched the footage and they are convinced that there's no problem in Shoaib's action. His arm is straight at the time of delivery," Rana said.

Shoaib refused to comment but Rana added: "This looks absurd and we have objected that the conference be held on 26 December or after the Tri-series in Australia." Pakistan will return to Australia on 29 December to compete in a triangular limited overs tournament also involving their bitter rivals India.

The bowling action of the 24-year-old, dubbed the Rawalpindi Express for his fiery pace, was first questioned by the Australian umpires Ross Emerson and Terry Prue in early November. After the series, the Australian newspapers claimed a video of Shoaib's bowling action had been sent to the ICC.

Pakistan withdrew another fast bowler, Shabbir Ahmed, from the first leg of the Australian tour after the ICC had in October advised them to improve his bowling action.

The Australian captain, Steve Waugh, has called on the sport's ruling body to find a more effective way of dealing with bowlers with suspect actions. India also raised suspicions over the action of the Australian paceman Brett Lee although the New South Wales bowler was included in the squad for the second Test with the Indians, which starts on Boxing Day in Melbourne.

n Andy Flower has retained the Zimbabwean captaincy for the tour of England starting in May, despite his team's poor showing in the recent home series against Sri Lanka.

Zimbabwe squad, Digest, page 23

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