PCB waives Sharjeel Khan's suspended sentence following 'unconditional apology'

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Sharjeel Khan is set to return to top-flight cricket by the end of the year after he met with the PCB and both parties agreed on a roadmap for his return. For the first time since he was banned, Sharjeel offered an 'unconditional apology' for 'irresponsible conduct that brought embarrassment to everyone' and asked for forgiveness.

Sharjeel did not specifically address what he was admitting guilt to, even evading repeated media enquiries on the matter after his statement had been submitted. But it appeared enough of an admission of guilt for the PCB, who announced for their part the Sharjeel's suspended sentence would be waived and he would undergo complete rehabilitation to allow him to reintegrate into cricket.

Addressing reporters outside the Gaddafi Stadium, Sharjeel said: 'I offer my unconditional apology to the Pakistan Cricket Board, my team-mates, fans and family for the irresponsible conduct that brought embarrassment to everyone. I request for forgiveness and assure I will show more responsibility in my future actions.

'I remind all cricketers to strictly and religiously follow the PCB Anti-Corruption Code as breaching it will only earn momentary gains but the consequences will be severe and last for rest of the career. I have agreed on the future course of action with the PCB, including helping it in its education sessions on anti-corruption. I will soon return to club cricket but will not rush into domestic cricket as I have been away for nearly 30 months and need time to reclaim my fitness and form.'

According to a PCB media release, the rehabilitation includes attending and delivering lectures on the PCB anti-corruption code, as well as visits to orphanages as part of social responsibility before he partakes in 'integration sessions' with the national team squad.

Sharjeel, 29, was banned in 2017 from all forms of cricket for his role in the spot-fixing scandal that marred the PSL's second edition. On the opening night, Sharjeel and Khalid Latif, playing for Islamabad United, were charged with five major breaches of the PCB's anti-corruption code and were found guilty on all five counts by a three-man tribunal. Sharjeel was handed the minimum mandatory punishment on each of his charges. Latif received a five-year ban, with no chance of a waiver before the period ended.

Whether Sharjeel's suspended sentence would be waived was in doubt as recently as last week, when, with his ban set to expire, the player appeared not to have admitted his guilt, shown remorse for his actions or taken part in any rehabilitation programmes.

During his ban, Sharjeel maintained his innocence and denied all charges, appealing against the ban before an independent arbitrator, and then in a High Court, only to have it rejected. Since then he has been weighing up his options, contemplating whether to challenge the ban further. But he instead chose to write to the PCB chairman Ehsan Mani, requesting him to use his discretion to waive the remainder of the ban.

That appears to have been accepted on the condition Sharjeel issue the statement he did today, with the PCB confirming that the rehabilitation and reintegration into cricket would run side-by-side. It represents something of a departure from normal protocol, where reintegration into cricket only becomes possible after the player has completed their rehab, but the PCB's stance has softened in the wake of Sharjeel's apology.

Lt Col (R) Asif Mahmood, Director - PCB Security and Anti-Corruption, said: 'We met Sharjeel today in which he showed remorse and regret for his actions. The PCB never takes pride in penalising its players, but it has a non-negotiable and zero-tolerance approach to matters relating to corruption.

'I hope this serves as a reminder to all those who think they can get away with violating rules as the PCB is vigilant and committed to eliminate the menace of corruption from the game.'

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