Former Pakistani bowling greats Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar, currently in India as a part of Star Sports’ commentary team for the ongoing India-South Africa series, will return to Pakistan before the last One-Day International (ODI) in Mumbai on Sunday, October 25.
The development came a day after the International Cricket Council (ICC) was forced to withdraw Pakistani umpire Aleem Dar from the remaining two matches in the ongoing five-match ODI series, reported ESPNcricinfo. Dar, a member of the Elite Panel of ICC Umpires, officiated in the first three ODIs and was also scheduled to umpire the next two in Chennai and Mumbai on October 22 and 25.
As a result, India’s Sundaram Ravi replaced Dar as the umpire for the fourth ODI. As per ICC norms, one neutral umpire is a must in any bilateral series but in Chennai, both on-field officials will be from the host country.
“Due to the close proximity of fixtures Sundaram Ravi, a member of the Elite Panel of ICC Umpires, had previously been selected for the Pakistan versus England series, but will now stand in the fourth ODI between India and South Africa in Chennai on Thursday,” the ICC said in a statement.
The ICC said the move was necessitated by “exceptional circumstances” and both the BCCI and Cricket South Africa have agreed that two Indian umpires will stand in this game.
Dar’s withdrawal came after around 70 Shiv Sena activists stormed the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) office in Mumbai on Monday. They protested in front of BCCI president Shashank Manohar, asking him not to resume cricketing ties between India and Pakistan.
Manohar was supposed to meet Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Shaharyar Khan on Monday to discuss a proposed India-Pakistan series in December. The Shiv Sena activists shouted anti-Pakistan slogans and demanded the cancellation of the series.
Akhtar and Akram have pulled out over security concerns and will fly back to Pakistan on Friday, a day after the fourth ODI and two days before the Mumbai match. Akram’s agent Arsalan Haider confirmed that the pair would commentate in Chennai before leaving India.
(With inputs from PTI)