Controversial fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar's international career was on Wednesday left hanging in balance after an appellate tribunal upheld the five-year ban imposed on him but allowed him to play in the cash-rich Indian Premier League.
But his position in the Twenty20 extravaganza still remained uncertain with IPL Commissioner and Chairman Lalit Modi saying the governing council of the IPL would take a decision after receiving the tribunal's order.
In a carefully worded statement, the tribunal said the ban would remain in place until the tribunal concludes its proceedings but allowed Shoaib to play anywhere else in the world, including the Indian Premier League.
But since the ban has not been vacated as desired by Shoaib's lawyers and despite his dramatic public apology on Monday, for the moment his career appears to be at a dead end.
Justice (retd) Aftab Farrukh, who heads the tribunal, told reporters after a hearing at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore that the ban would stay until further proceedings, which will resume in June.
He said the lawyers for Shoaib had argued for suspending the ban but the tribunal felt circumstances did not allow for this.
"We don't think he has tried to reform himself. He has apparently repeatedly violated discipline and embarrassed the Board, his teammates and the nation," Farrukh said.
The observations by the retired judge of the Lahore High Court basically means that even the tribunal is undecided about the case and not convinced by Shoaib's public apology made before it on Monday.
Farrukh, however, said in interest of fairplay the tribunal had decided to allow Shoaib to play outside Pakistan for any team.
"He can't play anywhere in Pakistan or for Pakistan domestically or internationally. But there is no bar on him playing anywhere else in the world," Farrukh said.
"This is also the order of the disciplinary committee of the Board," he added.
The interim order basically appears to be a move to allow Shoaib to play in the Indian Premier League.
But Modi told 'Geo News' that the governing council of the IPL would take a decision on whether to allow Shoaib to play in the IPL later on.
"I am not ready to give a statement as yet. I am still trying to get my governing council on board and I will try to get everybody's opinion before saying anything on the tribunal order," Modi said.
He also confirmed that PCB Chairman Nasim Ashraf had spoken to him and informed him that Shoaib had been allowed to play in the IPL.
"We still have to look at the order copy and other things. He is still banned from playing in Pakistan. My question is why outside Pakistan, why not can he play in Pakistan. We have to still examine the implications. It is not a simple case," Modi said.
The IPL had earlier barred him from playing in the T20 tournament in the interest of "international discipline" after the PCB's initial decision to hand him the ban.
A source said IPL's position on Akhtar, who was bought by the Kolkata IPL team for Rs 2 crore, remained the same as of now.
In case, the IPL bars him from playing in the League, the rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL) could become one of the options for Shoaib.
Many experts feel the IPL will find itself in troubled waters and hard to justify allowing Shoaib to play just days after it banned off-spinner Harhajan Singh for slapping his Indian teammate S Sreesanth.
"I don't see the IPL allowing him in. It will put them in a very embarrassing position trying to justify things because Shoaib remains a banned player in Pakistan," former Test captain Javed Miandad said.
Former captain Zaheer Abbas said he was sad with the way Shoaib's career had taken a downslide. "He is such a talented player but unfortunately he has always had problems with authority. I still say the five-year ban is harsh but yes he has to be disciplined. At this time, I don't see a very bright future for him as he is already 32," Zaheer said.
Shoaib had also missed last year's main World Cup and the Twenty20 World Cup due to fitness and disciplinary issues and was banned for 13-matches and fined 3.4 million rupees for striking teammate Mohmmad Asif with a bat in South Africa.
Shoaib, who has played 46 Tests, had also made a public apology then and accepted a two-year probation imposed on him by the Board's disciplinary committee.
It was the probation that eventually led to the five-year ban on him for continued violations of discipline.