LAHORE   -   Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has waived off the remaining two-and-a-half years ban of Sharjeel Khan, paving his way to make a comeback in top-level cricket.

The left-handed opener offered “unconditional apology” for “irresponsible conduct that brought embarrassment to everyone” and asked for forgiveness. However, the carefully drafted apology didn’t include a clear-cut admission of guilt. He was asked repeatedly by the media personnel, if he wished to apologize for his involvement in spot-fixing, but Sharjeel ignored those queries.

Admission of guilt is a mandatory condition before a player could be brought back into the system. Nonetheless, PCB did consider this apology as an admission of guilt and his suspended sentence was waived off. Sharjeel will now undergo a rehabilitation progamme.

“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,” Sharjeel said.

“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 the 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,” he added.

The 29-year-old will now attend and deliver anti-corruption lectures and visit orphanages as part of his rehabilitation program. The final phase would “integration sessions” with the national squad.

Sharjeel was banned for involvement in spot-fixing during a Pakistan Super League game. He and Khalif Latif were found guilty of breaching PCB’s anti-corruption code. Sharjeel was given a 5-year ban with 2.5 years suspended, while Khalid Latif a 5-year ban with no chance of waiver. Shahzaib Hasan and Nasir Jamshed were also given long term bans for their involvement. While Mohammad Nawaz and Mohammad Irfan were given short term bans for not reporting approaches of corruption.

Over the past couple of years, Sharjeel and his lawyers have denied all charges. He challenged his ban to an independent arbitrator and then in court. But his appeals were rejected. Finally, he decided to approach the PCB seeking a waiver of the remaining period of the ban. In what seems to be another lenient move by the PCB, Sharjeel will be allowed to undergo rehabilitation and reintegration process simultaneously. Usually, the reintegration process begins after rehabilitation.

Lt Col (R) Asif Mahmood, director of the PCB’s security and the anti-corruption unit, 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,” he added. There is a precedent of Mohammad Amir returning to the Pakistan side after finishing his ban as recently as 2016. Sharjeel Khan will be hoping he follows course soon.