LAHORE: Pakistan batsman Umar Akmal on Wednesday claimed that head coach Mickey Arthur had verbally abused him in front of chief selector Inzamamul Haq. He further claimed that Arthur was also abusive towards other players. “Senior players did not stop the coach when I was being verbally abused. The coach told me to play club-level cricket instead of coming to the academy. I was dropped from the team after an unjustified warning,” Akmal told reporters at a press conference here. Akmal said he was ‘insulted’ by the head coach and deprived of the opportunity to “improve myself”. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) instantly took note of his outburst, issuing a show-cause notice demanding he respond within a fortnight. Akmal was originally named in the national high performance camp organised at the National Cricket Academy (NCA), but pulled out citing a knee injury. According to him, he had informed the relevant officials – including head coach Mushtaq Ahmed – and excused himself for five weeks, during which he intended to undergo rehabilitation with his private trainer in England. Despite returning earlier than expected, the camp had already concluded. While Akmal wished to rejoin the daily training sessions at the NCA with the national coaches, the staff said they were presently working with contracted players to prepare them ahead of their domestic and international assignments. “I had gone to England for rehabilitation of my knee injury,” Akmal said. “After I recovered, I went to the NCA to start working on my fitness and training. But the coaching staff doesn’t want to work with me at all. When I asked why all those international coaches didn’t want to work with me, they responded that they wanted to prioritise working with players who had central contracts. I said that I too am an international Pakistan cricketer, and if my fitness is lacking – and I admit that along the way my fitness has been found wanting – they should help me. I then went to talk to the chief selector (Inzamam), but he referred me to Arthur. Arthur took me back to Inzi bhai’s room and started scolding me and using bad language in front of Inzi bhai, which I found demeaning and insulting. It’s not even my fault, and I find it painful that anyone should be allowed to swear at me. I accept my fitness isn’t up to the mark, and I am trying to work on it, and I asked to be allowed a trainer to help me. But Mickey said I shouldn’t even have come to the NCA, and should be playing club cricket instead.” Akmal said Arthur shouldn’t be swearing at him like he was abusing all of Pakistan. “You look at any cricket match, and you’ll see he’s swearing at one player or the other. I want to reveal this to the public and to all my fans. I request PCB chairman Najam Sethi to take this issue very seriously. When the head coach is allowed to swear at someone whenever they wish, that is unacceptable. As a Pakistani, I could not stomach it.” Arthur confirmed that he did exchange words with Akmal the other day, and informed him that as he was no more a contracted player, he needed to earn back the right to use the facility at the national level. “I did tell Akmal a few home truths and said he was always looking for excuses instead of looking at himself,” Arthur said. “I also told him that he had to earn the right to use our support staff because he is not a contracted cricketer. He can’t just walk in here and demand what he wants.” Arthur has, over the last year of his contract, made improving Pakistan’s fitness standards a central focus of his coaching tenure. On various occasions, he has been candid, and at times censorious, when airing his views about the fitness of a number of Pakistan players, including Akmal. The PCB is understood to have thrown its support behind his fitness campaign, and given him free hand to axe players who did not meet his fitness standards. This latest controversy began when Akmal was sent back home from England after failing two fitness tests leading up to the Champions Trophy, despite initially being included in the squad. Akmal had previously been dropped from a tour of the West Indies in April for similar reasons. He was excluded from that squad after he was the only player, out of 31, to fail the fitness test during a camp held at the NCA in March. With Arthur’s position stronger than it has arguably been at any point in his stint as Pakistan coach in the wake of the side’s Champions Trophy triumph, it is difficult to presently see how Akmal could come out on top in this exchange. However, with the flamboyant cricketer never far from the news, only a fool would believe this to be the last chapter in Akmal’s cricketing tale. Published in Daily Times, August 17th 2017.