JOHANNESBURG Pakistan's Shoaib Akhtar has been sent home from the Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa after a bust up with team mate Mohammad Asif.
The incident, described as a "shameful episode" by Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Dr Nasim Ashraf, occurred in the nets on Thursday when a heated argument led to the 32-year-old Akhtar striking his fellow fast bowler on the thigh with a bat.
"A decision has been taken to call back Shoaib on the basis of an initial inquiry by the touring team management," PCB chief executive Shafqat Naghmi told Reuters.
Naghmi said a full inquiry would be held when Akhtar returned to Pakistan.
"Shoaib has admitted hitting Asif," he said. "Thankfully Asif didn't suffer any major injury apart from a bruise on his left thigh and he will be okay."
Akhtar told the Indian television channel NDTV: "I am feeling very bad. Sometimes you do things in a fit of temper".
No decision has yet been taken on a replacement for Akhtar, which is allowed under tournament rules, but a PCB source said paceman Mohammad Sami was being lined up.
Dr Ashraf was shocked by the incident.
"It is a shameful episode," he said. "For the time being we have supported the team management's decision to send him back but once the team returns home there will be a more detailed disciplinary hearing."
Ashraf did not rule out the possibility of Akhtar facing more disciplinary action including a possible long-term ban. He also said the board would not allow any player to violate team spirit.
"We are giving a lot of importance to discipline and any player who violates the norms has to face the consequences," he added.
National Academy coach Aaqib Javed, the former Pakistan fast bowler, said the PCB should ban Akhtar for life.
"There must be a life ban imposed on him because this is an incident that has embarrassed all of us and is a black mark for our cricket community," he said.
Former test captain Aamir Sohail said the board had taken the right decision.
"Senior players have a responsibility in the team and what Shoaib did was sad," he said. "The incident needs to be investigated thoroughly."
Akhtar has a history of run-ins with players and officials and has been reprimanded on several occasions.
He has taken 169 test and 208 one-day international wickets.
Pakistan play their first Twenty20 World Cup match against Group D rivals Scotland in Durban on Wednesday.