Dhaka - Former Bangladesh cricket captain Mohammad Ashraful has received a lifeline on Monday after a special appeal panel reduced his lengthy ban by three years allowing him to return to competitive cricket as early as August 2016.
The 30-year-old cricketer was originally slapped with an eight-year ban from all forms of cricket in June this year after he was found guilty of match fixing by a tribunal set up by the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB).
But an disciplinary appeal panel "set aside" the sanction and reduced the ban to five years including two-year suspended sentence provided the star batsman participates in the "anti-corruption education and training programme to be organised by the BCB and the ICC (International Cricket Council)."
Ashraful would now "be entitled to return to cricket on or about 13 August 2016 upon production of a certificate of good conduct from ICC," the panel said in its verdict.
There was no comment from the batsman, arguably the country's most famous sportsman before he fell from grace last year after admitting match-fixing during the 2013 edition of the local twenty-20 cricket meet called Bangladesh Premier League (BPL).
The panel also reduced the ban of Sri Lankan cricketer Kaushal Lokuarachchi by six months,allowing him to play cricket from August this year. Earlier he was banned for 18 months..
In a joint statement, the ICC and BCB said they would be "carefully reviewing" the verdict and would "decide on their next steps, including whether or not to appeal".
The authorities, however, hailed the panel's ruling to impose ten-year ban on Salim Chowdhury, the owner of the reigning BPL champions, Dhaka Gladiators, who had been reprieved by the tribunal. The 10-year ban imposed on Chowdhury's son and co-owner of the Gladiators Shihab Jishan Chowdhury, was upheld.
The scam came to light in May last year when Ashraful, the one-time prodigy, tearfully admitted having helped fix matches in the tournament, which has been tainted by scandal since its inception.
Ashraful played 61 Tests, 177 one-day internationals and 23 T20 international matches.
After the ban was imposed in June, he said he would return to the game one-day after completing the ban.
"I'll be back to the field even for a day for all these people (who supported me)," he said.
Lou Vincent, former New Zealand international cricketer who played for the Khulna Royals side in the BPL, did not appeal his three-year ban.