Former Hong Kong cricket captain Tanwir Afzal has broken his silence on accusations he sparked a mutiny within the senior team, saying he never encouraged any player to pull out of the squad.
Tanwir, 31, said he was happy to play for Hong Kong again but was angered by rumours he persuaded three experienced players - Babar Hayat, Ehsan Nawaz and Tanveer Ahmed - to withdraw from the squad days before they were set to leave for a T20 warm-up event in Oman and ahead of October's ICC T20 World Cup qualifier in United Arab Emirates.
The new-ball bowler and middle-order batsman, who himself pulled out because he was only named as a reserve, said the trio made the decision on their own.
"I never asked anyone to pull out of the squad," said Tanwir, who said he initially kept silent because he did not want to distract the team from their ultimately unsuccessful qualifying campaign in UAE.
"They all had their own reasons for not playing. The brothers (Ehsan and Tanveer) were unhappy at the environment created within the Hong Kong team.
"I told them to reconsider their decision, I never encouraged it. We are teammates at the Pakistan Association so they made me out as if I was the leader. I play for Hong Kong out of passion, not for money, so I'll be happy to play for Hong Kong again if they ask me."
Tanwir, Ehsan and Tanveer were subsequently released from their contracts with Cricket Hong Kong. Babar had lost his contract in the summer after he played in the Global T20 Canada tournament in July and August.
Hong Kong, fielding a largely young team and captained by Aizaz Khan, lost their first three matches in UAE but then won three in a row to qualify for the play-offs against Oman, with the winners advancing to the World Cup finals in Australia next year. Hong Kong, though, were beaten in the decider.
Babar, an explosive batsman who succeeded Tanwir as captain, said his decision to pull out of the tour was his alone and had nothing to do with Tanwir.
"I had family issues and I didn't have a contract with the HKCA (Cricket Hong Kong)," Babar said. "I had three meetings with them but wasn't offered a contract so that was the reason for me to pull out.
"I was told (at the time) that they would only start reviewing contracts in November, so that's when I made my decision. I have a family to look after, I have apologised to HKCA but told them I'm available when they next need me."
Ehsan, when asked if he was influenced by Tanwir, replied: "It was my own decision."
Cricket Hong Kong's high-performance manager Mark Farmer was asked if Tanwir would be welcomed back into the Hong Kong set-up but had yet to respond.
Babar was one of three Hong Kong players who secured franchises for the Global T20 Canada tournament, the others being Anshuman Rath and Ehsan Nawaz. Rath was Hong Kong captain at the time but weeks after the tournament switched allegiance to India.
Earlier this year, top batsman Nizakat Khan lost his Hong Kong contract because he was unable to travel with the team to Namibia for the ICC World League Division Two tournament in April.
According to Tanwir, Nizakat had taken his sick father to Pakistan for cancer treatment but later had his contract renewed after new coach Trent Johnston heard his case.
Hong Kong cricket are trying to rebuild after losing their one-day international status.
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