Mortaza stressed he never pressurised the selectors to pick Sabbir for the tour. Getty

The controversy regarding the selection of Sabbir Rahman isn't losing steam with Chief selector Minhajul Abedin and Mashrafe Mortaza coming up with contradictory statements. Sabbir was picked for the tour of New Zealand despite his ban, by the Bangladesh Cricket Board, extending till February 28.

The batsman had been suspended for his off-field issues in September last year after he allegedly threatened a fan on Facebook. Abedin stressed Sabbir was picked at the recommendation of the Bangladesh ODI captain. "We were informed by the disciplinary committee that he is available [for selection] and after we got the clearance we included him in the squad. He is available from January 31 as the committee has reduced his ban by one month," he said.

"Let me make clear one thing about Sabbir. He was included due to the strong insistence of the captain [Mortaza]. He firmly requested us to include him, and we have agreed with the captain.

"The team wants someone in the squad who can bat lower in the order with the ability to handle the pacers well. We have included him keeping the New Zealand tour and the World Cup in mind. Let us see what he can do. The captain of the team and we are also confident about him."

Mortaza, however, has now countered Abedin's words categorically stating he never pressurised the selectors to pick Sabbir for the tour. "The selectors are the sole authority on choosing any player. They wanted my opinion and I gave it to them with cricketing logic. I never told them that they must take Sabbir. They were probably convinced with my opinion and that's why they picked him," he pointed out.

Meanwhile, in a strange turn of events, BCB's disciplinary committee chairman Sheikh Sohel denied having any knowledge of Sabbir's ban being reduced. "As far as I am concerned, Sabbir was handed a six-month ban. Now I came to know his ban was reduced. I don't have any information about reducing his ban," he clarified. "But yes, if he had appealed to the BCB president, that is a different thing."

Sabbir has had his fair share of issues off the field. He had been accused of assaulting a fan during a National Cricket League match in Rajshahi, directing abuses at fans on social media and hitting Mehidy Hasan during the Afghanistan series. Before this ban was imposed on Sabbir, he was already serving a six-month ban from domestic cricket and had also been fined TK 20 lakhs by the board.