Australia open to more T20s in Pakistan series
Australia and Pakistan could ask the ICC for permission to stage the longest bilateral Twenty20 international series ever played later this year. The two countries are due to meet for a series of five ODIs and three T20s in August, but finding a suitable venue has proven difficult for Pakistan, especially given the extreme heat in the UAE at that time of year.
Malaysia is being considered as another potential venue but if the UAE is chosen, the major problem would be starting a 50-over contest in the blistering afternoon sunshine. A solution could be to abandon or reduce the ODI portion of the tour and expand the T20 schedule, which would allow games to start later at night and would also provide both sides with valuable extra preparation ahead of September's ICC World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka.
The PCB is believed to have suggested a seven-match T20 series, which has been rejected by the ICC, but a five-game series could yet be proposed. The ICC has capped the amount of matches allowed in a bilateral T20 series at three, and while no international series of more games has ever been staged, national boards are permitted to put forward proposals for longer tours if there are special circumstances.
The ICC has already increased the number of T20s a country may play in a World Twenty20 year from 12 to 15, to allow better preparation for the tournament. But an individual series of more than three games would still need ICC approval, and Cricket Australia's chief executive James Sutherland said it was a potential option for the PCB and Cricket Australia to explore for the August series.
"Pakistan have had some issues with determining a venue for the series," Sutherland said. "Part of that perhaps relates to weather issues and challenges with heat if it happens to be played in the UAE. It makes sense as a follow-up to that, if the matches are played there, in order to avoid the heat you reduce the number of one-day internationals you play, and you play Twenty20s [instead].
"We haven't had any formal discussions about that but at some stage it may well be that we need to talk to the ICC about that. There is good reason why the ICC has decided that only a limited number of Twenty20 matches can be played in one particular series. But in the first instance it's up to Pakistan to determine the format of the series that they think is going to work out. They need a venue first. It may well be we then put a formal proposition to the ICC that in exceptional circumstances it might be an option that they look favourably on."
The ICC's outgoing chief executive Haroon Lorgat, who was in Melbourne to present Sutherland and Cricket Australia with the ICC ODI shield, would not be drawn on the potential for a long T20 series between Australia and Pakistan. He said the ICC had already provided scope for countries to squeeze more T20s in this year, though not necessarily through longer series.
"In a World Twenty20 we have already agreed to extend the 12 maximum to 15," Lorgat said. "So in this particular year, any member can play 15 T20 internationals."
Australia have played only four T20s this year and their upcoming tour of England consists only of one-day internationals. Pakistan have so far played five T20s in 2012, and they have no more on their schedule besides the Australia series. Australia's T20 captain, George Bailey, said the more matches his side could play together the better, given the extensive changes to Australia's short-format side in the past year.
"It would certainly be nice to play a couple, if nothing else to settle a team and to really settle on a line-up," Bailey said. "I've got no doubt that whether they're scheduled or not, once we get over to Sri Lanka and prepare, the preparation will be fine."
Sri Lanka had originally been the likely venue for the Pakistan-Australia series but they withdrew their invitation to host the teams when it became apparent the Sri Lanka Premier League would take place at the same time. Intikhab Alam, the PCB's director for international operations, has travelled to Kuala Lumpur and the UAE in the past two weeks to assess potential venues for the series.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here