Pakistan may protest Champions League exclusion
Pakistan are expected to raise the issue of their continued snub from the Champions League Twenty20 at the ICC annual meeting later this month in Hong Kong. The Champions League unveiled its schedule and a new format for this year's tournament on Monday, a ten-team tournament to be held in India in September and October, preceded by a six-team qualifying stage.
This season sees the return of teams from England for the qualifying stages, but as expected no team from Pakistan has been invited. That leaves them as the only major Test nation without representation in the tournament; Bangladesh are the only other full member without a team in the mix. The ICC has also proposed an annual window in the next FTP - from 2012 to 2020 - to accommodate the Champions League.
Officially the PCB chose not to respond to the snub, but one official said that the issue would not be left alone. "We plan to have full scale discussions during the ICC AGM later this month about our exclusion," he told ESPNcricinfo. The board has, according to the official, already raised the issue "indirectly" with other boards, as well as the ICC.
They have not yet, however, been in contact with the three boards that run the event, those of India, Australia and South Africa. "The response from the Indian side is very cold and we have not discussed this with CA or CSA because the BCCI calls the shots and it is no use discussing it with others," the official said. An official from the Champions League was contacted but no response was forthcoming.
The muted public response is in a way indicative of Pakistan's confused approach to one of the game's most lucrative tournaments. A team from Pakistan - the then champions Sialkot Stallions - was invited to the inaugural edition of the tournament at the end of 2008, but that was postponed after the Mumbai terror attacks in November that year. The fall-out of those attacks was a deteriorating political relationship between India and Pakistan, and a cricketing one between the BCCI and PCB. The invitation was withdrawn for the 2009 event.
Last year, the PCB chairman Ijaz Butt first said Pakistan would be open to sending a team to the second tournament, before ruling out that possibility less than two weeks later and then finally denying, two months later, that he had ruled out participation and expressing his disappointment.
The snub comes days before Pakistan's own, new domestic T20 tournament gets underway in Faisalabad (from June 24). The tournament is a new addition to the domestic calendar, cashing in on the immense popularity of the format in Pakistan and in particular its own T20 tournament over the last few years. This version is a kind of champions league itself, open only to the top eight domestic sides (according to their standings in the main T20 tournament earlier in the season).
Despite a recent dip in form, Pakistan is counted among the top Twenty20 sides in the world, having won the world title in 2009, finished runners-up in 2007 and only been denied a final spot in 2010 after a freakish innings from Michael Hussey.
This also means that the ICC AGM will be a particularly significant one for Pakistan. In addition to the issue over the exclusion from the Champions League, the matter of the PCB's legal notice to the ICC over governance will fall under the spotlight, as well as the board's objection to the proposed changes to the presidential appointment system.
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of ESPNcricinfo