IPL shadow over Sri Lanka's Pakistan tour
Pakistan's proposed series of ODIs with Sri Lanka has hit the rocks before even properly setting sail because of a probable clash of dates with the Indian Premier League (IPL). Though the PCB said it will ensure the best side available for the series - tacitly acknowledging there might be a clash - it appears likely the series will be postponed to protect the IPL, which will raise further questions about whether a window needs to be found in the international calendar for the league.
The bilateral series was hurriedly agreed upon a couple of days ago with Arjuna Ranatunga, chairman of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), accepting an invitation from his Pakistan counterpart Nasim Ashraf in Lahore, as Pakistan rushed to fill the gaps in their calendar left by Australia's pull-out from a full tour in March-April.
Though dates were not decided, reports suggested that the series would go ahead between April 23 and May 5, after Sri Lanka complete their tour of the Caribbean. However, the IPL begins on April 18 and a number of players from both sides are involved.
The IPL has told heads of various franchises that players from both sides will be available for the tournament and has urged them to work according to plan. Franchise heads have been assured that the IPL has the cooperation of both boards, who plan to schedule the series after the IPL ends on June 1.
Nasim Ashraf, the PCB chairman, strenuously denied the IPL had come in the way of the series, but admitted a window was yet to be found. "You will have to ask the IPL [about whether assurances had been given], because I have no knowledge of that at all," Ashraf told Cricinfo. "This is our schedule and it has nothing to do with the IPL."
But no dates for the series could be pinpointed and the April-May window was not mentioned. "In principle, SLC have accepted our invitation. The question is of finding dates," Ashraf said. "Tentatively, June is an option, but essentially sorting out dates is up to us."
Duleep Mendis, the SLC chief executive, says the board is not even aware of the series. "It was just a suggestion, I believe, from Pakistan," he told Cricinfo. "But nothing has been discussed yet, and there has been no confirmation in this regard. Officially, such a tour is not on the cards yet. We don't know anything about this tour."
Despite assurances, some franchises remain concerned at the prospect of losing out on star players, if only for a couple of weeks. Deccan Chargers, the Hyderabad IPL team who have Shahid Afridi, Chaminda Vaas, Nuwan Zoysa and Chamara Silva, are worried about the proposed series and hope that it will be rescheduled. But Vijay Mohan Raj, the franchise's chief executive, says they have not taken up the issue with the IPL council.
"Of course, the series would be a huge worry for us," Raj told Cricinfo. "It's not fair. We were informed clearly about who would be available during the first auction, and we bought our players depending on that. This series, if it happens, will change everything. We are hoping that it is rescheduled."
When it can be rescheduled to is another matter. The only window is between June 1, when the IPL concludes, and June 24, when the Asia Cup - also to be held in Pakistan - begins. But the extreme summer temperatures in most of Pakistan during June seemingly rule out that period, unless the entire series consists of day-night matches in Karachi.
After the Asia Cup, Sri Lanka are due to host India for a series of three Tests and five ODIs, which will take them to the end of August. In September Pakistan is scheduled to host the ICC Champions Trophy.