Pakistan news November 21, 2008

Miandad questions rationale of ICL ban

Top Curve
Case against Yousuf put on hold
  • In a further indicator of a shift in the PCB's thinking on the ICL, the legal case it developed against Mohammad Yousuf, the latest Pakistan player to join the ICL, has been put on hold.
  • Yousuf joined the Lahore Badshahs earlier this month, without having told the PCB about his decision. The board responded by tearing up his central contract; they also initiated legal proceedings against him for breach of contract and to claim legal costs the PCB incurred while trying to resolve the earlier mess Yousuf had created by signing for the ICL before turning his back on them in the hope of an IPL contract.
  • "We've put the case on hold for now," a board official told Cricinfo. "The thinking is that if we pursue the case against Yousuf, then what about the other Pakistan players in the ICL who had contracts with us?"
  • A number of players, such as Imran Farhat, Abdul Razzaq and Mohammad Sami had central contracts with the board before they signed up for the ICL in September 2007.
Bottom Curve

Javed Miandad, the former Pakistan captain and newly appointed director-general of the PCB, has joined a steadily growing chorus of concern against the ban on ICL players and the marginalisation of the unrecognised Twenty20 league. Miandad believes there is immense "public pressure" on the PCB to bring ICL players back into the Pakistan fold and "past decisions by past [PCB] administrations" have "nothing to do with the new set-up".

The PCB banned all players contracted by the ICL but Miandad said it's a policy the new board administration must reconsider, keeping in mind the "best interests" of Pakistan cricket.

Pakistan has suffered badly from the ban on ICL players imposed by boards around the world, essentially to back the BCCI in its dispute with the league and its owners. As many as 19 Pakistan players - a mix of current and former internationals - are currently appearing in the ICL and the bans on them have severely depleted Pakistan's reserves.

"There is a lot of public pressure on the PCB to bring these players back from the ICL," Miandad told Cricinfo. "The [ICL] players themselves are ready to represent Pakistan. The IPL, the ICL and all boards need to sit down and really sort this issue out," Miandad said, joining former captains-turned-administrators Arjuna Ranatunga and Clive Lloyd in expressing the need for a resolution to the issue.

Miandad's comments do not yet indicate a wholesale change in the board's policy on the issue. The previous PCB administration, under the chairmanship of Nasim Ashraf, banned players readily, in swift appeasement of the BCCI. But it is believed the current board is open to rethinking, or at least questioning, the stance.

"Past decisions were taken by past administrations," Miandad said. "They have nothing to do with this new set-up. It is something we must look at and discuss, and find out whether that policy [of the ban] had any benefit to it. We have to look at our best interests."

Miandad placed the current bans in the context of past actions, such as the bans on players who traveled to apartheid-era South Africa. "Those bans were based on an intelligent policy. What was happening there was abhorrent. What is the intent behind this ban?"

Ultimately, this is not an issue of nations but of cricket itself, Miandad said. "Even Indian players are suffering. It isn't just Pakistan players. This is a loss for cricket and cricketers and a resolution has to be brought in, in a respectful way."

With a number of ex-cricketers now in prominent positions in the board, the matter has been discussed informally inside, though it has yet to be done so as part of an official agenda. Statements, such as those given by Miandad, might be part of a new strategy to shake up the BCCI-enforced status quo.

But Miandad's employers are keen to examine the issue pragmatically as well, which means essentially they will be guided by a number of legal considerations. "The ICL is still not recognised by the ICC but the ICC believes that if the matter goes to litigation, they are not too optimistic about the case," an official said. "It is about restraint of trade essentially. And what is happening in Sri Lanka where domestic bans have been lifted and in the UK through the Kolpak ruling, that will also have an effect. If you can have one private Twenty20 league why not two?

"We will wait and see and be guided by our legal advice for our view on the matter but these factors will play a role."

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

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