Pakistan news December 7, 2009

ICC World XI could play Pakistan to raise funds

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The financial crunch currently engulfing the PCB, a fallout of the Lahore terror attacks on the Sri Lankan team in March and the subsequent banishment of Pakistan as an international cricket venue, dominated proceedings at the first meeting between an ICC task force and the board in Dubai. As a result, there has emerged the possibility of a series between Pakistan and an ICC World XI to help raise funds to sustain cricket in the terror-struck country.

The PCB gave a detailed presentation to the five-man task force about how it has been hit by the terror attacks, and particularly how revenue from a broadcasting deal with Ten Sports will take a big hit not only because teams will not play in Pakistan in the near future, but also because ties with India are currently on hold. Losses of up to US$125 million have been claimed by the PCB as a series of tours have been relocated, postponed and cancelled. In just over a year, Pakistan has also lost hosting rights of the 2008 Champions Trophy and the 2011 World Cup because of security concerns.

Ijaz Butt, chairman PCB, said that during the meeting with the ICC ways to soften the impact on development work in Pakistan were discussed. "We made a detailed presentation to the ICC task force of our own views on the situation," Butt told reporters at Gaddafi Stadium. "So far we have suffered a lot of losses because of postponements, relocations and cancellations and that is having an impact on domestic and junior cricket. We have losses of nearly 71% of our total revenues, amounting to US$125 million. Task force members were informed of the measures taken by PCB to combat these challenges."

The board was in any case in a bad way financially when Butt took over but a five-year TV deal with Ten Sports, worth approximately US$140 million was meant to have eased the situation somewhat. The terror attacks have put paid to that for now. As an example of how bad the situation is, it is believed that the board is not using Kookaburra balls in domestic cricket because they are too expensive

Two possible windows for Pakistan-World XI matches have been also been discussed, either in the UK immediately after the World Twenty20 next year in April, or in November-December, in the UAE

The meeting was more for brainstorming ideas rather than producing concrete proposals. One such idea, Cricinfo understands, is a series of limited over matches - ODI or T20s - between an ICC World XI and Pakistan in the UK or the Middle East next year. Two possible windows have been also been discussed, either in the UK immediately after the World Twenty20 next year in April, or in November-December, in the UAE. As well as raising revenue for the PCB, the series is intended to highlight the cricket fraternity's support for Pakistan.

Much of the meeting revolved around the issue of the board's depleted funds and little substantial discussion was held on ways to get international cricket back to Pakistan; that, it seems to have been acknowledged, was something outside the control of cricket boards for now.

Unsurprisingly, ways to revive ties between India and Pakistan were also examined; India and Pakistan have entered another phase of not playing each other, after the Mumbai terror attacks last year resulted in a cooling of political ties between the countries. It is an important rivalry for Pakistan. Butt said that the PCB lost US$40 million as a result of India cancelling a tour to Pakistan in January 2009. A large chunk of the Ten Sports deal, it is believed, was based on India playing Pakistan. There was, however, a general consensus at the meetings that India needs Pakistan as well, for it remains a financially lucrative contest. Butt said there were "no developments" on the possibility of playing India at neutral venues, only that all aspects of Pakistan's current and future FTP were discussed.

The task force, which comprises Ranjan Madugalle, Ramiz Raja, Mike Brearley, Dave Richardson and Giles Clarke, will now take the ideas further and make a list of recommendations to the ICC. "Our presentation and discussion has happened," Butt said. "They asked us for information on our FTP and domestic cricket. Now future meetings can happen or they can discuss among themselves and make recommendations. The option of playing at a neutral venue is there, so I think we will be given due space in the FTP."

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo