Pakistan news July 15, 2011

ICC Task Team to visit Pakistan

A visit by the ICC's Pakistan Task Team (PTT) to Pakistan is on the cards, though details of the scope and nature of the trip as well as the timing are yet to be finalised. The development comes after the PTT's report on Pakistan cricket was criticised by the PCB on two counts, among others: the timing of its submission, and the observation that other than the visit of an individual member, the task team had not actually set foot in the country before putting together the report.

That criticism has especially stung the ICC though officials insist that the trip is not a direct consequence of that and had been on the cards for some time. It is unclear yet, however, who will visit and when; the Guardian reports that Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman and head of the PTT, might do so. Haroon Lorgat, the ICC's chief executive, will almost certainly be part of any such delegation and has been a regular visitor to Pakistan; his last trip was just before the World Twenty20 in 2010.

What will be on the agenda is also not yet known. But it is difficult to imagine that some discussion on the broadest recommendations of the report - on the politicised nature of PCB governance and the system of appointment of the board chairman by the patron, the country's president - will not form part of it. Meetings with the highest political offices in the country will not be ruled out. The PCB will be keen to revive discussion on security matters and the return of international cricket, an issue they feel was given little space in the report.

The development has emerged at a time of growing divergence between the PCB and ICC over the 38-page report, which made 63 recommendations for what, in effect, amounts to a re-haul of the game and its governance in Pakistan. That the Pakistan board was not particularly taken in by the report was evident in their long and detailed public response - their own observations - made earlier this week. The board said the report was a "scholarly exercise" and took a dig at the fact that nobody other than Dave Richardson, the ICC's general manager and a PTT member, had even come to Pakistan. It also said the report contained factual errors and that a number of recommendations were "superfluous or redundant".

The prospect of ICC officials visiting Pakistan had been discussed earlier in meetings between the two bodies on the issue of the ICC governance-clause amendment, which calls for political interference in cricket boards to end, effectively by 2013. That was an amendment against which the PCB sent the ICC a legal notice in May, ahead of the ICC annual conference; along with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, the PCB is one of the boards most affected by the change.

In those meetings in Dubai before the annual conference, the two sides agreed to extend the deadline given to boards to implement the changes and the ICC expressed its willingness to visit Pakistan and discuss the changes with president Asif Ali Zardari. The clause was voted in at the annual conference without any objection from any board, though incidentally, the legal notice has not been withdrawn but lies inactive currently.

It has also emerged that the PCB was unhappy at the timing of the release of the report. The PCB had requested the ICC not to make the report public until their response to it had been submitted. The ICC, however, put the entire report online on July 6, leading the Pakistan board to go public with their own observations.

In his defence of the report, Lorgat said that the PCB's chief operating officer Subhan Ahmed had been given the report "more than a week prior to the ICC executive board meeting in Hong Kong [in the last week of June] ... and provided only minor observations which were incorporated into the final report."

The PCB disputes this version. Though officials agreed that the report was given to Ahmed, they claimed it was understood at that stage that any observations would be informal and preliminary; in fact they claimed only Ahmed was allowed to see the report and was given less than 24 hours to comment on it. "This is something the chairman needs to see and give feedback on as well as the board of governors and not just one person," a board official told ESPNcricinfo. The ICC denies this was the case.

In any case, some broad observations were given to the ICC and, by the time officials flew out to Hong Kong, incorporated in the report. The report was officially presented at the annual conference in June. At the time, PCB officials said they would respond to it with their own observations. ESPNcricinfo understands that the PCB then asked the ICC on return from the meeting "to not put the report up on the website as the board was going to prepare their observations."

That it was published before formal observations were given has upset the PCB. An ICC official said that the report had been released online because "in the interests of transparency we publish all reports." A senior Pakistani official insisted that the issue wasn't the publication of the report. "We feel they should've done it once we had officially submitted our observations. Now they say we have discredited the report with our observations."

As a fall-out of this episode, believes the PCB, the ICC has tried to limit further damage and indicated their willingness to send the PTT to Pakistan in the near future.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of ESPNcricinfo