Sialkot ask PCB to push for Champions League spot
The Sialkot Regional Cricket Association has requested the PCB to make efforts to enable the participation of Sialkot Stallions, the Pakistan domestic Twenty20 champions, in the cash-rich Champions League Twenty20. The PCB, in turn, has said that Sialkot's participation is dependent on the restoration of bilateral ties between India and Pakistan.
Pakistan is the only major Test-playing nation to not have had teams in either the qualifiers or the main round of the Champions League since its inception in 2009. Sialkot were invited to the inaugural edition of the tournament towards the end of 2008, but it was postponed after the terror attacks in Mumbai in November that year. The fall-out of those attacks strained the political relationship between India and Pakistan, and consequently, the cricketing one between the BCCI and the PCB. Pakistan players are excluded from the Indian Premier League as well.
"I hope PCB follows this up with the organisers and efforts are made to give Sialkot Stallions a chance to represent their country in the Champions League," Shoaib Malik, the Sialkot captain, said after his side won the Faysal Bank Super Eight T-20 Cup in Rawalpindi.
"It is disappointing and sad. Sialkot is a terrific Twenty20 team," Malik said. "We never got an opportunity to represent Pakistan in the Champions League and prove its worth against the domestic T20 champions of other countries. I think the players deserve a chance to play against the best and prove themselves.
"Pakistan is an important cricket-playing country and have won two World titles," Malik said. "Everyone is playing in the Champions League then why Pakistan is being ignored.
"The onus is on the ICC. They are the governing body and they have to step up to maintain the equilibrium in cricket world."
Sialkot are Pakistan's most successful T20 team and hold both the national and super-eight T20 titles. They have players like Malik, Imran Nazir, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan and Abdur Rehman.
The PCB has been pushing for the inclusion of sides from Pakistan since the inaugural edition of the Champions League. The board officials believe it is the BCCI that has a major role to play and has so far showed a cold response to all issues, including the revival of bilateral ties between Pakistan and India.
"Obviously we want our team to be there and play like other teams are," Subhan Ahmed, the PCB chief operating officer, told ESPNcricinfo. "The decision to invite us is something that is in their hands. We can't force them. We had widely raised this issue on various forums but I believe the only difficultly we are facing is the bilateral ties with India and everything is connected with it.
"Once the bilateral ties between Pakistan and India are revived, all these issues will automatically be resolved. So our priority is to revive the Indo-Pak cricket."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent