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County players seek security assurances ahead of PSL final

Josh Cobb and Alex Wakely, T20 Blast winners with Northamptonshire, are among a list of players whom the PCB claim are willing to travel to Lahore Getty Images

A number of county cricketers named in a list of players who could be called upon to travel to Pakistan for the final of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) remain unsure about whether they will go. Earlier this week, the PSL decided to go ahead with staging its final in Lahore, despite a recent series of attacks across Pakistan that have claimed over 100 lives.

The five franchises were presented with a list of 54 foreign players whom the PCB claim are willing to travel to Lahore for the final. Fifteen are contracted to counties, including former England internationals Jade Dernbach and Phil Mustard. Owais Shah, who played for Hampshire in 2015 and whose last competitive match came in February 2016 in the Masters Champions League, also features. Most of the overall list is made up of players who went unsold in the first auction held in October of last year. Only Middlesex's Dawid Malan is currently playing in the competition, for Peshawar Zalmi.

The PSL had previously considered holding another draft before the final, only for foreign players who are willing to travel to Lahore, in order to buffer against the absence of those who do not want to go. But that plan has been shelved as franchises first look to convince their own overseas players to make the trip, at least until closer to March 5, for when the final is scheduled.

One such player - Kevin Pietersen, who is playing for Quetta Gladiators - has said he will wait to see if Quetta made the final before making a decision. But in the event that some or most refuse, teams will now be allowed to dip into a common pool of players, nominated by the franchises from the main list.

However, despite the PCB's claim that those on the list are ready to go, a number of the English contingent are noncommittal about travelling to Lahore if they are picked up to replace those overseas players who opt out. One player, approached for comment by ESPNcricinfo, was unaware he had even been named on the list.

Even for the other would-be alternatives, the reservations over security are still great. Many say they put themselves forward under the proviso that security can be guaranteed in writing. After Tuesday morning's suicide bombing outside a courthouse in northwestern Pakistan - the tenth incident of terrorist violence in little over a week across Pakistan, which includes a bombing in Lahore - one player contacted had all but ruled himself out.

Both the PCA and FICA have advised players against making the trip to Pakistan ever since a Lahore final was mooted last year. This, in turn, led to a retaliatory PCB statement in January, which chastised FICA's stance as being "careless and cavalier".

In an email sent to players and agents last week, and passed on to ESPNcricinfo, the PCB sought to allay fears of what is described as "the occasional incident across the massive expanse of Pakistan". The email states that ECB president Giles Clarke, who visited Lahore in January as head of ICC Task Force for Pakistan, will send representatives from the ECB "to review preparations already in place". Clarke gave an update to members at the ICC board meetings in Dubai recently in which he recommended that all members take the opportunity to send their own security experts to Pakistan to assess the current situation.

However, the ECB, Clarke's own board, denied the claim in the email and stated that they will not be sending anyone to review matters in Lahore. ESPNcricinfo understands that Reg Dickason, who advises the ECB on security matters on a consultancy basis, will visit Lahore ahead of the final, mostly likely on behalf of FICA, along with ICC security manager Sean Norris. The ECB also confirmed that they are not currently involved in any discussions about creating a "Commonwealth team" to tour Pakistan later in the year - another claim made in the email.

Foreign players who do end up going will be paid separately for playing in the final, on top of business class travel and expenses, at four different rates: Platinum ($50,000 USD), Diamond ($25,000 USD), Gold ($15,000 USD) and Silver ($10,000 USD).

The likes of Pietersen will find themselves in the Platinum category. Only six English players - Malan, Alex Wakely, Josh Cobb (both Northamptonshire), Darren Stevens (Kent), Dernbach and Shah are Gold, meaning they would make just over £12,000. Some classed as Silver have told ESPNcricinfo that they will require a higher grade if they are to commit. It is understood a number have stipulated that the money be paid upfront if they are to travel to Lahore.