The ICC has introduced a "special dispensation" to be made only in "exceptional circumstances" in order to ensure that bilateral series take place even if the ruling body has determined it "unsafe" to appoint its officials for such series. This would allow such series to be manned by "non-neutral match officials", a departure from the ICC's Standard Playing Conditions, pending permission from the ICC's Executive Board.
The dispensation, announced at the end of the ICC's Chief Executive Committee (CEC)'s two-day meeting in Dubai, will have special significance for the proposed tour of Pakistan by Bangladesh, the planning for which is at an advanced stage.
The CEC stated that it had limited powers to take a decision over safety issues as to whether tours should take place or not. It reiterated that the ICC's role in bilateral series was "limited to considering the safety and security of the match officials after a tour had been confirmed and a security plan produced." The decision as to whether a particular tour should take place or not was, the CEC stated, "one for the participating countries."
The CEC statement has ensured that the ICC's own officials need not be appointed for Bangladesh's tour of Pakistan. That could be seen by Pakistan as a stumbling block towards hosting top-level international cricket; other nations would be wary of touring if the ICC deemed the situation was not safe for their officials.
For Bangladesh, the seal of ICC's approval would have ensured greater vigilance around security issues. Last week, a nine-member Bangladesh delegation, led by their cricket board president Mustafa Kamal, gave a nod to the security arrangements at various venues after a two-day visit. Both Kamal, and Zaka Ashraf, the Pakistan Cricket Board chairman, had said that they would approach the ICC to approve the tour.
It is understood that the ICC dispatched individual letters to both the PCB and BCB on Monday, saying that it could not give the tour a go-ahead. The CEC's introduction of this special dispensation around "non-neutral match officials" did not make a specific reference to the ICC's disapproval of the series or that the tour had been deemed "unsafe" for its match officials to stand in. The dispensation however, creates the opportunity for the series to go ahead with Pakistani or Bangladeshi umpires and match-referees.
There had been two itineraries proposed for the tour, one of which includes a three-match ODI series, and the other a series of two ODIs and one Twenty20 international, to be completed in one week in April. Lahore's Gaddafi Stadium and Karachi's National Stadium are the venues expected to host the matches.
ESPNcricinfo understands that Bangladesh's security team had expressed its reservations in playing in Karachi, and instead hope to play all the proposed matches in Lahore. Earlier, Rawalpindi was dropped as a venue from the plan.
"It is important the tour goes ahead for Pakistan cricket to show the country can host games again," Subhan Ahmad, the PCB's chief operating officer, told Reuters. "We will have the highest level of security possible."
Haroon Lorgat, the ICC chief executive, pointed out that special dispensations however should not become a norm. "Bearing in mind that safety and security is the sole responsibility of individual member boards for bilateral matches, the CEC regarded this as an exceptional circumstance in which the appointment of non-neutral match officials could be justified but stated clearly that it should not to be regarded as a preferred option or precedent if the dispensation were to be granted," Lorgat said.
There has been no international cricket in Pakistan for exactly three years now after masked terrorists attacked the Sri Lankan team bus and the van carrying ICC match officials, who were on their way to the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on March 3, 2009, on what was the third day of the second Test.