The Pakistan board has expressed its disappointment at not having a domestic team invited to participate in the 2010 Champions League Twenty20 in South Africa. This appears to be a u-turn on an earlier stance it had taken, when in the aftermath of the IPL snub to Pakistan players, Ijaz Butt, the PCB chairman, had ruled out the participation of any Pakistan team in the Champions League. That, says the chairman however, was not what he had said at the time.
"Those comments of mine were about the IPL and our participation in that event and not at all about the Champions League," Butt told Cricinfo. "I had said our players would not be in the IPL because of what had happened at the auction. I did not say that our domestic teams would not go to the Champions League. Why would I deprive them of that opportunity? My comments were misinterpreted."
Nevertheless, the confusion means that Sialkot Stallions, Pakistan's domestic Twenty20 champions five years running now, will again miss out on the most lucrative global club tournament in cricket. Sialkot, which won the RBS Twenty20 in March this year, could potentially include Pakistan players such as Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Asif, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Abdur Rehman and Abdul Razzaq. They were invited to take part in what would have been the inaugural Champions League at the end of 2008 but the terror attacks on Mumbai in November that year forced a postponement to 2009. By that time, relations between India and Pakistan having deteriorated, no team was invited from Pakistan.
"Nobody has invited us this year and that is disappointing," Butt said. "We asked them about it and we received no reply at all. We will take up this issue with the ICC. After all, why are we being discriminated against like this? Clubs from so many other countries are invited and our Sialkot side has done so well over the last few years."
A Champions League official, however, told Cricinfo that no Pakistan team had been considered for the 2010 tournament after Butt's statements in February. "Mr Butt had formally announced and communicated in February that no Pakistani team would be permitted to compete in the 2010 CLT20, and as Mr Butt is the Chairman of the PCB, the Governing Council of CLT20 could not and did not consider any invitations to Pakistani teams," the official told Cricinfo. "Unfortunately, due to the announcement by Mr Butt, it is now clearly too late to even consider the addition of Pakistani teams to the 2010 CLT20."
Gerald Majola, chief executive of Cricket South Africa, one if the founding members of the Champions League, also said it was too late to include a Pakistan team. "I don't think the PCB approached us," he told Cricinfo. "If that was the case we would've known earlier. Unfortunately it too late now, things have been finalised so there can be no question of sending an invite."
However, whether or not the league was ever considering inviting a team from Pakistan is open to question. Another tournament official told Cricinfo that "the plan was always to invite the same make-up of teams as 2009, with the understanding that if English teams were unavailable, the field would be reduced to 10 teams.
"To my knowledge PCB made no approaches to be included in this year's CLT20," he said. "There won't be any late invitations issued. The match schedule is being drafted at the moment and venues being finalised, so we're advanced in our planning."
That means Shahid Afridi, who helped South Australia qualify, could be Pakistan's only representative in the tournament this time round, although his national responsibilities until September 22 makes his participation uncertain as well. The number of teams taking part was reduced to ten this year (from 12) after the ECB said its sides could not take part because of a clash of dates with the end of the English domestic season. Other than Bangladesh and England this year, teams from all Test-playing countries participate in the tournament. The tournament is run jointly by the cricket boards of Australia, India and South Africa.