The IPL's decision to rule out Pakistan's players from the third season of the Twenty20 league was a result of time constraints arising from visa complications, Lalit Modi, the league's commissioner, has said.
Pakistan's players will miss the IPL for the second season running, despite getting clearances from their sports, foreign affairs and interior ministries, an NOC from the PCB and letters of invitation from IPL franchises. However, the players failed to get their visas in time to meet the IPL's deadline of December 7, two days before the trading window closes.
Modi said the deadline had already been extended twice for Pakistan and another delay would handicap franchise planning and team-building for the next season, due to begin in March. "We follow the same procedure for all countries," Modi told Cricinfo. "We ask players to obtain all permission - whether NOCs from boards, government and visas. We provide the back-up letters and players get their documentation. We had a deadline of November 20 for all players. At the request of PCB chairman Ijaz Butt we extended it twice, first to November 30 and then to December 7.
"This was the absolute final date as the last date for teams to put their players for trading is tomorrow and the last date for teams to file expression of interest for players is December 11. Thus teams could not be handicapped with the notion that they did not know availability of players for whatever reason beyond a point."
PCB officials are clear that all that needed to be done from their end had been done, indicating that clearance ultimately hadn't been given by the Indian government, either at all, or within the required time.
Pakistan's government did not clear their players to participate in the second IPL, concerned primarily over their security in India following the deterioration in relations between India and Pakistan after the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008. Five Pakistan players were trying to clear a path to IPL 2010. Kamran Akmal, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Gul and Misbah-ul-Haq all played in the first season - six others who also played had their contracts cancelled after the Mumbai attacks - and Kolkata Knight Riders had expressed an interest in signing up Abdul Razzaq.
After winning the World Twenty20 in June, Pakistan's players were understandably in demand with franchises; men such as Tanvir and Gul also impressed enough in their only season for their franchises to be particularly keen at trying to bring them back in.
Tanvir was the leading wicket-taker for Rajasthan Royals in their run to the title in the inaugural season and, though the franchise was disappointed, it said it had anticipated such a scenario in any case. "We are definitely disappointed some of our players will not make it," Raghu Iyer, chief marketing officer Rajasthan Royals, said. "But it is finally IPL's decision. It has not come as a shock for us as we were always prepared to handle such a situation. We knew the chances of Pakistan players playing IPL 3 was 50-50."
Though they have been ruled out of this season, the decision on any future participation will also rest ultimately, it appears, with the Indian government. "As far as we are concerned it is a government decision," Kolkata's Joy Bhattacharjya said. "We are obviously interested in having our Pakistan players back for the next IPL, so they asked us to provide them with the invitation letter. Throughout this our policy was to abide by the IPL's decision. The IPL couldn't extend its deadline as based on the Pakistan players' availability, a decision about trading had to be taken as the deadline for the trading ends tomorrow.
"As far we are concerned it is up to the IPL. We would love to have Umar Gul. But after this really the ball is in the government territory."