In what could be a significant step towards the resolution of the ICL situation, the ICC's three top officials - David Morgan, the president, Sharad Pawar, the vice-president and Haroon Lorgat, the chief executive - met Subhash Chandra, the owner of the unauthorised league, in a New Delhi hotel on Monday.
The official cricket establishment has been working for a while on resolving the problem, which affects more than a hundred banned players; one solution, it was learnt, involves accommodating the league within an exhibition framework. At the same time, in a delicate balancing act, the ICC has distributed for feedback a set of draft regulations on official and unofficial cricket to various stakeholders that contains tougher norms to prevent another ICL-like situation in the future.
The ICC is clear that the ICL situation is a domestic issue for the Indian board to deal with directly; it is also keen on a "logical and common sense approach" to protect those cricketers already associated with the ICL and banned from all forms of official cricket. Against this background, the presence of Pawar, the previous BCCI president, at Monday's meeting - first reported by the Hindustan Times newspaper - is an indication that a resolution is possible.
In fact, Pawar's presence within the ICC - the Indian minister became its vice-president this year and still has the final say over Indian cricket affairs - has provided the world body with the perfect platform for a resolution after being inundated with requests from the ICL, its cricketers, and other respected voices in international cricket to lift the ban. Incidentally, Chandra, the industrialist who heads the Zee media group, is known to have been close to Pawar, a veteran politician.
The BCCI had initially adopted a hard-line approach against the ICL, barring Indian cricketers associated with the league from accessing even their local college grounds. It also used its significant influence within the ICC to ensure other national boards imposed similar bans on ICL cricketers and officials. Subsequently, two senior BCCI officials - Shashank Manohar, the president, and Lalit Modi, a vice-president and the man behind the IPL - were invited by the ICC to be part of a five-member working group to discuss new rules for official and unofficial cricket. During these discussions, the BCCI officially held talks with ICL - talks that were ended abruptly without any headway reported.
Now, with the working group preparing a new set of draft regulations to prevent future unofficial leagues, it appears that Indian officials and the ICC are working to accommodate the ICL in some form and bring the curtains down on a controversy that split the cricketing world over the last year.
The ICC is now expected to discuss the draft regulations and the ICL issue at its board meeting in Perth on January 31. Incidentally, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have already softened their stance on ICL and Sri Lanka cleared six ICL cricketers to play in a domestic tournament.
However, there are still some knots to be untangled before a resolution is reached on both the ICL and the new draft regulations. For instance, the Federation of International Cricketers (FICA) has raised queries regarding player welfare under the new draft regulations. Tim May, the FICA chief executive, told Cricinfo the organisation had received the draft regulations and discussed them during its recent meeting in Kuala Lumpur. "We do have some queries, though I would not describe them as major," May said. "They are basically a few clarifications we have sought."
The ICL was launched in 2007 as a private venture and officials associated with the Twenty20 league have subsequently applied for recognition from the ICC under rules that allow the world body to sanction exhibition/testimonial matches. But the request is pending with the ICC, which has pointed out it does not have the home board's endorsement.