The PCB has said it will obey the Sind High Court order to temporarily lift the domestic ban on Pakistan's ICL-contracted players. This effectively allows the 11 affected players to take part in the next round of Quaid-e-Azam trophy matches.
The court had temporarily lifted the ban at the first hearing on February 2 but players had not been able to participate in the latest round of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy because the order had not been passed on to the various departmental teams involved. The PCB had also not responded to the original verdict, choosing to wait till Wednesday's second hearing.
The hearing was adjourned till February 25 since the judge was unable to attend but Shaan Gul, the PCB's lawyer, said the 11 players who originally moved the court could play now.
"We bow before the order of the court," Gul told Cricinfo. "The case has been adjourned till February 25th but the players can absolutely take part in domestic cricket as of now."
The bans were imposed under the previous administration and though the players continue to miss out on international cricket, the current board has adopted a more flexible approach. "The present board does not support the manner in which the ban was imposed by the previous administration," Gul said.
Pakistan has suffered immensely from the policy to exclude ICL players from international cricket. Mohammad Yousuf, who joined the ICL last season, is the biggest loss but the absence of several first-team choices and reserves has depleted resources. Officials have privately spoken of looking at ways to tackle the problem and Javed Miandad even spoke publicly of the pressure to bring back players when he was director-general last year.
Ijaz Butt, the board's chairman, has said a solution remains out of the PCB's hands. "That is between the ICC and the BCCI and negotiations are still happening. A decision has to come from there," Butt told reporters in Lahore. "As far as domestic cricket is concerned, the ICC said wherever it is challenged legally they can let them play. If Mohammad Yousuf leaves the ICL, we will take him back tomorrow, but we can't right now."
Butt also warned of a new, tougher policy on players in unrecognised leagues that the ICC will adopt soon. "The new regulations in place from June 1 are much tougher. Now the ICC can also punish countries directly with fines and sanctions if they let unauthorised players appear."
"Banning a player from playing in domestic cricket because he participated in the ICL is not a matter for the ICC," said an ICC spokesperson. "Instead, only a member board can take such action. The ICC executive board therefore resolved in 2008 that member boards should take such action against ICL players as they considered appropriate, in light of and in accordance with the requirements of their own local laws".