Mohammad Yousuf and a few other Pakistan players may be heading towards a tricky legal wrangle with the ICL after reports have emerged that they are planning to end their association with the unauthorised Twenty20 league and return to international cricket.
Yousuf, Abdul Razzaq, Imran Farhat, Imran Nazir, Mohammad Sami and Naved-ul-Hasan are the players who might walk away from the ICL, the News reported. The Pakistan establishment, led by Younis Khan, the captain, is keen that Yousuf, in particular, returns to the national team as early as next month for the one-day series against Australia starting on April 22 in Abu Dhabi, the report said.
Yousuf had rejoined the ICL last year after developing serious differences with Shoaib Malik, the then Pakistan captain. But the situation appears to have changed after Younis, known to be close to Yousuf, became Pakistan captain this year. The News quoted sources as saying that "the breakthrough was achieved following a series of meetings between Yousuf and Younis".
When contacted by Cricinfo, ICL officials said they have had no contact with Yousuf in this regard but added their contract with the Pakistan batsman enables him to play for the national team. The problem, of course, arises if Yousuf and the other players insist on cutting all ties with ICL, which is what the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has insisted on if they are to be considered again for the national team. In such a situation, the ICL might take the legal route, officials suggested, particularly because Lahore Badshahs, the ICL team for which these cricketers play, is one of the main attractions of the league.
Another reason why the Pakistan players are said to be considering such a move is that the ICL has suspended its March-April tournament and is looking at restarting their international programme only in October. The ICL took this step in February due to the deepening economic recession and the Pakistan government's refusal to let any player from that country play in India following the Mumbai terror attacks.
The players fear that the current freeze in political ties between India and Pakistan would prevent them from playing in India in the near future.
The report also claimed that if the Pakistan players part ways with the ICL, they could be immediately included in the national team for the one-day series against Australia - the squad is expected to be named early in April.
Yousuf, in particular, has had a troubled relationship with the ICL after initially signing a three-year-contract with the league and then trying to pull out in favour of the IPL. However, he was not picked up by any IPL team and returned to the ICL on a fresh contract after both sides agreed to call off a legal case that had been lodged on the issue. "It's a personal call that he has to take now," an ICL official said.
Players associated with the ICL have been barred from all official cricket in most countries, especially in India where the BCCI has adopted a hard-line stance against the private venture, and the league's request for recognition is still pending with the ICC.