<
>

Yousuf lashes out at board and Malik

A day after helping Lahore Badshahs become ICL champions, Mohammad Yousuf returned to Pakistan to launch a stinging attack on the PCB and Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik. At the same time, Yousuf vigorously defended both his decision to join the ICL and the status of his new employers.

Yousuf arrived in Karachi Monday afternoon and immediately addressed a press conference at a friend's residence to "clear up some misconceptions about my going to the ICL."

"I have no issues with this current set-up," Yousuf said, referring to the new PCB administration. "I do have issues with the previous set-up. You all saw what was happening with me. I am the senior-most player in the side but when I was dropped from the Twenty20 World Cup no one spoke to me at all. Without being tested in a Twenty20 game I was dropped from the squad. How is that possible?"

Yousuf referred often to Malik, though when pressed repeatedly by reporters to specify particular grievances, he didn't reveal details. "For four years we were good friends. I still think he is a good player but who knows why he has become like this. Shoaib Malik is the captain and I was the senior-most player. I felt I wasn't getting the respect that I should be given. Look at Dhoni. He takes his senior players along - this guy never took me along. Only I know what I have been through the last one and a half years, the disturbance I have felt."

Yousuf had signed with the ICL in 2007 but turned his back on the contract after the PCB administration of the time, desperate to have him back, promised him a lucrative IPL contract. However, the ICL took the matter to court and Yousuf was left in legal limbo, not allowed to play for either league.

Finally, earlier this month, Yousuf signed up with the league again, the same contract as he had signed up on last year. The PCB, as a result, banned him, as it has done other ICL players. But Yousuf said he had been wrong to turn his back then and wasn't willing to leave the ICL if the PCB offered him a way back to national colours.

"I made a mistake when I turned my back on the contract last year. I was misguided by the PCB. They told me ICL would stop me from playing for Pakistan which is not true. Why should I now leave the ICL? They are not banning me from playing for Pakistan. If Pakistan want me to play I will still play for them - everything I am is because of Pakistan. If they had called me to Abu Dhabi I would have gone," Yousuf said.

Yousuf robustly defended the ICL, throwing a veiled punch at the BCCI for pushing other boards to ban players. "What is the difference between the ICL and the IPL?" he asked. "They are both private leagues. The ICL isn't banned by the ICC. It is banned by someone and you are getting hurt because of it. Only Pakistan is suffering from the ban. India is benefitting. We both got knocked out at the World Cup 2007 but look where they are and where we are now. All we are doing is playing cricket."

Yousuf, who will fly back to India on Tuesday to get ready for the ICL World Series, said he hadn't gone to the ICL for the money, claiming that Pakistan duty would have been more lucrative. He all but ruled out negotiating a return through the PCB. "If I speak to the board now, they will try and convince me again to leave the ICL. I have been down this route before and look where that left me."