'Me first!': Shoaib Akhtar was the first to commit to Pakistan, not the ICL © AFP

Eight Pakistan players, including Shoaib Akhtar, signed six-month central contracts offered by the PCB on Friday. The remaining 12 are expected to sign them over the next few days.

The signings quashed speculation that had lingered over the last few days in Pakistan that several leading players, including the likes of Shahid Afridi and Shoaib, might join the Indian Cricket League (ICL).

A clause in the new contracts clearly states that permission must be sought from the board when opting to play in a professional league; the PCB has already said that any contracted player turning out for the ICL will not be considered for Pakistan. Seven current players were reported to have been approached by the league.

Shoaib, after signing the contract, told AFP that he had turned down an offer from ICL as representing Pakistan was more important than money. "I was offered a decent amount from the Indian league officials. I have decided that my country is far more important for me and I am important for my team so I have decided not to take the offer," Shoaib said.

"Pakistan has to play in the Twenty20, then against South Africa, then against India and Australia, so I am more focused for the Pakistan assignments than playing any series which is not for my country."

Shoaib was the first player to sign the contract, the board was keen to point out. In the past, he has refused to do so. "Shoaib was the first to sign the contract. Seven others including Shoaib Malik, Umar Gul and Salman Butt also signed them," Ahsan Malik, director communications and marketing, PCB, told Cricinfo.

Mohammad Asif and Afridi have also turned down offers. "It was good and tempting but I see a strong future for myself in the Pakistan team," Afridi told PTI. "I don't want to let my fans down."

The board held a meeting with the players on Friday where it explained in detail several aspects of the contracts and gave players the chance to raise any queries or objections. "We told the players to look over the contracts over the next three or four days but a few signed them immediately. The others will look over it in the next three to four days," said Malik.

Talat Ali, Pakistan team's manager, told PTI that the players were very happy with the terms in the contracts offered to them. "The ones who didn't sign are those who are based in Karachi and couldn't attend the meeting. But they are expected to sign them today," Talat said. "There is extra money for winning a series, a match, scoring a hundred, taking four catches and wickets." Twenty players have been offered contracts in all, which will last till the end of this year. From January onwards, the players will receive year-long contracts.

Ali also took a strong view against the ICL as well, terming it "Mickey Mouse cricket". He told PTI: "I use this word because even if it is held it is not official or serious cricket. It is a rebel series not involving countries and it would be more befitting if it was held in Disneyland instead of in a Test-playing nation."

"I don't see this league tempting our players no matter what stage of their career they are in," he said. "Even if someone wants to do something privately for the sport and young players they must have the blessings of the concerned cricket authorities and an example of this is the MRF Pace Academy in India or Intikhab Alam's academy in Muridke [near Lahore]."