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"I had a fruitful meeting with Yousuf today and he has signed a central contract with the PCB after agreeing not to play in the ICL," Ashraf said. "He is now available to represent Pakistan. He is the backbone of Pakistan's batting and we are happy that he is back."
Yousuf, together with Inzamam-ul-Haq, Imran Farhat and Abdul Razzaq, signed on with the league over a month ago. Though it wasn't said at the time, the decision was thought to be a result of his axing from Pakistan's squad for the ICC World Twenty20. Razzaq, who was also axed, announced his retirement from international cricket, a decision he has yet to take back.
"Whatever I have achieved is because of my country and I am willing to do anything for Pakistan," Yousuf told Cricinfo. "I didn't know this clause in the ICL contract that priority had to be given to the league instead of Pakistan when international matches are happening simultaneously."
Yousuf was unwilling to say what the legal repercussions might be of opting out of the ICL contract, saying the board would handle all such issues.
However, the executive president of the ICL, Ashish Kaul, clarified to Cricinfo that the ICL would not object to Yousuf playing for Pakistan if matches clash. "We will not object. Our contract with Yousuf does not stop him from playing for Pakistan."
Kaul also said that the ICL has not received any intimation from Yousuf about cancellation of the contract. "As per the contract between Mohammad Yousuf and ICL, he will play for ICL as per mutually agreed terms and conditions. We have no information that states otherwise. As far as ICL is concerned, Yousuf is playing for ICL."
Though no similar moves have been made for the other three, the development represents a considerable coup for the Pakistan board, who have made no secret of their desire to lure Yousuf back. With the first Test against South Africa to begin on Monday, it means he is at least available to shore up a thin-looking middle order, which already has to fill the considerable gap left by Inzamam.
Yousuf was recently selected ICC's Test player of the year for an outstanding 2006, in which he scored a world record 1788 Test runs with nine hundreds.
Younis Khan welcomed Yousuf's decision to play for Pakistan. "I was very pleased to hear Yousuf will be playing in the Test series [against South Africa]," Younis wrote in Bigstarcricket.com . "We have scored a lot of runs together and he will be a big player for us. The Test series will be difficult but the conditions are suited to us and the main thing is that all the guys are fit. If we play to our potential we can give them a hard time."