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Najam Sethi backtracks on five-year agreement with West Indies

Najam Sethi has said a five-year plan which sees West Indies tour Pakistan each year is off, but a three-match T20I series in Lahore will go ahead as planned

Umar Farooq
Umar Farooq
Najam Sethi, the interim PCB chief, addresses a press conference  •  AFP

Najam Sethi, the interim PCB chief, addresses a press conference  •  AFP

Two months after the announcement of a five-year plan that involved West Indies touring Pakistan every year until 2022, PCB chairman Najam Sethi has walked back on that claim, saying it was a cost-ineffective option. In November last year, Sethi had stated that the PCB and Cricket West Indies (CWI) agreed to play a series of Twenty20 matches annually over the next five years that involved matches in Pakistan as well as the USA.
Sethi insisted that West Indies' upcoming tour to Pakistan in March was "on so far". That three-match T20I series is scheduled to be played in the last week of March. The games were originally meant to be played in November last year, but logistical challenges, as well as heavy smog that swept across large parts of the country in the first half of November, forced the tour's postponement. Both CWI and the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) had given their approval for the tour providing the security situation in Pakistan remained satisfactory. Pakistan hosted a World XI side for a three-match T20I series last September, followed by the third match of a T20I series against Sri Lanka in October.
"It's on so far, and by that, I mean even the dates are final," Sethi said, while providing details on West Indies' tour to Pakistan. "Earlier, we had a plan that West Indies would come here every single year and we would go to America to play a triangular series. But when we did our calculations, we found out that matches here are loss-making and they (West Indies) thought it would be a profit-making. The reason is the high production cost and player cost.
"A full series would probably make a difference, but with three games, we do not get enough sponsors. So then the West Indies said if we don't get anything from this tour, then let's just go with a one-off series and play a triangular series in Florida which is profitable for all. So, a new MoU is being prepared that will not affect the series in March, and the arrangements for that are going well."
Since hosting the World XI and Sri Lanka T20Is in Lahore, the PCB has heavily courted West Indies as the next possible team to visit Pakistan for a series. Before they could finalise the schedule, both CWI and WIPA had sought a security and risk assessment from Eastern Star International (ESI), an independent security firm owned by security expert Reg Dickason. After prolonged deliberations, WIPA was assured that the threat levels had not "materially changed" since the World XI games. The PCB saw that report as an endorsement of the way they had handled security concerns for the World XI and Sri Lanka visits. The PCB and the Punjab government had assured CWI that the level of security offered to West Indies would be on par with the arrangements in place for the World XI and Sri Lanka.

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent