Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo
Pakistan's cricket authorities have said they weren't contacted at all with regard to their ouster from the pool of teams that form the lucrative Champions League, a further worrying indicator of their increasing isolation in world cricket.
The tournament - with $6 million in prize money - is scheduled to be held in India this October and though the number of teams participating has increased from eight to 12, Lalit Modi, the tournament's chairman, said no team from Pakistan would be among them. "Unfortunately, the Pakistan government won't give them [the players] clearance to come to India, and since Saturday was our cut-off date, it's not possible to have a team from Pakistan this year," Modi was quoted by AFP as saying on Sunday.
But a senior PCB official, reacting to Modi's comments, told Cricinfo the board had not been contacted at all by anyone regarding the tournament. "Sialkot had been invited for the first tournament but since that was postponed, we have heard nothing from them at all. We weren't told about any cut-off dates or deadlines. I am surprised Mr Modi is second-guessing what the Pakistan government is likely to be thinking in October," the official said. Incidentally, the PCB's domestic Twenty20 tournament is currently underway with a winner due to emerge on May 29.
Javed Miandad, PCB's director general, said it was "very disappointing" that no board had spoken out against Pakistan's exclusion. "When we used to play cricket all the boards had principles but now I see that money has made them turn a deaf ear to everything," Miandad told PPI. "India with the power of its money has earned the support from all stakeholders and we find no one who could listen and support us."
Pakistan had a representative - Sialkot Stallions - for last year's tournament that was postponed following the Mumbai attacks. Relations between India and Pakistan then deteriorated; India refused to tour in January and Pakistan's government stopped their players from travelling to India to take part in the IPL - the basis of the decision - though that situation is open to review and, possibly, to change given how quickly relations between the two countries fluctuate.
A BCCI official said the decision was a "precautionary" one. "We don't want a problem in the last minute... with so much money at stake, we don't want to take the risk of inviting a team when - as of now - it is clear that there will be political problems with visas, clearance," he said.
As well as the financial fallout - both team and home board are guaranteed a considerable sum - the move pushes Pakistan further to the margins of world cricket, given that domestic teams from all members (apart from Bangladesh and Zimbabwe) have also been invited to the tournament.
It is another sign possibly of how relations between the PCB and BCCI have cooled off considerably under the present Pakistan administration; though India's refusal to tour in January this year was a state-level decision, tensions have risen between the neighbours over the 2011 World Cup, with the BCCI believing the PCB was misguided in picking a legal fight with the ICC and the PCB believing India manipulated them out of hosting World Cup matches in Pakistan. In contrast, the previous PCB administration under Nasim Ashraf, had been accused, rather like Tony Blair to George Bush, of being India's puppet.
The PCB's own inaction has done nothing to ease the situation. The day after the decision was announced, a number of senior officials were contacted, none of whom had any coherent reply to the situation. One senior official didn't know what the Champions League was, while others referred the matter to the chairman, who simply referred it back.
A prickly relationship with the ICC will not help: the world's governing body isn't a stakeholder in the Champions League, but has sanctioned it and, according to Modi, set a window aside for it in the FTP. ICC members CA and CSA are founding members of the tournament and though they are among those who reiterate that they want to ensure Pakistan does not get isolated, this latest blow, in fact, achieves precisely the opposite.