Pakistan probables named for Test series against Sri Lanka

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) selection committee has here on Tuesday announced the names of 22 probable players for the forthcoming two-Test home series against Sri Lanka.

The meeting, presided over by chief selector Abdul Qadir, was also attended by the national team’s coach Intikhab Alam and newly-appointed captain Younus Khan besides the members of the selection committee.

The 22 selected probable players will report at the camp to be held in Karachi from February 15.

Younus Khan ahs been appointed captain of the team while former captain Shoaib Malik has also been included in the squad. Fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar has been ruled out due to injury.

Other players are: Salman Butt, Nasir Jamshed, Khurram Manzoor, Misbah-ul-Haq, Faisal Iqbal, Asim Kamal, Fawad Alam, Bazid Khan, Saeed Bin Nasir, Sohail Tanvir, Yasir Arafat, Danish Kaneria, Shahid Khan Afridi, Umar Gul, Mohammad Talha, Sohail Khan, Abdul Rauf and Saeed Ajmal.

Besides, Kamran Akmal and Sarfaraz Ahmed have been included in the team as wicketkeepers.

As per Abdul Qadir, fitness and performance of the probables will be reviewed in the camp and later the final team will be announced.


Senate committee asks for Butt's resignation

Chairman Pakistan Cricket Board Ijaz Butt failed to come out with appropriate responses to a number of tough questions fired at him by a 12-member Senate's sports committee at the Parliament House on Monday.

The six-hour long, high-voltage meeting that began with intentions to probe into the national cricket affairs ended with calls for Butt's resignation.

"It is crystal clear that Mr Butt and his team are incapable of running the Board which is why I've asked them to resign for the sake of Pakistan cricket,"
Senator Enver Baig told media after the meeting.

Baig said that he urged Butt to quit as PCB chairman after he failed to come clear on the Javed Miandad controversy and again when he denied writing a letter to the Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) to advise him against launching an audit into PCB accounts.

The PCB also drew flak over its controversial hiring and firing policies while the Senators raised suspicions of foul-play in Pakistan's humiliating 234-run defeat in their ODI series finale against Sri Lanka in Lahore last month.

Senator Tahir Mashhadi, another committee member, said that he and fellow Senators were highly disappointed at PCB management's lack of vision.

Butt attracted scathing criticism after it became apparent that he had blocked an attempt by the AGP to carry out an audit into the Board's accounts last November soon after taking over as PCB chief.

"I told Mr Butt that he talks about transparency in financial matters but in the meantime is against any public audit of the PCB accounts,"
said Baig.
"I asked him whether he wrote a letter to the AGP, advising him not to carry out an audit. But he (Butt) claimed he never wrote any such letter. It was a lie because he did write a letter and we (the committee) had copies of it,"
he added.

In the letter, Butt wrote to AGP Tanvir Ali Agha on November 10
"while I am in favour of a special audit so as to ensure transparency... our legal advisor at the PCB has raised a legal objection in relation to the conduct of the special audit".

Mashhadi, meanwhile, emphasised that the PCB chief was also unconvincing while defending his role in the Miandad issue.

Miandad, the former Pakistan captain, stepped down as PCB Director General last month saying that he was not happy with the Board decision to offer him a contract with curtailed authority.

"The PCB chairman was unable to explain to us the reasons why Miandad worked for the PCB without signing a contract for over two months. He was unable to explain why the Board tried to curtail Miandad's role,"
said Mashhadi.

Mashhadi said that when Miandad was appointed as DG, the Board issued a circular on December 4, 2008 in which it was clearly stated that a number of senior officials including Director Game Development, Director International Cricket, Director Domestic, chief selector and Pakistan coach will report to him.

But Mashhadi added that, in the contract offered to Miandad on January 27, his role was restricted to domestic development and "co-ordination with the local authorities in south (Sindh)".

"All 12 members of the committee rejected the Board's contention that Miandad should be equally blamed for the fiasco,"
said Mashhadi.
"We believe that Miandad who is a national hero was treated shabbily by the Board. We have asked the PCB chairman to sit down with Miandad and sort out the issue,"
he added.

Senator Haroon Khan, another committee member, rejected the PCB management's claim that the Board is heading towards bankruptcy.

"At the previous meeting, the Board officials told us that they just have Rs 1.5 billion in the PCB accounts and that it could get bankrupt in six months,"
said Haroon.
"It was a false figure because according to a latest statement submitted by them, the Board has Rs 2.7 billion in its accounts."

Haroon also raised a question mark over PCB's claims that a controversial development project at Lahore's Gaddafi Stadium will cost a whopping Rs 470 million because of malpractices by the previous Board management.

"We had summoned the contractor and consultant of the Gaddafi Stadium project today,"
said Haroon.
"They told us that the project will cost Rs 310 million and Rs 470 million was estimated by the Board people."

When grilled on Pakistan's poor showing in the ODI series against Sri Lanka, the coach and chief selector said that they had started their tenures just three months back and needed more time to bring about an improvement in the team's performance.

The Senators also disputed PCB's claim that all-rounder Shoaib Malik had stepped down after the ODI series loss.

"In their report submitted to the PCB, the team coach and manager had recommended that Malik be sacked and Younis (Khan) be appointed as new captain,"
said Baig.
"The press reports we have been reading also say that Malik was sacked but the Board claims that the player had stepped down himself."

Meanwhile, the committee has asked the Board to rethink its hiring and firing policies. The committee also asked the Board to consider rehiring dozens of low-income employees which it fired without following any proper procedure.


Invite World XI to ease concerns - Wasim Akram

Friday, February 6, 2009

Wasim Akram, the former Pakistan captain, has suggested the PCB invite a World XI to play matches in the country in order to ease the security concerns of international teams. With teams reluctant to tour Pakistan, Akram felt the board needs to find a "viable solution" to the problem, which is "not going to go away soon".

"We should give priority to inviting a World XI if no country is willing to send teams to Pakistan," Akram told PTI.

"If we offer good money to international cricketers from different countries they will come and this will go a long way in showing the world that it is safe to play cricket in our country."

Recently, the ICC decided not to stage the Champions Trophy in Pakistan after several countries expressed reservations about touring. The event, scheduled for last year, had been postponed in light of security concerns. Australia also cancelled their proposed tour of the country in 2008, and are likely to play the ODI leg of the tour in April at a neutral venue.

Akram said the board could try organising its own Twenty20 league on the lines of the IPL and try to attract players to take part. However, he felt the PCB needed to show focus. Recently, Javed Miandad stepped down from his position as director-general.

"Although the PCB is run by former cricketers I don't see a sense of direction but I think we should give them some time. They should also avoid personal feuds and make a good system and follow it,"

he said.

"All board officials must realise no one person can enjoy or have absolute powers. Major decisions must be taken collectively and that is how a good company is run."

Akram hoped Younis Khan succeeds as Pakistan captain, making up for the inadequacies of his predecessor Shoaib Malik.

"I don't think only Sri Lanka series decided Malik's fate. I think his performance and attitude on and off the field also caused him dearly. I think he had lost the confidence of senior players and I hope Younis Khan will prove himself as a good leader."

Akram advised Younis to keep his calm in leading the side, especially when things went against the team. Akram, who led a Pakistan team to India in a breakthrough series in 1999, said the Pakistan players who have been presently barred from travelling to India for the IPL should be permitted to take part in the tournament if the Indian government gives an assurance about their security.


Pak-Australia ODI series in Dubai from April 24: Ijaz Butt

Pak-Australia one day international cricket series will be played in Dubai from April 24 to May 7.

This was announced by Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Ijaz Butt here on Friday. PCB chairman said the test series between two countries would be held in England if the Australians could not make it to Pakistan.

"We have decided to play the five-match one-day series against Australia in Dubai and Abu Dhabi from April 24 to May 7,"
Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Ijaz Butt told reporters.

Ijaz Butt said that two ODIs will be played in Dubai and three ODIs in Abu Dhabi while one Twenty20 match will be held in Dubai.

Australia postponed their full Test and one-day tour of the country in March last year.

Lingering security and safety fears prompted Australia to refuse once again to tour Pakistan, forcing the PCB to arrange the rescheduled series at neutral venues in the United Arab Emirates.

Pakistan was forced to play their three-match one-day series against the West Indies at Abu Dhabi in November last year.

Butt said there was also a possibility of hosting the Test series against Australia at neutral venues.

"If Australia do not play the Tests in Pakistan there is a possibility of playing the Test series in England,"
said Butt.

Australia's refusal to play in Pakistan stemmed from their army's involvement in the war in neighbouring Afghanistan.

"Cricket Australia was willing to play in Pakistan but their government has refused them clearance in fear that their players may become a target because their army is among the allied forces in Afghanistan,"
Butt said.

Pakistan has been a danger zone for foreign teams since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States sparked a global "war on terror" in which the country is considered a frontline battlefield.

Pakistan had to play its home series against Australia and the West Indies at neutral venues of Sharjah in the UAE and in Sri Lanka in 2002.

The International Cricket Council also decided to transfer the elite eight-nation Champions Trophy, due to be staged in September-October this year, out of Pakistan after teams refused to tour over security fears.


Younis will get 'enough room' - Qadir

Abdul Qadir, Pakistan's chief selector, says new captain Younis Khan will be given "enough room" in selection matters. Disagreements between the selectors and team management have been an issue in the past few years, but Qadir says he doesn't mind involving the captain and coach as long as the "best team is selected".

Qadir said Younis, who took over from Shoaib Malik last month, will be consulted along with coach Intikhab Alam.

"We will give Younis enough room,"

Qadir told the News.

"As captain, he is our general in the field and should have a say in selection matters.

"We are all on the same side, aren't we,"

he said.

"All of us are working to ensure that Pakistan give their best on the field and that target can only be achieved if we work together."

During the recent series against Sri Lanka, the team management had been given the final say in selecting the playing XI.

Qadir said a provisional squad of 20 to 25 players will be announced later this week for the two-Test series against Sri Lanka, which begins on February 22. He said he had taken inputs from the other selectors - Saleem Jaffer and Shoaib Mohammad - and Alam. Batsman Faisal Iqbal and allrounder Fawad Alam are likely to be named in the provisional squad. Qadir said players on the youngsters would be given a chance in the two-day warm-up game against Sri Lanka prior to the Tests.

Pakistan will also conduct a pre-Tests camp from February 14 in Karachi.

"I won't even call it a camp,"


"It would be more like a get-together of the players. It will give them and the team officials a chance to sit down and plan for the series."

Pakistan were shot out for 75 in their embarrassing defeat in the third ODI in Lahore, and Qadir said they needed to plan against an attack that includes Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis.

"We will have to devise strategies to face their bowlers, who are very good and to tackle their world-class batsmen,"

he said.

"We want to select a strong squad for the Tests and I'm confident we will do that."


Pakistan on target for one-day series with Australia

The Pakistan Cricket Board is confident its one-day series with Australia will proceed in April, with a schedule to be released later this week. Ijaz Butt, the PCB chairman, met with Cricket Australia officials in Melbourne on Wednesday to discuss the contest, which is likely to be held after Australia's tour of South Africa.

The series is certain to be played at neutral venues - perhaps split between Abu Dhabi and Dubai - and will probably consist of five one-day and two Twenty20 internationals. Butt, who was a guest of Cricket Australia at the Allan Border Medal on Tuesday, said he would release further details upon his return to Pakistan on Friday.

"I think the series will be going ahead,"

he said. It will be the first time Australia have played Pakistan in an away bilateral series since the three Tests in 2002, which were staged in Colombo and Sharjah.

Australia were due in the country for Test and limited-overs contests last year but they were postponed due to safety and security concerns. The series in Pakistan will severely limit the availability of Australia's one-day players from participating in the second Indian Premier League.


Thirteen Pakistan players sign central contracts

Thirteen out of the 27 Pakistan players offered central contracts last month by the PCB have so far signed up. Though there is a delay, the rest are expected to sign up soon.

Some players, including category A seniors Shoaib Akhtar and former captain Shoaib Malik, have already signed the contracts. It is understood, however, that a delay in the formation of the central contracts review committee, has held up the rest of the contracts.

The board formed a four-man committee, including chief selector Abdul Qadir, junior selector Mohammad Ilyas, chairman Ijaz Butt and former director general Javed Miandad, to review the contracts, particularly in terms of younger players they might want to put on a retainership.

But the resignation of Miandad and the absence of terms of reference of the committee have stalled its working. Now, some senior players, it is believed, want to work out small details with Butt before putting pen to paper.

"The rest of the contracts will be signed soon. We don't forsee any real problems with it,"


Court suspends PCB ban on ICL players

The Sind High Court has temporarily lifted a ban on Pakistan's ICL players from competing in domestic cricket. Effectively, the order means the group of 19 cricketers in the league can - and some will - take part in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, the domestic first-class competition. The ban on their participation in international cricket, however, remains since it is not yet a point of argument in the legal proceedings.

A letter had initially been sent by the legal firm representing the players to the Pakistan board last week to enquire about the ban. It was thought then that the matter would not be immediately be taken to court, but the players' lawyer Zahid Ebrahim said subsequent PCB prevarication over the response and another fruitless bout of discussions at the ICC board meeting in Perth prompted the legal action.

"We waited for the ICC meeting and nothing happened there. The PCB wanted a month to respond to our queries and as the domestic season is already on, we decided to move,"

Ebrahim told Cricinfo.

The matter appeared at the High Court today and immediately an interim order was passed, lifting the ban until further notice. The court has called the PCB for a hearing on February 10.

"An interim order was passed today, by a single bench High Court judge, staying the ban on these players,"

Ebrahim said.

"The court has suspended the operation of the PCB's playing condition 2.2 which bans these players from domestic cricket. A notice has been sent to the PCB to appear on February 10. The restriction was on domestic cricket only."

Eleven players are behind the motion, including Imran Farhat, Abdul Razzaq, Mohammad Yousuf, Mohammad Sami, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Shabbir Ahmed and Hasan Raza. Understandably, there was relief, even if it is temporary.

"This is like someone has pumped life back into us,"

Farhat told Cricinfo.

"It is a massive relief for us and we have known all along that we are right in our fight."

Farhat will now appear for his employers Habib Bank Limited in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy from the next round of matches.

"My bank have been great. Unlike other organisations, they supported me throughout this. They paid my salary every month and benefits and they really have been great."

Though there has not been active support from the present administration of the PCB, Farhat acknowledged that a more flexible stance on the matter has helped.

"The statements this board has made have been favourable to us generally and certainly they have handled it far better than the last administration and government,"

Farhat said.

"The chairman was also in Australia discussing the case and they are behind us. We haven't been in touch with them at all, but you can sense that this administration wants to help. Cricketers know how cricketers feel. It is in the interests of Pakistan."

Ironically, deteriorating relations between India and Pakistan mean that a cloud hovers over the very future of Pakistan involvement in the ICL, which currently involves a team consisting of only Pakistan players, Lahore Badshahs, besides players in other teams. But Farhat is optimistic it will be sorted out.

"I think they [ICL] are looking at options to make it work, different venues maybe. But I am hopeful something good will come of that."

The key to this case now may well be the stance and slant of the board and their policy. In the early days of the present PCB administration, officials such as Javed Miandad openly argued for the bans to be removed. But Miandad has now gone and Ijaz Butt, the chairman, has struggled to properly grasp the nuts and bolts of the issue. He had been extensively briefed by the board's legal team about the case before the ICC meeting in Perth. Whether or not the issue was brought up there is not currently known.

No immediate statement of any intent was forthcoming from the board.

"Let us receive the copy of the order and study it first,"

Saleem Altaf, chief operating officer, told Cricinfo.

"But a court order is a court order and we will have to respond accordingly."

The ICC will also be interested in studying the details of the order, as the case may well have repercussions for ICL players around the world. It is understood that the PCB will contact the ICC as soon as the order has been examined.


All countries’ll be given full security: President Zardari

Monday, January 26, 2009

Officials of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) here today met with President Asif Ali Zardari, who is also the Patron-in-Chief of the board.

The President directed to improve the performance of the national cricket team.

Present at the meeting held at the Aiwan-e-Sadar were chairman PCB Ijaz Butt, CEO Saleem Altaf, director-general Javed Miandad, director HR Wasim Bari, federal minister for sports Pir Aftab Jilani, federal secretary sports Ashraf Khan and Sindh minister for sports Dr Muhammad Ali Shah.

The PCB officials gave briefing to the President on the projects of the board, Champions Trophy scheduled in September-October, Sri Lanka’s recent tour of Pakistan and other matters.

Ijaz Butt told the President that the PCB would organize an international tournament in memory of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, on which the President assured him of his fullest cooperation in this regard.

The President welcomed the Sri Lankan team’s tour of Pakistan and said that Pakistan is a safe country for sports.

He said that the foreign countries must tour Pakistan and the government would provide them every possible security.

In view of Pakistan’s worst defeat at the hands of Sri Lanka in the recent home series, President Zardari directed the PCB officials to improve the performance of the national team.
The President distributed prizes among the prominent performers in the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Twenty20 Championship.


PCB demands report on Pakistan’s worst defeat

The predictable fallout from a disastrous loss to Sri Lanka in the series-deciding ODI at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore has begun with the PCB asking Shoaib Malik and the Pakistan team management to submit a detailed report of the loss by Tuesday.

Pakistan were bowled out for just 75, their lowest total at home, and it resulted in their heaviest defeat ever in terms of runs, by 234 runs, in the third ODI third ODI on Saturday. Malik, coach Intikhab Alam and chief selector Abdul Qadir have also been summoned by the senate's sports committee to explain the reasons behind the loss.

"I have instructed Yawar Saeed (manager) and coach Intikhab Alam to give their detailed comments on the defeat in the next two days so that we can find out what happened. The board wants to know what has to be done to rectify the situation and set things right,"
Ijaz Butt, chairman of the PCB, said.

"We can't tolerate such poor performances from anyone. Like others I am also surprised at the way our batsmen played but I can't make any further comment until receiving a detailed report,"
he added.

A number of aspects of the performance are likely to come under the scanner, from the dropping of Sohail Tanvir, to going in with three spinners when all the talk had been of using pace.

Salman Butt's decision to go off the field with two overs left in the Sri Lanka innings, which eventually prevented him from opening the innings and requiring a re-jig in the batting order was another in a long line of costly mistakes. Asked whether the team management was aware of the rules, Butt said the opener had been told by the manager, but got late.

"It could be one of the reasons because [Salman] Butt was one of the in-form batsmen. However, there is no excuse too be bowled out for just 75,"
the chairman said.


Pakistan down to fifth position in ODI rankings

Pakistan have slipped one place to fifth in the ICC One-day International ranking table following their 2-1 series defeat at home to Sri Lanka.

Although Shoaib Malik’s team won the first ODI of the series in Karachi, it then proceeded to lose the second and third matches after impressive displays by the visitors.

That means Pakistan lost three ratings points and dropped below New Zealand into fifth place on the table.

For their part, Sri Lanka has gained two ratings points from that series and as a result stay in seventh position but they are now just one point behind England in sixth spot.

Meanwhile, Nuwan Kulasekara, the Sri Lanka medium-pacer, has climbed to No.2 in the ICC rankings for ODI bowlers after an impressive run of performances since his return to the team in April 2008. In that period, he has taken 40 wickets at an average of 18, including five wickets in the last two ODIs of the series against Pakistan, where he wrecked the top order to help his team win both the games by sizeable margins.

Kulasekara moves ahead of team-mate Muttiah Muralitharan — who is now in fourth place — while Australian left-armer Nathan Bracken has fallen to the No. 3 spot.

Two Bangladesh players — Shakib Al Hasan and Mashrafe Mortaza — have made it to the top ten after a series of notable displays against Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe at home. Shakib — who has climbed 15 places to reach No. 6 — has taken 11 wickets in his last six ODIs at 10.81, while Mortaza, now ranked ninth, has fared just as well, with 14 wickets in as many games.

For Pakistan, Sohail Tanvir’s failure in the first two ODIs against Sri Lanka — he conceded 85 runs in 12 overs for a wicket and was promptly dropped — has cost him a place in the top ten. He slips ten places to No.17.


Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 3rd ODI, Lahore

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sri Lanka 309 for 5 (Dilshan 137*, Sangakkara 50, Jayasuriya 45) beat

Pakistan 75 (Kulasekara 3-17, Thushara 3-33) 75 by 234 runs

It was over before the thousands of fans at the Gaddafi Stadium could blink. Sri Lanka inflicted one of the biggest annihilations in one-day internationals and trampled over Pakistan to post a 234-run win and take the series 2-1. It was the hosts' largest margin of defeat in ODIs: they were dismissed for 75 in reply to Sri Lanka's 309.

Sri Lanka's struggles against weak sides in recent months seemed a distant memory after the rout. The victory brought back memories of the time their bowlers dismantled India for 54 at Sharjah in 2000, after the batsmen had posted 299. They were not favourites to win this series, primarily due to an out-of-form top order, but the batsmen collectively shrugged off their poor form. Tillakaratne Dilshan set it up with a mature 137, Jayasuriya contributed 45, and Sangakkara made 50.

However, it was the speed at which the new-ball attack scythed through Pakistan that startled. Nuwan Kulasekara and Thilan Thushara used swing and seam movement to make up for the lack of express-pace and proved too difficult to handle for Pakistan's batsmen. Six Pakistan wickets fell before the tenth over, putting an end to the contest.

The conditions were predicted to favour the fast bowlers at the start of play but they got deadlier when Sri Lanka began bowling under lights. Thushara struck in the second over, trapping make-shift opener Younis Khan lbw, before Kulasekara found Salman Butt's edge to hand him a first-ball duck. It got worse for Pakistan when Kamran Akmal was caught in front by a Thushara delivery which cut in, skidded, and hit him low on the pads. The inspired bowling was backed up by superb fielding: Farveez Maharoof pulled off a blinder at short wicket, intercepting a full-blooded pull from Khurram Manzoor.

Even Misbah-ul-Haq had no answers to a delivery from Thushara and he edged to the wicketkeeper. Shahid Afridi fell four balls later, shouldering arms to a delivery that jagged back and had his off-stump flattened. Sections of the crowd that had cheered his entrance moments before began to leave.

Umar Gul walked in and began to time the ball through the gaps on the off side like a genuine batsman while Shoaib Malik stood helpless at the other end. Pakistan were 22 for 6 with no hope of recovery. The spinners wrapped up the tail and Muttiah Muralitharan picked up the final wicket, bowling Sohail Khan, to become the second bowler after Wasim Akram to take 500 ODI wickets. Pakistan's total of 75 was their lowest at home.

The spectacular nature of Pakistan's collapse, however, should not overshadow Dilshan's outstanding contribution earlier in the day. Sri Lanka continued their experiment of opening with him and Dilshan battled through overcast conditions to compile his career-best score. He was circumspect initially against the fast bowlers and was dropped on 1 by Salman Butt at backward point before realizing that a grafting approach was the need of the day.

He paddled and nudged, occasionally playing the fierce cut, and only after his hundred - his second in ODIs - did he open up. He slammed length deliveries and made room to carve the fuller ones over the off side. Pakistan's spinners gave him width and they paid for it.

Sri Lanka's innings was built on partnerships and each one took the game further away from Pakistan. Malik pushed the field back, opening up gaps in the outfield, and allowed the batsmen to progress. Steadily, Sri Lanka built towards the target Mahela Jayawardene had aimed for before the start of the game.

The contributions from Sangakkara and Thilina Kandamby were significant as well. Sangakkara swept the spinners and tapped the ball into gaps on the off side to take singles. His approach brought back memories of Arjuna Ranatunga and his 104-run partnership with Dilshan came at a run-a-ball. Sangakkara and Dilshan ran swiftly between the wickets but a moment of confusion over a risky single resulted in Sangakkara's wicket.

Dilshan, however, did not let the setback affect him and he added 57 more with Kandamby. His century was his second important contribution of the series, after the 76 in the second ODI in Karachi, and he was adjudged Man of the Series for scoring 255 runs in the three matches.


Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 2nd ODI, Karachi in Photo Index

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A view of the National Stadium, Karachi © Sohail Abbas

Shoaib Malik and Umar Gul celebrate Kumar Sangakkara's wicket, Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 2nd ODI, Karachi, January 21, 2009 © AFP

Shoaib Akhtar dismissed Tillakaratne Dilshan for 76, Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 2nd ODI, Karachi, January 21, 2009 © AFP

The Pakistan team pose for a group photograph before the 2nd ODI against Sri Lanka, Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 2nd ODI, Karachi, January 21, 2009 © Sohail Abbas

Shoaib Akhtar walks back to his bowling mark, Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 2nd ODI, Karachi, January 21, 2009 © Sohail Abbas

Umar Gul is congratulated by team-mates after dismissing Mahela Jayawardene, Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 2nd ODI, Karachi, January 21, 2009 © AFP

Kamran Akmal hugs Iftikhar Anjum after Thilina Kandamby's dismissal, Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 2nd ODI, Karachi, January 21, 2009© AFP

Umar Gul bends his back, Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 2nd ODI, Karachi, January 21, 2009 © AFP

Younis Khan is cleaned up by Nuwan Kulasekara, Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 2nd ODI, Karachi, January 21, 2009 © AFP

Nuwan Kulasekara celebrates the dismissal of Younis Khan, Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 2nd ODI, Karachi, January 21, 2009 © AFP

Salman Butt brings up his half-century, Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 2nd ODI, Karachi, January 21, 2009 © AFP

Salman Butt and Shoaib Malik push for a single, Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 2nd ODI, Karachi, January 21, 2009 © AFP


ICL's push for recognition

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The PCB has once again indicated it is keen on bringing back ICL players into the fold, with chairman Ijaz Butt urging the ICC to resolve the current policy of most national boards excluding those involved with the unsanctioned league from playing international or domestic cricket run officially.

"We don't want our players to be banned because they have contracts with the ICL,"

Butt was quoted by PTI.

"But unfortunately we can't do anything unless the ICC changes its stance on this issue."

The Pakistan board, under its previous administration, had announced a ban in December 2007 on six players who took part in the ICL's inaugural tournament, and since then 13 others had joined the league, including batsman Mohammad Yousuf. Among those banned are former captain Inzamam-ul-Haq, Abdul Razzaq, Azhar Mahmood and Mohammad Sami. Surprisingly, the ban does not apply to coaches and officials, with Moin Khan guiding Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) in the domestic circuit.

"The PCB has not directly banned the players, We have banned them under the ICC rules,"

Butt said.

"The rules state that no tournament can be held without the home board's permission and, in the case of the ICL, the Indian board [BCCI] does not recognise it as it runs its own league, the IPL."

The BCCI had been instructed by the ICC to conduct talks with the ICL - which had approached the ICC for recognition - but Butt said he was not aware of any progress on the matter, which would be discussed at the ICC executive board meeting in Perth on January 31. Butt felt it won't be long before the official stance on the ICL is changed, as the ICL had a strong legal case.

"I don't think this ban will be there for long. Because the ICL is back to talking about taking legal action, if necessary, if the ICC or Indian board does not recognise it. And let me make it clear here the ICC lawyers have indicated ICL has a strong legal case."

When he took over in October, Butt had talked of a possible merger between the ICL and the BCCI-run IPL, though the Indian board is yet to confirm any such development. The new PCB administration has been vocal over the stance on ICL players, with Javed Miandad, former Pakistan captain and now the board's director-general, questioning the rationale of the bans.


Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 2nd ODI, Karachi

Sri Lanka 290 for 8 (Dilshan 76, Kandamby 59, Gul 4-58) beat

Pakistan 161 (Butt 62, Malik 54, Muralitharan 3-19, Mendis 3-29) by 129 runs

Sri Lanka levelled the series 1-1 with a crushing win, thanks to a convincing all-round performance in Karachi. Tillakaratne Dilshan hit a sparkling half-century to take Sri Lanka to a strong total, before Nuwan Kulasekara and Muttiah Muralitharan shot out the hosts cheaply. Salman Butt and Shoaib Malik resisted with a 108-run partnership, but Muralitharan removed Malik to trigger a stunning collapse.

Sri Lanka were much more disciplined today. Though they contrived to let slip dominant positions more than once, they had the players to retrieve the situation and help them tide over the various mini-crises. The attacking Dilshan made good for Sanath Jayasuriya's hit-wicket dismissal and Kumar Sangakkara's suicidal run-out. And after Dilshan's exit, Thilina Kandamby - who replaced Jehan Mubarak from the XI in the first ODI - took charge of the run-making, allowing out-of-form captain Mahela Jayawardene to find his bearings.

The strong point for the visitors was that even after the soft dismissals of Kandamby, Jayawardene and Chamara Kapugedera, they didn't disintegrate in the final overs.

During the chase, Muralitharan got into the act after Butt and Malik threatened a matchwinning partnership. Muralitharan, brought into the attack in the 22nd over, struck the vital blow in his second over, removing Malik with a doosra that spun and bounced to get the edge. Butt fell tamely to Jayasuriya, chipping a leading edge to Jayawardene at cover in the next over, giving the Sri Lankan captain the record for most number of catches in ODIs. Thereafter, Sri Lanka ran amok - the lower half surrendered limply against Muralitharan and Mendis, just as the top order had floundered against Kulasekara.

Kulasekara, Sri Lanka's Ifthikhar Anjum, looks steady and unglamorous but he knows his role in the team and is aware of his limited craft. Unlike Anjum, whose main delivery is the away-going one, Kulasekara's chief wicket-taking ball is the incutter, with which he picked up two quick wickets.

Khurram Manzoor was trapped leg before in front of the off stump and Younis Khan dragged one on to middle. And when Thilan Thushara had Misbah-ul-Haq caught behind, it appeared that the chase was going to finish even before it began.

Sri Lanka's much-improved batting performance was largely due to Dilshan, who kickstarted the team's charge with a signature innings, attempting and pulling off some audacious strokes early. The third ball of the day, from Shoaib Akhtar, was a legcutter that moved away from off stump but Dilshan tried a flamboyant flick over midwicket and was comprehensively beaten. On another day, he might have got an edge and his shot selection would have come under the scanner. Not today, though.

When the strokes came off, they looked spectacular. He swung Shoaib over midwicket off a free-hit, survived a close shout for lbw before unfurling a couple of pulls and a cut against the same bowler. Shoaib leaked four fours in his second over and was taken out of the attack. Dilshan, however, continued stylishly against the other bowlers. He cheekily lapped a short-of-a-length delivery on middle and leg from Iftikhar Anjum over the short fine-leg fielder and lashed a full delivery over point with panache.

However, Sri Lanka's season of self-created agony continued to haunt them. Jayasuriya was out hit wicket for the first time in his 426-ODI career and Sangakkara ran himself out. It would have been worse for Sri Lanka had Kamran Akmal not given more ammunition to his critics. Kandamby stabbed a Shahid Afridi slider on 16 but Akmal dropped it, following which he went on to pick his singles and twos calmly to keep the score moving. Akmal later sought redemption with a sharp, low catch to his right to get rid of Jayawardene.

Kapugedara controlled the death overs, giving Sri Lanka enough runs to coast to a comfortable win and ensuring that the last match of the series, in Lahore on Saturday, is the series decider.


Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 1st ODI, Karachi. 20 January 2009 in Photo Index

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Salman Butt with the Man of the Match trophy, Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 1st ODI, Karachi, January 20, 2009 © AFP

Salman Butt looks up to the skies after reaching his hundred, Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 1st ODI, Karachi, January 20, 2009 © AFP

Khurram Manzoor en route to his fifty, Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 1st ODI, Karachi, January 20, 2009 © AFP

Salman Butt gets a hug from Khurram Manzoor after bringing up his fifty, Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 1st ODI, Karachi, January 20, 2009 © AFP

Khurram Manzoor brings up his half-century, Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 1st ODI, Karachi, January 20, 2009 © AFP

Salman Butt brings up his fifty, Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 1st ODI, Karachi, January 20, 2009 © AFP

Salman Butt works the ball on the leg side, Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 1st ODI, Karachi, January 20, 2009 © AFP

Khurram Manzoor pushes the ball past point, Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 1st ODI, Karachi, January 20, 2009 © AFP

Ajantha Mendis is bowled for 1, Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 1st ODI, Karachi, January 20, 2009 © AFP

Umar Gul picked up 3 for 30, Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 1st ODI, Karachi, January 20, 2009 © AFP

Kumar Sangakkara reverse-sweeps behind the wicket, Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 1st ODI, Karachi, January 20, 2009 © AFP

Iftikhar Anjum steams in, Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 1st ODI, Karachi, January 20, 2009 © AFP

Pakistan players celebrate the fall of Thilan Thushara's wicket, Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 1st ODI, Karachi, January 20, 2009 © AFP

Iftikhar Anjum celebrates the wicket of Mahela Jayawardene, Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 1st ODI, Karachi, January 20, 2009 © AFP

Kumar Sangakkara scampers through for a quick single, Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 1st ODI, Karachi, January 20, 2009 © AFP

Iftikhar Anjum took a career-best 4 for 42, Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 1st ODI, Karachi, January 20, 2009 © AFP


Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 1st ODI, Karachi

Pakistan 220 for 2 (Butt 100*, Manzoor 83) beat

Sri Lanka 219 (Sangakkara 49, Anjum 4-42, Gul 3-30)by eight wickets

A country starved of international cricket for over six months celebrated with a comprehensive eight-wicket victory over Sri Lanka to take a 1-0 lead in the series, thanks to the efforts of Salman Butt and Khurram Manzoor, who made light work of the 220-run target. Pakistan took full advantage of a jaded Sri Lankan side still circumspect with their form after struggling against weak sides in the recent months.

Sri Lanka were outclassed particularly in the batting and the wounds are taking way too long to heal. Their relatively potent bowling attack struggled to script a turnaround for the team's fortunes as a whole and with the first breakthrough coming as late as the 38th over, it was curtains for Sri Lanka.

Pakistan's discipline, impressive for a team denied of opportunities to play as a unit in the last year, carried them through. Save for a poor start with the ball, there were no other signs of rustiness and the positive body language showed they were happy to be back and performing against stronger opposition.

The start to the chase wasn't electric but watchful. It was a contrasting approach to Sri Lanka's earlier in the day, as the batsmen saw off the opening bowlers, who kept things fairly tight. That the Powerplays cost only 32 and 23 runs respectively, didn't cause too many worries in the Pakistan camp as they chased a below-par score.

The question was whether Pakistan would hold their own against the spinners, and their preparations against Ajantha Mendis seemed to pay off as they played him effectively off the hand. The plan was to get forward and smother the spin as most of Mendis' deliveries appeared to skid through.

Mendis was duly punished for ten runs in his first over, which included two forceful shots by Manzoor square of the wicket on either side. Mahela Jayawardene placed a slip to induce a mistake but Manzoor frequently glided deliveries past that fielder, even bringing up his fifty off one such deft touch.

The consistent Butt carried on his solid touch from the previous year - which he scored 861 runs - with some neat flicks past midwicket off Nuwan Kulasekara. He used his feet well against the spinners, playing down the line and with the turn. When Sanath Jayasuriya was brought on to effect a breakthrough, Butt slogged him for boundaries over midwicket.

His partner wasn't quite so assured at the start though and often made the mistake of shuffling across too far and cramping himself for room to cut. He gained in confidence as the innings progressed but perished at the stroke of the third Powerplay, caught and bowled by Muralitharan, after giving the bowler the charge but failing to get the elevation.

Butt pushed Mendis to deep cover to bring up his tenth ODI fifty. His ability to convert his fifties into bigger scores showed why he was among the top run scorers last year. He was surprisingly out of touch in the Abu Dhabi ODIs against West Indies in November, but today he shrugged off his recent indifferent form when he pushed a single to long-on to bring up his eighth ODI ton and fourth in the last 12 months.

It was a lesson on how to bat on this wicket, which played true to its prediction as a batting track. Sri Lanka's batsmen had the advantage at the toss but floundered after a strong start. The insecurities of the middle-order slowly surfaced as Pakistan clawed back, applied the pressure and restricted Sri Lanka to a total much lower than projected after the early blitz.

The experiment of asking Dilshan to open clicked and his heaves and slashes, effective but not necessarily attractive, showed why Sri Lanka missed him during the Bangladesh ODIs. Umar Gul, fresh from a stint in Australia, found success as early as his first over, getting Dilshan caught and then trapping Jayasuriya in front.

At the end of the 14th over, Sri Lanka had raced ahead with 89 on the board but the dismissals pegged the scoring back to the point from which they never recovered. Kumar Sangakkara swept the spinners, grafted away and was happy pushing the singles - he took 26 in all.

Kapugedera and Jehan Mubarak threw away their wickets, while Sangakkara perished off an upper cut, taken athletically by Butt at point just short of his fifty. In the end, it was Pakistan's first and second change bowlers who did most of the damage, after the hype surrounding Shoaib Akhtar's inclusion.

Sri Lanka don't have any time to regroup, with the second game scheduled for tomorrow. Pakistan will look for a series win and bring more smiles back to the faces of their fans who were given a second chance after India's pull-out.


Training Camp for National Team ahead of the three-match ODI series against Sri Lanka

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Younis Khan cuts loose at the nets, Karachi, January 17, 2009 © AFP

Shoaib Malik misses a catch during the nets session, Karachi, January 17, 2009 © AFP

Shoaib Akhtar concentrates hard during fielding pratice, Karachi, January 17, 2009 © AFP

Misbah-ul-Haq on the defensive against Umar Gul, Karachi, January 17, 2009 © AFP


ICC asks Pakistan about Asif case

Friday, January 16, 2009

The International Cricket Council has asked officials in Pakistan to explain what action they plan to take against fast bowler Mohammad Asif over his drugs arrest, an official said Thursday.

The 26-year-old fast bowler was detained in June for nearly three weeks for possession of opium as he was returning to Pakistan after playing in the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Dubai police deported him without charge, saying the quantity of illegal drugs found was insufficient, but he was barred from the United Arab Emirates for life.

Pakistan’s Senate standing committee has recommended that Asif be banned for life over the Dubai drugs case, the latest in a series of troubles for the cricketer.

"We have received an email from ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat accompanied by the Dubai detention report,"
the Pakistan Cricket Board's chief operating officer, Saleem Altaf, told a foreign news agency.

"This is the first time we have seen this report and our lawyer is looking into it and soon we will form a committee to take action on it,"
he said.

Altaf said the PCB would follow the normal course taken for a discipline violation after receiving the ICC's query, explaining that the process had been delayed due to a change in leadership at the PCB.

A PCB spokesman said a three-man committee had been set up to review the Dubai report on Asif's detention and make a recommendation "in due course".

Asif is also facing a possible two-year ban after failing a drugs screening test during the inaugural IPL season last year. He was due to appear before the IPL doping tribunal on January 24.

Altaf, himself a former paceman for Pakistan's national team, said the PCB would not rush to conclusions over what he termed a "sensitive case."

"We are talking about a player's career,"
he said.

Asif and fellow paceman Shoaib Akhtar failed drugs tests in 2006. A PCB tribunal banned Akhtar for two years and Asif for one year but that decision was overturned on appeal in a move criticised by the ICC.

Asif has played 11 Tests and 31 one-day matches for Pakistan since making his debut in Australia in early 2005.


Senate recommends life ban for Asif

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Pakistan's Senate sports committee Tuesday recommended that troubled fast bowler Mohammad Asif be banned from cricket for life over his detention in Dubai last year for opium possession.

The 26-year-old fast bowler was detained in June for nearly three weeks as he was returning to Pakistan after playing in the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Dubai police deported him without charge, saying the quantity of illegal drugs found was insufficient, but barred him from the United Arab Emirates for life.

Asif told prosecutors he had used the opium, but claimed he believed it was simply a herbal remedy that would boost his energy.

"Youngsters will be encouraged to take drugs if Asif is not banned for life,"
committee member Enver Baig told a hearing at which officials from the sport's governing body were asked to testify.

The committee demanded that the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) launch a full probe into the incident, saying Asif's actions had tainted the country's reputation.

PCB chairman Ijaz Butt said he had not yet seen a report from Dubai prosecutors about the incident, even though it was leaked to the media on Sunday.

Asif is also facing a possible two-year ban after failing a drugs screening test during the inaugural IPL season last year. He was due to appear before the IPL doping tribunal on January 24.

Asif and fellow pace-man Shoaib Akhtar failed drugs tests in 2006. A PCB tribunal banned Akhtar for two years and Asif for one year, but that decision was overturned on appeal.


Sri Lanka’s tour schedule revised again

Pakistan's cricket board said Wednesday the venues of the upcoming one-day series have been changed at Sri Lanka's request, with the three matches now to be played in Karachi and Lahore.

"We will now play the first two matches in Karachi on January 20 and 21 and the final match in Lahore on January 24,"
the Pakistan Cricket Board's chief operating officer Salim Altaf said.

Altaf did not say why Sri Lanka had made the request.

The third match had been set to take place in Faisalabad and was initially moved to Multan on January 27, but the first leg of Sri Lanka's two-part tour has now been shortened, Altaf said.

Sri Lanka agreed to tour Pakistan after India last month cancelled their much-anticipated visit in the wake of the Mumbai attacks, which have strained relations between New Delhi and Islamabad.

Sri Lanka will return to Pakistan on February 14 for two Test matches, Altaf said.


ICC names officials for Pak-Sri Lanka series

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has announced here on Tuesday the names of the officials for the One-day International series between Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Chris Broad has been appointed match referee for the three-match series beginning on January 21 while the ICC elite panel umpire Nigel Long will supervise all three One-day Internationals. Other umpires will be appointed by the Pakistan Cricket Board.

The matches will be held on January 21, 24 and 27.


Umar Amin new face in Pakistan's 15-man squad

Nineteen-year-old batsman Umar Amin has been rewarded for his impact on the domestic season with a call-up to Pakistan's 15-man squad for the first ODI against Sri Lanka on January 21 in Karachi. The team, the first picked by a new-look selection committee headed by Abdul Qadir, has gone back to traditional Pakistani strength, pace, but is not entirely without surprise.

Amin was the second-highest run-getter in last month's RBS Pentangular One-Day Cup, scoring 254 runs at an average of 84.66 and strike-rate of 89.12. A sound left-hand top-order batsman, he has impressed on several Under-19 tours and was also part of Pakistan's Under-19 squad at last year's World Cup in Malaysia.

"He is a real prospect and the coach and captain were both keen to have him in the squad, to encourage him and groom him further,"

Salim Jaffer, one of the selectors, told Cricinfo.

"He has impressed a number of people this season."

But pace it is that dominates Pakistan's thinking ahead of the three-match series. Sohail Khan returns having missed the Abu Dhabi series against West Indies in November as does the skiddy, all-round option of Yasir Arafat. Ahead of both are the first-choicers, Shoaib Akhtar, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Gul and Iftikhar Anjum, thus giving Pakistan six options. The wickets, it is a given, will be quicker and bouncier than have been seen in recent times.

"The selection committee spoke to the coach Intikhab Alam about the plan for the series and we have picked a squad according to that,"

Jaffer said.

"Our strength is pace and we believe our options there are stronger than Sri Lanka's so we have gone for that."

But there are some surprises in this squad, prime among them the exclusion Nasir Jamshed. Arguably Pakistan's find of a lean year in 2008, Jamshed has been overlooked despite being in the runs domestically. Jamshed missed the Abu Dhabi matches after pulling out at the last minute with an illness and was replaced by Khurram Manzoor.

A fair rather than spectacular return in those three ODIs has meant Manzoor retains his place over Jamshed, though it is learnt the spot was the focus of considerable debate and disagreement between the committee. One selector was in favour, but was ultimately ruled over by the other two.

There was also some friction over the dropping of Fawad Alam, the allrounder, who has become a regular squad fixture over the last year. As much as a lack of impact, it is thought Pakistan's preference for pace in this contest went against him.

The only spinner in the squad is offspinner Saeed Ajmal, which means there's no place yet for legspinner Danish Kaneria, who was hopeful of a one-day call-up with the change in the PCB management. Kaneria was surprisingly promoted to the top grade of central contracts and noises coming from the new management had suggested he may get a look-in under these selectors, having long been outside of Pakistan's ODI thinking. But a poor showing in the Pentangular one-dayers seems to have gone against him for the moment.

Sri Lanka's visit will be the first test for Shoaib Malik after he was given an indefinite extension as the team's captain earlier this month.

Pakistan squad : Shoaib Malik (capt), Misbah-ul-Haq, Salman Butt, Younis Khan, Shahid Afridi, Kamran Akmal (wk) , Sohail Tanvir, Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, Iftikhar Anjum, Saeed Ajmal, Khurram Manzoor, Sohail Khan, Yasir Arafat, Umar Amin.


Sri Lanka ODI squad announced for Pakistan

Friday, January 9, 2009

Sri Lanka's cricket selectors Friday recalled in-form Tillakaratne Dilshan for an upcoming three-match One-day International series in Pakistan.

The middle-order batsman, who played his last one-dayer at home against India in August 2008, has so far scored 2,994 runs in 152 matches with one hundred and 14 half-centuries.

Dilshan was in impressive form during his team's 2-0 Test series victory in Bangladesh recently, scoring 162 and 143 in the final Test in Chittagong to become only the fourth Sri Lankan to hammer two centuries in the match.

However, he was not named immediately in the squad for a triangular one-day series starting in Bangladesh Saturday. Zimbabwe are the third side.

Fast bowler Dammika Prasad, part of the Test team in Bangladesh, was not included in the 15-man squad for Pakistan to be led by middle-order batsman Mahela Jayawardene.

Veteran opener Sanath Jayasuriya retained his place in the one-day squad which had two young players in former under-19 captain Angelo Matthews and Thilina Kandamby.

Sri Lanka agreed to tour Pakistan after India cancelled the January-February series due to simmering political tensions between the two countries over the Mumbai attacks.

The three one-dayers will be played in Karachi (January 21), Lahore (January 24) and Faisalabad (January 27).

Sri Lanka will then return to Pakistan in mid-February for two Tests, in Karachi and Lahore.

Sri Lanka one-day squad: Mahela Jayawardene (captain), Kumar Sangakkara, Sanath Jayasuriya, Upul Tharanga, Chamara Kapugedera, Jehan Mubarak, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Thilina Kandamby, Muttiah Muralitharan, Ajantha Mendis, Farveez Maharoof, Dilhara Fernando, Nuwan Kulasekera, Thilina Thushara, Angelo Matthews.


Shoaib and Kaneria earn top contracts

In a fitting indication of the extremes within which Pakistan cricket operates, Shoaib Akhtar has been awarded a central contract for 2009 and been placed in the top of three categories. This time last year, Shoaib had been demoted to a special retainership category for players whose form and fitness were in doubt. He refused to take it and instead responded angrily, sparking a sequence which eventually saw him being banned and fined by the board.

Shoaib played just three Twenty20s in a four-nation tournament in Canada and missed all of Pakistan's other commitments through injury or the ban. But under another new administration and team management he has been reinstated to the premier rank of Pakistan's players.

Mohammad Asif, as expected, finds himself out of the picture altogether, with no place in any of the categories. He is currently suspended by the PCB after testing positive for steroids during the IPL last year. It was another controversial year for Asif who was also held at Dubai Airport on suspicion of possessing a recreational drug, before being released after 19 days with the charges dropped. His fall has been as swift as Shoaib's rise: at the beginning of last year, he had been promoted to the top category.

The contracts were awarded after inputs from Pakistan coach Intikhab Alam, Abdul Qadir, chief selector and Yawar Saeed, the team manager. The other winner in the new contracts - and another example of the vague criteria applied by the administration - is Danish Kaneria. Last year, Kaneria was demoted to category C, a decision which prompted considerable criticism at the time. Yet, without playing a single match for Pakistan in 2008, Kaneria finds himself in category A this year.

Salman Butt and Umar Gul also move up after impressive years. But Sohail Tanvir, Pakistan's best ODI bowler in 2008, will rightly ask why he is in the same group as Yasir Hameed, Faisal Iqbal and Mohammad Hafeez, none of whom played for Pakistan last year.

Seniority, said the PCB, played a significant role this time. Last year, a mix of seniority, performance, fitness and discipline had been factored in while awarding the contracts.

"The central contracts were devised by coach Intikhab Alam, manager Yawar Saeed and chief selector Abdul Qadir and the main criteria was seniority of the players,"

Salim Altaf, chief operating officer PCB, told reporters.

Salaries for each category remain the same, a boost given speculation in recent weeks that the board would cut down salaries in the face of a severe financial crunch. That means category A players receive Rs 250,000 per month, category B Rs 175,000 and category C, Rs 100,000.

The retainership category has been removed this time and no winning bonuses will be on offer as they were last year but match fees for Tests have been increased from Rs 250,000 per match to Rs 350,000.

Category A Shoaib Akhtar, Younis Khan, Danish Kaneria, Shahid Afridi, Kamran Akmal, Shoaib Malik, Misbah-ul-Haq, Salman Butt, Umar Gul

Category B Yasir Hameed, Faisal Iqbal, Mohammad Hafeez, Sohail Tanvir

Category C Rao Iftikhar Anjum, Abdur Rehman, Yasir Arafat, Fawad Alam, Khurram Manzoor, Saeed Ajmal, Sohail Khan, Wahab Riaz, Samiullah Khan Niazi, Sarfraz Ahmad, Nasir Jamshed, Umar Amin, Azhar Ali

Will Pakistan Premier League gain success just like Indian Premier League ?