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.

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