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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pak to protest Champions League Twenty20 snub

Pak to protest Champions League Twenty20 snub
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is expected to raise the issue of its continued snub from the Champions League Twenty20 at the International Cricket Council (ICC) annual meeting later this month in Hong Kong. The third edition of the Twenty20 tournament is scheduled to be held from September 23 to October 9. Teams from India, Australia, England, South Africa, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and West Indies will take part in the tournament.

Pakistan board approves deficit budget

The Pakistan Cricket Board on Wednesday approved a deficit budget for 2011-2012 that envisages plans to revive international matches in the troubled country.
Pakistan have been forced to play their international series at neutral venues since a militant attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in the eastern city of Lahore two years ago which resulted in foreign teams avoiding the country due to security concerns.
The PCB's governing board met in Lahore to approve the budget but did not disclose its total amount.
"A deficit budget has been approved," chairman Ijaz Butt told reporters.
"We have been forced to play away from home for the last two years but the impression that we suffer losses in every series played on neutral venue is not correct."
Pakistan, who hosted West Indies, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in the United Arab Emirates, will also host their home series against Sri Lanka in October-November this year and England (January-February 2012) in the UAE.
Butt said the board had various plans to overcome the deficit.
"We have plans to lift club cricket so that our domestic cricket improves and for that we have planned around 5,000 matches at club level in the country in the next season," said Butt.
Former spinner Abdul Qadir has been appointed coordinator for club cricket.
Butt said Pakistan was also endeavouring to host its own Twenty20 league, modelled on the cash-rich Indian Premier League.
"We want to stage our own Twenty20 league although we do not have the expertise but we are still trying," he added.
A panel of 12 lawyers has also been appointed to help the PCB on the legal front.
The PCB was embroiled in a damaging row with Shahid Afridi after the all-rounder was removed as one-day captain earlier this month.
The stand-off, which started after Afridi announced retirement from international cricket following his removal as captain, was finally settled out of court following a meeting between Afridi and Butt last week.
Afridi appeared before a disciplinary committee which restored his no-objection certificates which allow him to play abroad but fined him $53,000 for breaching the players' code of conduct.

"Relieved" Afridi hopes to dazzle for Hampshire

 Shahid Afridi is looking forward to his first outing as a ‘retired’ player on Thursday (tomorrow) when he will make his debut for Hampshire in their Friends Pro-t20 clash against Essex Eagles in Chelmsford (England).

The star allrounder, who announced his retirement from international cricket during a bitter dispute with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), is happy that he will be back on the cricket field soon.
“I’m really looking forward to be back in action,” Afridi told ‘The News (a local newspaper)’ in an interview on Tuesday. “The last few weeks were pretty frustrating but thank God it’s over now. I’m feeling relieved,” added the player who will leave here for London on Wednesday (today).
Till a few days back it seemed that Afridi won’t be able to fulfill his lucrative assignment with Hampshire as he was busy battling in court against the PCB.
It all began when Afridi was relieved of Pakistan’s one-day captaincy last month by the PCB after he hinted at disharmony in the national team management following his team’s 3-2 win in the limited-overs series against West Indies.
Reacting to the snub, Afridi retired from international cricket and lashed out at the PCB for its “ill-treatment” towards him. The PCB decided to hit back by suspending his central contract and revoking all No Objection Certificates thus blocking the player’s participation in the Friends Pro-t20 event in England.
Afridi returned home and filed a petition in the Sindh High Court. A few days later, he withdrew the petition following a meeting with PCB chief Ijaz Butt. The Board slapped him with a hefty fine of Rs4.5 million but agreed to revoke his NOC to play for Hampshire.
The entire episode was a stunning turnaround for the 31-year-old who was hailed as a hero last March when he guided an otherwise underachieving Pakistan team to the World Cup semifinals.
However, Afridi made it clear that he won’t delve in the past.
“All I’m thinking about is how to regain my form, both as a bowler and as a batsman,” said Afridi, who is one of the world’s most successful allrounders in the shorter formats of the game.
“I’m looking forward to do well as an allrounder for Hampshire,” added the player who has scored 6695 runs and bagged 315 wickets in One-day Internationals. He is also one of the most prolific players in Twenty20 Internationals with 683 runs and 53 wickets from 43 matches.
Afridi peaked as a legspinner during the 2011 World Cup in sub-continent when he emerged as one of the most successful bowlers in the 16-nation spectacle. But his performance graph dipped in the Caribbean where he flopped both with the bat and ball.
However, an unplanned yet well-deserved sabbatical from cricket has left Afridi in a buoyant mood.
“I was feeling a bit drained after the World Cup which is probably the reason why my performance wasn’t up to the mark against the West Indies,” he said.
“But I’m feeling much better now and am itching to play cricket which is a great sign.”
Soon after concluding his Hampshire stint, Afridi is hoping to feature as one of the star attractions at the inaugural Sri Lankan Premier League (SLPL) Twenty20 tournament. The event will be played over 18 days from July 19 and will feature teams from the island’s seven provinces.
Afridi will lead one of the competing teams and is already looking forward to the challenge. “It (SLPL) promises to be a challenging tournament and I’m hoping to give my best in it,” he said.

Saqlain Mushtaq's Hat-trick v Zimbabwe, World Cup 1999

Shoaib Akhtar's Wicket v Brendon McCullum - ICC Cricket World Cup 2011

Why is Modi on a 'reveal all' mode on ICL?

Lalit ModiFormer Indian Premier League (IPL) chairman Lalit Modihas admitted that the BCCI officials were "afraid of Subhash Chandra's clout in media and (his) ability to take over the world of cricket. Internally, we knew he would do a better job".
So, was this the reason why Sharad Pawar, president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), kept mum after Subhash Chandra warned him 16 days before launching his Indian Cricket League (ICL) on April 3, 2007?
Chandra first gave an oral warning to Pawar on March 18, 2007, and then minutes before he announced the unauthorised T20 tournament in New Delhi he faxed a three-page letter to him, giving reasons of his doing so.
A copy of the letter is with MAIL TODAY. So, the BCCI was well aware of what was cooking in the Chandra-owned Zee stable. And to counter the ICL threat, Modi, with Pawar's well-known patronage, worked overtime to give shape and context to the IPL, which was initially supposed to be a One-day inter-city tournament.
All along, Modi was part of the BCCI think-tank that was out to counter the ICL, which Chandra termed as an "innovative laboratory" off the "established managed cricket field".
So, why is Modi now revealing that the BCCI got the International Cricket Council (ICC) constitution changed to force the boards of other countries to outlaw the ICL?
Is he trying to send some signals to the Chandra camp? Or is it the beginning of another unauthorised tournament that we may hear about soon? It may be or it may not be.
It is interesting to recall that Modi had launched a company called the Indian Cricket League. He even threatened to sue Zee's Essel Group for hijacking the name, but never did after the IPL became a grand success. Why?
BCCI vs Lalit Modi
Meanwhile, BCCI president Shashank Manohar rejected Modi's latest tirade against the BCCI. "I don't want to react at all to Mr Modi. Modi seems to fascinate the media. He does not fascinate me," he said Nagpur.
Modi, who was sacked as IPL chairman for alleged financial irregularities in April last year, tweeted that the BCCI forced the ICC to change its constitution to outlaw the now defunct unauthorised Indian Cricket League, floated by Zee's Essel Sports Pvt. Ltd.
ICL owners Essel await full disclosure
Meanwhile, an Essel official said in Mumbai he would wait for further revelations from Modi on how the BCCI scuttled the ICL before announcing their next move.
"Essel Sports Pvt. Ltd. has received lot of queries on the recent disclosures made by a former member of the BCCI, openly admitting to having initiated various actions against the ICL operations," Himanshu Mody, head, group finance and strategy of Essel Group, said in a statement

ICL owners Essel await full disclosure of BCCI actions

MUMBAI: The officials of the now defunct Indian Cricket League (ICL) will like to wait for further revelations from former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi on how they scuttled the rebel league before announcing their next move. 

"Essel Sports Pvt. Ltd. - Promoters of the Indian Cricket League - ICL has received lot of queries on the recent disclosures made by a former member of the BCCI, openly admitting to having initiated various actions against the ICL operations," Himanshu Mody, Head, Group Finance and Strategy of Essel Group, was quoted as saying in a media release. 

"These revelations justify our position that the Twenty20 format was conceptualized and formulated for the betterment of Indian & World cricket by ICL & the Essel Group," Mody said. 

"We await the entire details to be made public as stated by the former BCCI official and will determine the next steps accordingly," he added. 

However, BCCI Chief Shashank Manohar rejected Modi's latest tirade against the Board and ridiculed him by saying that the former IPL Commissioner might fascinate the media but not him. 

"I don't want to react at all to Mr Modi. Modi seems to fascinate the media. He does not fascinate me," Manohar said from Nagpur. 

Modi, in his Twitter page, had alleged on Monday that the BCCI forced the International Cricket Council to change its constitution to outlaw the now defunct Indian Cricket League floated by the Essel Group. 

In a series of tweets, Modi, who was sacked as IPL Commissioner in April last year, disclosed that the BCCI had wanted ICL to shut shop at any cost and it flexed its muscle to ensure that ICC and the other Cricket Boards fell in line. 

"ICC set up a three member committee with me, Giles Clarke President ECB and Norman Arendse President CSA to draft the new constitution. BCCI called every member of ICC to ensure that they all help in changing the ICC constitution to outlaw ICL," Modi wrote on his 'Twitter' page. 

"ICC used Bird and Bird a UK-based law firm to ensure Regulations to stop ICL was made consistent Globally," he added.

Wanted: a players' association for Pakistan

Nearly 35 years ago a pay dispute between six leading cricketers and the BCCP - now the PCB - changed the face of Pakistan cricket. The dispute began with Asif Iqbal, Mushtaq Mohammad, Majid Khan and Imran Khan, among others, demanding better pay from a board headed by AH Kardar, Pakistan's first official Test captain.

The issue swiftly became politicised. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the prime minister, and a close ministerial aide, Abdul Hafeez Pirzada, got involved. Eventually the players won out - Pirzada played the key role in trumping Kardar - and soon demonstrated their strength by joining Kerry Packer's circuit despite the threat of being banned from international cricket. Kardar was removed, the players got pay raises, and they played Packer and for Pakistan again.

They were transformative years. More money turned amateurs into professionals; TV, newspapers and magazines turned professionals into stars and heroes. County cricket expanded the world view, and skills, of top players, and for the first time since the 50s, Pakistan were once again competitive.

The pay battles were both a consequence of this change and an agent of it. They reversed an equation on which Pakistan cricket had run till then. Since then, the game has been an unequal tussle between increasingly big-headed players and increasingly - a few exceptions apart - unfit administrators. It is the redress of this equation, to once again make players subservient to the board, lambs not employees, that appears to be the sole aim of Ijaz Butt's administration. Given the quantity of players cast aside since Butt took over, and particularly the manner of their departures, it is a battle the administration is not losing.

What the pay disputes couldn't do was produce a robust players' association to turn power into player empowerment, which may potentially have prevented much of what we have seen recently. Majid and Iqbal did get one up in the early 80s, but it didn't last and the reasons are instructive.

"It is a unique culture in Pakistan," Iqbal once tried to explain. "When we first started talking about it, the board made sure we were attacked for it. It was said to be about player power. Nobody realised it was for the betterment of players, and the players themselves were unsure about it. Some were playing county cricket, some had jobs in banks, and it never really happened."

Much in the manner of the man, it is a polite explanation. Majid is blunter. "I do not think an association can be formed because of players' vested interests and their willingness to be exploited by the authorities." Both are right.

Egos clash, players form cliques and factions, they look out for themselves, they never trust one another, and they allow themselves to be manipulated by the board. Over the last 20 years the player has gotten bigger but the man has become smaller. This smallness is manifest clearest in the continued absence of a player association, a failure to recognise that though the player's lot has improved financially, he still has no voice.

There has never been a greater need for one than now. Shahid Afridi's needless legal battle with the board is only the latest in a burgeoning collection. Shoaib Akhtar's fight with Nasim Ashraf, the former chairman, went to the Lahore High Court in 2008. Pakistan's ICL players took the PCB to the Sindh High court as well. These will not be the end: there is an activist judiciary currently, so every axed, non-selected or disgruntled player feels he can go straight to the Supreme Court. Both the judiciary and the game can easily do without this kind of nonsense.

An association provides a buffer, a first, mediatory, port of call. It encourages negotiation not confrontation. Avoiding legal battles is the least of its benefits. Pakistan's players have been frozen out of the IPL for the last three seasons, sidelined as players from around the world secure a future. What has been their response? To sulk and complain of being victimised - and not as one at that, but as a disparate and unrepresented bunch. Could not an association aligned with FICA, the world player body, have taken more substantial, progressive action?

There is no end to the issues a Pakistani cricketer needs advice, representation and counselling on. Currently national cricketers are simply handed central contracts by the board and it has been that way since Inzamam-ul-Haq stepped down; Inzamam used to negotiate, with considerable strength, on behalf of the players. Now there is no room for discussion or negotiation. For the last three seasons the monthly retainers of the three categories have not increased - a time in which the annual inflation rate has hovered between 10 and 15%. Incentives have increased but the last batch of contracts, after the spot-fixing scandal, had particularly stringent terms added. One clause stipulates that if a centrally contracted player plays for a county, he will not be paid his national retainer for the duration of that stint. This thus shatters the very central basis of retainers: the continuous financial stability and security they are supposed to provide.

And about those whose misfortune it is to not progress beyond first-class cricket? Nobody seems particularly concerned about their security, for instance. International cricketers have been targeted in this land, and the country's citizens are less safe than ever before, so who can say, with confidence, that domestic matches won't become a target? Who is representing the interests and safety of first-class cricketers? What about their broader condition? Is anyone looking out for them? Aamer Bashir, the much-respected domestic middle-overs giant who died late last year struggled to the end to fund treatment for cancer. He need not have done.

There is every chance that a players' association may create more problems, of that we must be aware. It is easy to imagine, for example, affairs going the farcical, petty way of WIPA and WICB. And union-management relationships in Pakistan can swiftly become cripplingly confrontational; Karachiites know only too well the suffering from an ongoing and self-absorbed dispute between workers and management at the electricity supply company. Neither will anyone bet against the emergence of a breakaway or rival association, set up by players snubbed by the original. It could get messy.

But what are the alternatives? To continue like this is to continue towards bankruptcy. Pakistan's cricketers need a representative body. It need not be at the expense of PCB authority. By demanding a base level of uniformity and unity, for a greater cause than an individual one, a players' association imposes its own kind of restraint on player power.

A gentle, gradual awakening has occurred again over the last two years. As captain, Younis Khan pushed the idea furthest, even contacting FICA head Tim May for advice on setting up an association. But he is disenchanted currently. There are others, such as current captain Misbah-ul-Haq, who know the benefits. Ramiz Raja, who was an important representative for the team on financial matters in his playing days, and Rashid Latif are advocates as well, and capable. Ultimately someone - anyone - must act.

Ajmal takes U-turn on county decision

Circumstances have forced Pakistan’s premier off-spinner Saeed Ajmal to change his mind as he decided to snub the Faysal Bank Super-Eight T20 tournament which starts in a couple of days time and instead play in the domestic T20 tournament in England.

‘The News’ learnt that Ajmal was facing the prospect of cancellation of his three-year contract, which he signed with Worcestershire earlier in January.

A source close to the off-spinner said that Ajmal had fears that he could have been at the losing end if he declined the opportunity to play in England.

“He was worried about his future because he could earn substantially in England and thought that he would stand nowhere if Pakistan drops him in near future,” the source told ‘The News’ on Tuesday.

Ajmal is expected to join his new teammates on Wednesday and will boost Worcestershire’s Twenty20 campaign in the Friends Life t20 tournament where they have struggled so far; winning only one match out of five played with two of their encounters being washed-out due to rain.

Ajmal’s rise to the national team was much to do with his performances in the domestic T20 tournaments but it is a shame that he would not be playing in a new eight-team format and that could turn out to be a big blow for Wolves, who are looking to win the competition.

The source added that Ajmal was issued a warning letter by the county; however this could not be independently verified.

“First he decided to stay back here and win the title for Wolves but later he was issued a notice that if he does not appear for Worcestershire his three-contract would be cancelled,” he claimed.

Meanwhile, well-placed sources have confirmed that wicketkeeper Mohammad Salman will join the Wolves teammates in the later stages of the event. The source added that Salman could not join the initial squad because of an injury.

Faisalabad will become the third city to host domestic T20 tournament outside Karachi and Lahore. The tickets for the event are being sold at Rs 50 and 25 as the organisers try to lure the public to the grounds.

In the wake of Super-Eight T20, Faisalabad Cricket Association has decided to test Iqbal Stadium’s floodlights on Wednesday (today) to ensure that the lighting is alright and Faisalabad Wolves will turn out for a practice session.

Retired Afridi eyes comeback

Within weeks of announcing retirement from international cricket, former Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi on Wednesday said he would try making a comeback to the national team as soon as "conditions improve in the team management and administration."

Afridi on Wednesday left for England to play for Hampshire insisting that his international career was still not over.

The all-rounder, who was removed as captain of the national one-day team last month and then got entangled into a tussle with the Pakistan Cricket Board before being fined Rs. 4.5 million on disciplinary grounds, will appear for Hampshire in the English domestic Twenty20 competition.

"I am happy that I am getting a chance to play for Hampshire because wherever I play at the end of the day I am recognized as a Pakistani and if I do well it is Pakistan cricket that gets a good name," Afridi told reporters at the airport.

Afridi, who left with his family, will play his first match for the county on Friday against Gloucestershire and will remain in England until July 15 before going to Sri Lanka for the Sri Lankan Premier League.

The all-rounder had to return from England earlier this month to face PCB's disciplinary hearing after the NOC issued to him to play for Hampshire was revoked by the Board as part of the disciplinary proceedings against him.

The Board issued him the NOC after he appeared before the disciplinary committee and admitted he had breached the code of conduct and was subsequently fined for his misconduct.

Afridi made it clear that he still wanted to play international cricket.

"I want to play for Pakistan again because whatever I am today it is because of Pakistan. My identity is that of a Pakistani player. And nothing is more important than that for me," Afridi said.

"The moment conditions improve in the team management and administration I will try to make a comeback. Right now I just feel that the environment and conditions is not conducive for me to play international cricket.

"I still have lot of top cricket left in me but it all depends on the circumstances but I am clear in my mind that I still have lot to offer to the national team," he added.

Afridi has said that he would not play for Pakistan until the present board set-up led by Chairman Ijaz Butt is changed.

The all-rounder, who was sacked as captain after after developing differences with the team management, admitted he had been unable to focus on cricket in the last few weeks.

"I have not been able to train that is why I appear to have put on some weight. It has been difficult to focus on cricket. But now I have put everything behind me and want to make a fresh start to my career with this stint for Hampshire," he said.

Afridi said for the moment he would concentrate on domestic foreign leagues to keep himself ready for a return to international cricket.
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