At his very first press conference today, Ijaz Butt, the PCB's new chairman, made a series of startling revelations about the ICC's discussions over the unauthorised ICL at a board meeting last week. The ICC, he said, has been warned by its lawyers of the problems ahead if it is sued by the ICL. He also spoke of plans of a possible "merger" with the IPL and of the PCB's own possible openness to its younger ICL players returning to the national fold.
"The BCCI was asked to have a meeting with them [ICL] and decide as to what needs to be done in the future," Butt said. "We [ICC] are considering their application because the ICC lawyers feel that they have a very strong case and if they sue us we may find ourselves in trouble. The BCCI has been given 21 days to discuss this matter and come back to the ICC for consideration." Butt, the former Test cricketer, was present at the ICC meeting in Dubai last week where the ICL issue was discussed.
The league has been striving to gain official recognition since it first emerged on the scene last year but has failed to make any headway thus far in the face of stiff BCCI resistance. League officials finally managed to meet the ICC recently; as a result of which, the ICC asked the BCCI to meet the ICL during their board meeting last week. That meeting, however, proved unsuccessful and the BCCI is due to provide a follow-up report to the ICC.
The failure prompted Kapil Dev, the ICL chairman, to warn that legal action is very likely if the ICC now doesn't respond to the league's bid for official recognition at its next board meeting. The ICL has issued a letter to the ICC to convene a board meeting after the talks with the BCCI failed.
"I think we are on very good ground as far as a legal case goes," Kapil said. "Eventually we will do that [take legal action]. We are not the ones who are enforcing bans on players or umpires."
The ICC refused to comment on Butt's statement. "The ICC considered the ICL application at the board meeting last week," an ICC spokesman told Cricinfo. "In that meeting, the BCCI requested to meet ICL officials and said it will report back in writing as soon as possible. Until then, we have no further comment."
All ICC member boards have barred or banned players signed up by the ICL. Pakistan was one of the countries hit hardest by the ICL exodus, losing almost an entire second XI in the shape of the popular and successful Lahore Badshahs. Under the previous administration, the PCB imposed bans on all players in the ICL from domestic and international cricket. Some players tried initially to fight the bans in court, though eventually their efforts seem to have petered out. Butt hinted, however, he might be open to reviewing the bans.
Butt said that Inzamam-ul-Haq, captain of the Badshahs, had contact him in a bid to resolve the matter. "You people have your views, my predecessors have their views, I have my views. I don't know which one is correct is about the ICL," Butt said. "When I reached Dubai I got a phone call from Inzamam-ul-Haq who said he wanted to meet me along with Subhash Chandra [chairman of Essel, the owners of the ICL]. I told him it's no use coming right now because by the time you reach here this is one of the major matters to be discussed.
"I said I have my views and I have discussed my views with India and I don't know what your views are. He told me about his stance and I said to a certain extent we have an interest and will definitely support it. But I don't know what is the view of the other people."
But perhaps the most significant revelation was that there had apparently been talk of some kind of a merger between the two leagues. "They [ICC] have small subcommittees who decide...the likelihood from what I discussed unofficially with Mr. Modi and Mr. Shashank [Manohar] I believe that a merger might happen.
"Our interest, which is my view also, is that we have to consider the youngsters who are playing in the ICL. While you are saying one can play and the other cannot for us they are just two leagues. Either ban both but why is it that you are banning the ICL and not the other?"
Butt's public comments, of what appear to have been private discussions, are sure to stir up a hornet's nest within the ICC and its member bodies in coming days.