Mohammad Yousuf is on the verge of signing up again with the ICL, in what will represent one of the league's biggest coups. The news comes on a day that he was named in a 15-man squad to take on West Indies in three ODIs later this month in Abu Dhabi.
Although the ICL is yet to make an official announcement, has learnt that Yousuf has arrived in Delhi ahead of final talks with top league officials on Tuesday. And ICL sources confirmed to that he was close to signing up to play in the ongoing second season. It is not yet known which team he will play for.
When contacted, the PCB said it was trying to confirm whether Yousuf had joined the ICL, before taking any action. "We called his family home after hearing of these reports. They told us he has gone to India to play cricket," Zakir Khan, the PCB's director of cricket operations, "We want to get in touch with him, as we have not been told anything, to see what the facts of the situation are before we take any further steps."
Some important legal questions remain unanswered at the moment, for the ICL's latest acquisition is a long-running saga. Yousuf had initially signed up with the league in September 2007, in protest at being axed from Pakistan's squad for the Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa.
He was later lured out of playing in the ICL by the Pakistan board, with the promise of a lucrative contract in the IPL. But the ICL took the matter to an arbitration court in Mumbai, arguing that as Yousuf had signed up with them, he was ineligible to play for any other league.
A stay order was passed against Yousuf's participation in the IPL, though an appeal was later filed by the PCB on Yousuf's behalf in the Bombay High Court. There the matter has so far remained.
The IPL, meanwhile, is looking at the legal options available. "I don't have the papers with me but we will be definitely exploring all legal options," Niranjan Shah, the IPL's vice-chairman,
Also in the spotlight will come Yousuf's international future with Pakistan. All boards around the world have taken their cue from the BCCI in barring ICL-contracted players from playing for the national team, or in some cases, even domestic sides. The PCB was no different: under the previous chairman Nasim Ashraf, all of Pakistan's ICL players have been barred from representing Pakistan or playing domestic cricket. As per that policy, Yousuf will not represent Pakistan again which will put their selectors in a fix, having just announced the squad.
But the present administration - not available for comment currently - has hinted at a different, though not yet fully-formed, stance. At his first press conference after taking over as chairman, Ijaz Butt said the bans on ICL players would have to be looked at again as he didn't see a difference between the ICL and the IPL. Inzamam-ul-Haq, currently leading the Lahore Badshahs in the ICL, has been in touch with Butt directly about the issue and is likely to pursue it in an effort to allow players back into the national fold. Zakir Khan, though, maintained that the PCB's policy on ICL "remains the same".
Yousuf's limited-overs future has been the subject of increasing debate in Pakistan, despite a stellar record in recent years. His relatively poor fielding skills have been held against him regularly, as are his advancing years now. He has been open in his criticisms of this view, recently hitting out at the previous selection committee for continuing to ignore him from the Twenty20 side. That attack prompted the committee to select him for the Twenty20 tournament in Canada in August, though ultimately Yousuf couldn't go because of problems with his visa.