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Pakistan board looks at getting Yousuf back

The Pakistan board is trying to bring Mohammad Yousuf back into the fold after he'd signed up with the Indian Cricket League (ICL). Three other Pakistan internationals - Abdul Razzaq, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Imran Farhat - have also signed up with the league though, revealingly, the board has not made any efforts to convince them otherwise.

A board official told Cricinfo that Yousuf's absence was the main concern. "Obviously the four signing up is something of a loss but we are concerned mainly about Yousuf. We are trying to discuss his decision with him but we are happy that he is the only big name to sign up from Pakistan."

Local papers reported the board was considering offering greater financial rewards in a bid to lure Yousuf back and, though unconfirmed, they are likely to create some friction with players who turned down lucrative offers from the ICL to stay with Pakistan.

Of equal concern, for this present administration, would be another policy u-turn. Since taking over in October 2006, the board has acquired an unhealthy reputation for reversing on major decisions; lifting the doping bans on Mohammad Asif and Shoaib Akhtar, sacking and then re-hiring 80 board staff and the dismissal and re-appointment of Mushtaq Ahmed are just three examples.

Its policy on the ICL has been clear so far: any player associated with it will be banned from playing for Pakistan. And even as efforts are underway to change Yousuf's mind, Nasim Ashraf, the PCB chairman, reiterated its stance on the ICL.

"Our position is clear. Anybody who goes to the ICL does so of his own choice," he told Cricinfo. "It is not an approved league and anybody associated with it will not be associated with Pakistan thereafter."

Critics point out, though, that the stance may cause legal complications. Arif Abbasi, a former board chairman, was involved in negotiations with Kerry Packer over the fate of Pakistan players who signed up with World Series Cricket in the late 1970s and he believes, as he did then, there is nothing wrong with a separate league.

"What is wrong with the league? You can't stop players from playing and earning money," Abbasi told Cricinfo. "That is a human right and it will become an issue if the board tries to implement a ban. The PCB's reaction stems from ignorance because Kapil Dev [the chairman of the ICL board] has already said players will be released for international matches. So where's the problem?"

Another legal problem could arise if the board does decide to bring back one player and ignore the other three. Further, none of them are legally bound to the board in any way, as none have current contracts. "You cannot justify bringing just one player back and banning the other three. In any case, how do you ban someone you have not selected?" asks Abbasi.

Yousuf is currently unavailable but some further development, says one official, is expected in the next few days. Just how unawares the board was caught by the signing is evident from the uncertainty of his response. "We need a few days to see what is happening. We are not sure at this point how big this whole issue will be or how it will pan out. We will have a clearer development on the whole matter in a few days."

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