Saturday, May 2, 2009

Yousuf claims he has resigned from ICL

Mohammad Yousuf says he is available to play for Pakistan whenever his country needs him.

Mohammad Yousuf has claimed that he has "resigned" from the ICL after he decided last month that his priority was to play for Pakistan. The move potentially paves the way for Yousuf's comeback to the national side, as the PCB recently announced it was willing to talk to players who leave the ICL before the end of May and consider their cases for an international return on an individual basis.

"I spoke to Younis [Khan] about a month and a half ago and I resigned from the ICL after that," Yousuf told Cricinfo. "We both talked about how the country comes first and playing for them is the priority so I decided. I am available whenever the country needs me."

Reports had been swirling around Pakistan since the end of March that Yousuf and a group of other players were considering quitting the ICL after the March-April edition of the league was suspended. ICL players including Yousuf and Abdul Razzaq sought out Younis last month to try and find a way back into the national set-up, after fearing that the ICL - or at least their future participation in it after the deterioration in Indo-Pak ties - might present a tenuous prospect.

It is believed that Younis made no recommendations or promises, only telling the players that the priority should be to play for Pakistan, whatever that involves. "Younis was of the view that as they hadn't come to him before they signed up for the ICL, he doesn't understand why they came to him when they wanted to leave it," a source present at the meetings told Cricinfo. "He also pointed out that he cannot guarantee selection as that is a decision in which other parties, and not just the captain, are also involved." After some consideration and communication with Pir Aftab Shah Jilani, Pakistan's sports minister, Yousuf resigned from the league, though no official public statement had been made, either by any of the players, or the ICL, until now.

There appears, however, to be some confusion over the exact nature of Yousuf's actions. Though Yousuf said his contract with the league was now "finished" the ICL maintains that he is still on contract, though he has been released to play for Pakistan. "Yousuf's ICL contract has not been terminated," Roland Landers, the ICL spokesperson, told Cricinfo. "We have given him a temporary release so that he can play for his country."

Though Yousuf appears to want to do exactly that, it is unclear what the PCB will do now. Yousuf claimed the board was aware of his decision, but officials couldn't confirm it. "If such a communication has been sent, it would've been to the chairman and much of the board has been busy with organising this series [against Australia] based in Dubai. At the moment we cannot say whether Yousuf has sent any such message," one official told Cricinfo. "Our statement is there now, so we will act according to that."

Yousuf's case is particularly convoluted, for he has left the ICL before, after he first joined the league in protest at being overlooked for Pakistan's squad for the 2007 World Twenty20. He was persuaded - with the dangling of an IPL offer - to quit soon after by the PCB, then under Nasim Ashraf's administration. The ICL took him to court for reneging on his contract and he was unable to play in the inaugural IPL season in 2008 because of legal complications.

He played for Pakistan through much of last year before abruptly deciding, in November, to move back to the ICL. The move caught Pakistan's administration off-guard, as he had been picked for the ODI squad for a series in Abu Dhabi against West Indies. This time, he said, he left because of differences with then-captain Shoaib Malik.

"I had a problem with the captain at that time so I left. I had issues with the previous board administration as well," Yousuf said. "But now I have no problems at all with Younis, or this board. The country comes first."

Though 34, if Yousuf is to come back, he could hardly do so at a more opportune time. Pakistan's batting has been engaged in a dire struggle against Australia in the UAE. In four matches so far, they have crossed 200 only once and only one batsman, Salman Butt, has scored a fifty. Most visibly, the absence of a 269-ODI veteran averaging over 40 was felt during the third ODI, when Pakistan collapsed from 95-0 to 171 all out, chasing 199. Since the 2007 World Cup and the retirement of Inzamam-ul-Haq, Yousuf has comfortably been Pakistan's leading batsman, averaging over 60 in 30 ODIs, but he played his last match in July last year.