The PCB has confirmed that the Pakistan Super League final will be held in Lahore on March 7 and the board is drawing up contingency plans to replace overseas players who are unwilling to travel to the country due to security concerns.
The board has decided to hold a new draft in the last week of February to bring in foreign players who will be willing to travel to Pakistan in place of those who opt out. The decision was taken after several foreign players were uncertain about touring Pakistan for the final; the rest of the tournament will be played in Dubai and Sharjah beginning on February 9.
“In the recent governing board meeting it was decided that the final of PSL will be held in Lahore,” a PCB spokesman said. “PCB will try to convince players to travel to Pakistan but in the worst case scenario we will have a new draft for the players who are ready to tour Pakistan.”
If no foreign players agree to play in Pakistan, the final will be played in Lahore with replacement local players.
“Once the teams for the finals are decided and their icon or foreign players refuse to travel to Lahore, we will make a new draft with a pool from the existing 30-35 players of PSL,” Najam Sethi, PCB’s head of executive committee, said. “We will probably need about five to ten players for Lahore, and those players who would be available from the discarded three teams can then get picked through this draft for the final.”
The PCB has taken numerous steps to plan for the final, which until last month was subject to security clearances. With all the assurances from the Punjab government and security agencies, the PCB is confident about going ahead with the plan. The board has bought four bulletproof buses in a bid to take additional security measures to help convince players and has previously spoken about making it a fly-in, fly-out arrangement for the teams.
FICA, the international players’ association, however, said the advice it has received is that travelling to Pakistan is still a risk for international players. FICA’s comments came a day after Sethi initially said the final would be played in Lahore. However, an updated independent assessment is being carried out which will be a major factor in players’ decision making.
Away from the PSL final, the PCB has also invited West Indies to tour Pakistan for two T20s in Lahore before flying out to play another two T20s at Lauderhill in Florida. The tour is subject to security clearances and agreement from the West Indies Players’ Association.
ESPNcricinfo has learnt that Giles Clarke, the ECB president who headed up the ICC’s original Pakistan Task Force, will visit the country later this month along with officials from West Indies to conduct a recce of the venues as a part of their assessment before confirming the tour. However, the ICC said they were not involved in Clarke’s visit. “There is no formal trip planned in this regard with respect to ICC,” a spokesman said.
Eddie Tolchard, an agent who represents many of West Indies’ frontline players such as Kieron Pollard, Sunil Narine, Samuel Badree, and Darren Sammy among others, said “whilst there is an obvious keenness to support international cricket returning to Pakistan, we and our players will always take the advice from FICA on this matter.
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“We understand things are improving but we are not security experts and have not had the experience of seeing things with our own eyes, so need to be guided by people with the relevant expertise as there are reasons as to why teams have not been touring. We want to be supportive, definitely, but even now just 2 months out from the scheduled PSL final things haven’t been confirmed as being in Lahore so there are still clearly question marks at many levels. Let’s see, it will be one step at a time, and we all hope for the betterment of Pakistan cricket.”
Since the attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in 2009, Zimbabwe are the only Full Member to tour Pakistan when they visited for a three-match ODI series in 2015.
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This article first appeared on ESPN Cricinfo
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