May 21 - 27, 20

The news that came across the eastern borders that India would invite Pakistan T20 cricket champion Sialkot Stallions captained by test all rounder Shoaib Malik to play in the exclusive Champions Cricket league in that country later this year was welcomed in Pakistan. Both from the political and sporting points of view, it was a moment for which the cricket fans from the two sides were waiting for years.

For the political commentators it is a sign that relations between the two countries are warming up and the thaw has set in which may lead to warmer and cordial relations between the two neighbors.

For sporting commentators, it is great news that would open the doors for Pakistani cricketers to enter rich Indian cricket. Financially, playing in the Champions League would not be that beneficial but it will open the doors to Pakistani cricketers in cash rich Indian Premier League.

The Champions League Twenty20 is an international Twenty20 competition between champion's teams of India, Australia, England, South Africa, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, and the West Indies.

The competition was launched in 2008 as a response to the success of national Twenty20 Indian domestic cricket leagues, most notably the

IPL, first edition was set to take place from late September to early October 2008 in India, after the tournament organizers resolved various problems that had put the inaugural tournament under some doubt. It was shifted to December 2008. The tournament was postponed again following attacks in Mumbai just a month before formal inauguration and was later cancelled.

After 26/11 Mumbai attack, relations between Pakistan and India went into deep freeze. All bilateral relations in various areas including sports were put on hold and when finally the tournament was launched in 2009, Pakistan was not invited.

An Indian mobile service company bought the title sponsorship rights for the 2009 Champions League for the reported amount of USD38.4 million. Pakistan missed three editions because of the poor relations between the two countries. More than three years after the Mumbai attacks, the Board of Control for Cricket India a week ago said it has no objection to a team from Pakistan participating in the Champions League.

"The Working Committee has decided to invite a team from Pakistan to play in Champions League Twenty20 to be held in October," BCCI President N Srinivasan said in a communiqué issued after a meeting.

The decision means that Sialkot Stallions led by Shoaib Malik would be Pakistan's representatives in the October event as it had won the domestic T20 title.

"This is a recommendation that the BCCI will make to Governing Council. CLT20 is owned by BCCI, Cricket Australia, and Cricket South Africa. So we will recommend to the GC that the BCCI has no objection and is prepared to invite a Pakistan team in the Champions League," he added.

"CLT20 will be played in India. The BCCI will make the recommendation to the governing council, which will decide on the matter."

The move is expected to be received with much applause from across the border as the Pakistan Cricket Board had been pushing for the inclusion of its sides since the inaugural edition of the Champions League in 2009.

Sialkot Stallions will be led by test all rounder Shoaib Malik. Other members of the team are Abdur Rehman, Ali Akber, Ali Khan, Haris

Sohail, Imran Nazir, Kamran Younis, Kashif Sohail, Mansoor Amjad, Muhammed Ayub, Naveedul Hasan, Naveed Arif, Qaiser Abbas, Raza Hasan, Rizwan Sultan, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shahid Yousuf, and Shakeel Ansar.

For the past five years, international sporting teams have refused to come to Pakistan due to security reasons. However, the Pakistanis have not lost hope and everyone on its own is trying to do some things that might attract foreign cricketers to Pakistan.

Sindh Sports Minister Dr. Muhammad Ali Shah is one person who working on fast track managed to get approval from some top cricketers of South Africa, the West Indies, and Sri Lanka to come to Pakistan this May and appear in two T20 matches at Karachi for charity cause.

He used the banner of Asghar Ali Shah Foundation for launching a successful effort and within twelve days. He had players like Sanath Jayasuriya of Sri Lanka agreeing to come to Pakistan and lead a World XI to play the charity matches for flood relief.

Dr. Shah who has been member of Board of Directors of the PCB worked silently and once he had signatures of the players on agreements to come to Pakistan, he made his plan public. He had done where others including the PCB had failed.

He knew that if offered good money and assured full security any cricketer in the world would not say no to playing in Karachi two T20 matches. Thus, that what exactly happened.

Dr. Shah through his intermediatory, a former first class cricketer, contacted players and had them signed for the event.

Those who signed the agreement to come to Pakistan include Sanath Jayasuriya who will lead the World XI, Justin Kemp, Lots Bosman, Thandhi Tschavalala, Charles Langveldt, Paul Adams, Andre Nel all from South Africa, Steven Taylor of USA, Muhammed Shahzad (Afghanistan), Jerome Taylor, Adam Sanford and D. Bravo all from the West Indies.

Former West Indies test batsman Alvin Kallicharan will be the manager and Pakistan's former test star Shoaib Muhammad his deputy of the team.

However, when Dr. Shah approached the PCB with the request to allow the matches to be played at the National stadium on May 25 and 26 against a PCB XI, the cricket establishment cold shouldered the whole proposal and declined to be part of the matches unless the dates of the matches were shifted to July.

The PCB informed the famous orthopedic surgeon that as the Pakistani cricket team was to leave on May 28 on Sri Lankan tour, it was not possible to release player to play for the PCB XI. Moreover, the Pakistani cricketers would be involved in training on the dates the World XI is to play against the proposed PCB XI. The PCB reminded the doctor that hosting such kind of matches against foreign players needed long time planning.

The PCB made all sorts of arguments not to go with the planned World XI visit to Karachi.

The PCB is at least right in objecting that the organizers should have been taken into confidence from the very start. Dr Shah should have written a letter to the PCB before he started negotiating with the cricketers about his intention of raising a World XI. In that manner, the PCB would have certainly shown interest because the visit by foreign cricketers was not only crucial for Pakistan but also to the PCB.

Dr. Shah has finally put off holding the match for the time being and may shift the dates of the matches.

He has said that around Rs20 million would be needed to hold the matches. He has already paid initial fifty percent of the agreed money to the cricketers.

Dr. Shah had created window of opportunity for the PCB, which instead of raising petty objections, should have welcomed the planned matches in the interest of Pakistan cricket.