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Tough for Akram to get contract
- Jamali-Vajpayee talk may lead to Asia Cup rethink on the PCB’s part

Calcutta: Wasim Akram’s decision to spend the summer with Hampshire, thereby making himself unavailable till mid-September, has probably ensured he won’t be offered a contract by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).

Even as the Indian Board has put contracts on hold, the PCB is signing up 30-35 players. The contracts, likely to be offered within a week, will be effective for a year.

While the new chief executive, Rameez Raja, declined to talk about Akram, well-placed PCB sources of The Telegraph confirmed it will be “extremely difficult” for the controversial former captain to come into the reckoning.

It’s not clear whether Waqar Younis, another ex-captain, will be treated on a par with Akram. However, Saeed Anwar and Inzamam-ul-Haq should make the shortlist.

All four have been dumped after the World Cup, where Pakistan exited in round No.1.

Significantly, the 30-35 players will be picked by Rameez (himself a former captain) and PCB chairman Lt General Tauqir Zia. The national selectors, with Aamer Sohail in the chair, have already recommended around 30 names.

[Incidentally, legend Hanif Mohammed’s son, Shoaib, is now in the five-man selection committee. Salim Yousuf, too. Veteran Shafique Ahmed and Farrukh Zaman complete the line-up.]

“The contracts’ idea, basically, is to boost domestic cricket. After all, everybody will have to play a minimum number of matches on the home-circuit. Getting even the stars to do so will help the PCB attract sponsors and TV coverage,” is how one source put it.

According to another source, the contracts will put an end to the sudden ‘disappearance’ of some players who eventually surface in one of the leagues in England.

The contracts, one understands, will have provision for graded payments and the gradation will largely be influenced by experience. “The socio-economic structure, in Pakistan, will also be taken into account,” sources explained.

Given the low fitness level of most players, the PCB’s panel of doctors will be empowered to conduct “random tests”. It will, of course, be mandatory for the players to make themselves available.

Javed Miandad — who returned as coach after the World Cup — will also be offered a one-year contract.

Among other things, Miandad has “requested” a mobile phone and a vehicle on the PCB account.

Meanwhile, there’s a possibility that the PCB’s stand on not playing the Asia Cup could change after Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali’s call to his Indian counterpart, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Monday evening.

It’s not insignificant that both “discussed” contacts through sport, specifically cricket.

The forthcoming Asian Cricket Foundation meeting in Dubai, therefore, may see the PCB agree to playing in the (rescheduled) August 10-28 Asia Cup in Sri Lanka.

Jamali, by the way, is a former chief selector of the Pakistan Hockey Federation. And, so, it won’t surprise if he calls for regular exchanges in hockey as well.

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