Ijaz Butt, the PCB chairman, has left for the UK on a visit that comes amid growing tension between the two national cricket boards, and with the ICC watching developments closely. ESPNcricinfo understands that the possibility of suspending Butt from his role as an ICC director – for his extraordinary outburst against the ECB and the ICC – has “crossed the minds” of officials, but such an extreme step will be averted if the boards of England and Pakistan achieve some sort of rapprochement.
In any case, there is a possibility that the matter might feature at the next ICC meeting, in Dubai, from October 12-13. At that meeting, Butt was reportedly aiming to table his own resolution calling for Lorgat’s removal.
Butt – whose agenda in the UK is not fully known – has been on the warpath with the ICC and ECB since the spot-fixing scandal broke late last month. He is unhappy with the ICC’s provisional suspension of three Pakistan players, arguing that a separate police investigation should have been allowed to reach its conclusion before any such action was taken. Last week, an enraged Butt launched a series of extraordinary public attacks on the England side, the ECB and the ICC; this, the morning after what ESPNcricinfo understands to have been an amicable dinner meeting between Butt and Lorgat in Dubai.
The outburst seems to have prompted top ICC officials to give more than a passing thought to suspending Butt as ICC director – all board heads of full member countries automatically hold this post in the ICC. The suspension would be for a breach of the post’s own, separate code of ethics, which require individual directors to take a broader, more global view of the game; in this code, for example, casting allegations against a fellow member, such as Butt did against England, constitutes a breach. It is believed that there might be several cases over the last two years where Butt has breached this code.
Much will depend on how the PCB’s spat with the ECB plays out. “Those [thoughts of suspending an ICC director] are things that are exercising ICC minds,” a source told ESPNcricinfo. “They’d rather wait to see what transpires between ECB and PCB. The ECB have made it clear they want to take some action so there is no point the ICC getting involved in what could be a legal case. The ICC does have a code of ethics and it has crossed their minds but there might be no need to take this action if there is a legal action against Butt. If he does apologise, the ICC have to see what to do because if he has apologized then what can you do? Nobody has come forward and made any noise of suspension yet but that doesn’t mean nobody will do that. Someone might have something to say at the next board meeting.”
Butt claimed “there was loud and clear talk in bookie circles of English players taking enormous amounts of money” in the Oval ODI, after which the ECB sent a letter to Butt asking for a full apology. Unless one is made, says the ECB, legal action will be taken against Butt. Reports suggest that Butt is unwilling to apologise. Last week there were discussions (but no decisions were made) in the PCB’s corridors of power over the possibility of initiating a tit-for-tat legal action against Jonathon Trott as counter; the batsman had nearly come to blows with fast bowler Wahab Riaz in nets before the fourth ODI at Lord’s after an altercation. Butt’s trip to the UK – with the board’s legal advisor Taffazul Rizvi – raises the possibility that he might engage in efforts to reconcile with the ECB.
Every ICC director is obligated, under the ethics code, to report or refer what they believe to have been a breach of the code to the ICC ethics officer. Any motion for suspension will require a two-thirds majority vote from directors to be implemented. The signs are not good for the PCB, for the tiff with the ECB is indicative of an administration that has made few friends in two years; only last year the Asian bloc was upset over clumsy attempts by the PCB to have the 2011 World Cup moved away from the subcontinent; the relationship with the BCCI is dependent on political ties, which are not good; the PCB was one of the boards not in favour of Australia and New Zealand’s nomination of John Howard for the role of ICC vice-president. It also remains with the ambit of powers of the ICC president or the ethics officer to suspend a director if a breach has occurred.
Relations between the PCB and ICC itself, meanwhile, have been tense almost from the day Butt took over as chairman in October 2008. In one of his very first press conferences in Lahore, Butt annoyed the ICC when he publicly revealed information from confidential meetings ICC directors had on the IPL and ICL.
Since then, matters have become more acute. The most serious clash came over the 2011 World Cup last March; Pakistan was removed as one of the venues from the tournament after the terror attacks on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore and a generally unstable security situation in the country. The PCB threatened to take the ICC to court over the decision, though eventually a compromise was agreed upon. The spot-fixing scandal has stretched ties to breaking point.
Butt’s suspension, though, would not mean suspending the PCB as a full member or harming Pakistan in any way. The suspension would apply only to Butt and prevent him from attending ICC meetings. In such cases, the ICC is likely to ask the PCB to appoint a replacement.
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor at ESPNcricinfo; Nagraj Gollapudi is an assitant editor