Pakistan cricket authorities were left in a state of shock as prolific batsman Mohammad Yousuf left for New Delhi on Monday to play in the Indian Cricket League. The move certainly jeopardises his international career even as he was named in the national squad for series against the West Indies.
PCB officials confirmed they learnt from Yousuf's wife that he would be playing in the ICL, thus dealing a severe blow to the national team which has witnessed a series of defections to the ICL in the recent years.
"He didn't tell us anything about his plans. His leaving like this for India and confirmation he is going to play in the ICL has come as a shock to us," PCB's Director Cricket Operations Zakir Khan said during a hastily arranged press conference.
Newly-appointed Pakistan coach Intikhab Alam said Yousuf's sudden departure was hard to explain as he never got a chance to interact with him on his future with the national team.
"Until we get an official confirmation from Yousuf himself we can't say much right now. But if he has joined the ICL then he would be banned from all cricket in Pakistan," Zakir said.
Travelling to India on the same flight with Yousuf was PCB Director General Saleem Altaf, but even he had no inkling about the batsman's plans.
"I asked him where he is going. He just told me he is going to India on a private visit and would return after two days," said Altaf, who was travelling to New Delhi to attend a World Cup meeting.
Sources close to Yousuf said he was disillusioned with the Pakistan team management and captain Shoaib Malik for quite sometime and his patience snapped when he was left out for the Twenty20 four-nation tournament played in Toronto last month.
"Yousuf was not happy that the selectors and the board didn't make efforts to ensure he got a visa for the tournament," one source said.
The PCB said Yousuf was not considered for the Twenty20 event since the Canadian embassy denied him a visa.
Zakir said under PCB rules, no player who has taken part in the ICL is eligible to play in Pakistan.
Presently 18 players have been banned by Pakistan for being associated with the ICL, including top names like Inzamam-ul Haq, Abdul Razzak, Saqlain Mushtaq, Imran Nazir, Mohammad Sami and Rana Naved.
Yousuf's decision to join the ICL comes after he filed an appeal in the Mumbai high court against the stay order issued by an arbitrator barring him for playing in any other league.
The arbitrator had found Yousuf guilty of breaching ICL's contract after he initially signed with them and then later changed his mind, returned the advance and decided to join the Indian Premier League instead.
Intikhab said if Yousuf was not available for Pakistan then a replacement would be named and it would most likely be young batsman Khalid Latif.
"We have to wait and see what happens but we have to move on if he has joined the ICL," Intikhab said.
Yousuf is one of Pakistan's most prolific run-scorers with 79 Test and 269 one-day international appearances behind him.