An embattled Pakistan board will be at the centre of crucial discussions during a two-day ICC board meeting, which starts on Friday. The governing body's 10 full members will, among other issues, weigh Pakistan's chances of co-hosting the 2011 World Cup after the Lahore attack and decide on the ICL's request for recognition.
Strictly speaking, the agenda does not include the World Cup - the board is scheduled to discuss only "the implications of the [Lahore] incident, including any potential impact on plans for the World Cup" - yet talk is expected to swiftly veer round to Pakistan's viability as a host. Especially since early indications are that Pakistan's chances of co-hosting the event have significantly lessened, with some of the ICC's board members admitting that their players are not keen to play in that country after the attack on the Sri Lankan team in March.
According to sources, one of the possible solutions that could be discussed - at least unofficially - in Dubai is to shift Pakistan's matches to India and compensate the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) financially.
"If the current political tension between India and Pakistan doesn't allow the Pakistani team to play in India, those matches can be held in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh (the other co-hosts)," a senior ICC official said. "It's too early to say whether a decision on the World Cup will be taken this week, but there is a clear sense of urgency in this matter because time is running out."
Pakistan, along with New Zealand, is also one of the countries most affected by the ICL; nearly 20 of its cricketers, a number of whom could still conceivably represent Pakistan, are involved in the unofficial league. "Most of the member boards are not in favour of granting recognition to ICL," the sources said. "But the ICC would like to ensure the welfare of the players who have signed up for ICL, especially because some board members have been told that many of them have not been paid their salaries for a while now."
The board may consider the option of asking these players to cut all ties with the ICL before June 1, when the ICC's new and stringent rules on unofficial cricket come into force, and be eligible for international cricket after a year's "cooling period". It's not as easy as it sounds though because the PCB's legal cell has vetted some of the ICL player contracts and found them "heavily one-sided" - apparently, it would be very difficult for the players to pull out of the contract without the active consent of ICL.
What is crucial, of course, in all these discussions is the BCCI's stand on both issues. The Indian board has clearly adopted a hardline stance on the ICL but is likely to present a more nuanced approach to the 2011 World Cup issue. Almost immediately after the Lahore attack, Shashank Manohar and N Srinivasan, the BCCI president and secretary, had said that the World Cup matches scheduled in Pakistan should be moved to India.
Now, though, India would like to be seen as supporting Pakistan, at least in public. "We are fully behind Pakistan," a senior BCCI official said. "But if the other ICC board members are keen that those matches should be shifted to India, we are ready to host them."
Alongside India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, Pakistan is due to host 14 World Cup matches, and PCB officials remain "reasonably optimistic" that the arrangement will stay. "There is precedent in past jointly-held World Cups where security issues in one country haven't meant the end of the tournament," Salim Altaf, the PCB's chief operating officer, told Cricinfo. "In 1996 and 2003, there were problems but the tournament went ahead without hitches. And there are still two years to go in which the situation might improve so we are still reasonably optimistic."
But India's support, another PCB official admits, will be crucial. "If the subcontinent is united - and only if - the World Cup will not be affected. We have to remain firm otherwise there is no chance (of Pakistan co-hosting the World Cup)," the official said. Lying in wait are Australia and New Zealand, the alternate hosts, who have already written to the ICC confirming their capability to host the 2011 tournament should security concerns escalate in the subcontinent.