Discussions between the PCB, ECB and Cricket Australia (CA) are at an advanced stage as the three parties try and find a way of rescheduling Pakistan's 'home' series against Australia in England next summer.
Australia were due to tour Pakistan for a full series in March 2008 but pulled out because of security concerns. The tour was postponed, but after the terrorist attacks
on the Sri Lankan team in March this year and the subsequent ICC move
to take the 2011 World Cup away from Pakistan, international cricket within Pakistan is all but ruled out for the next few years. The PCB, therefore, is looking for ways to minimize the impact on its FTP and is actively looking at neutral venues where it can stage future home commitments.
Abu Dhabi and Dubai, where Pakistan just played an ODI series against Australia, is one option but England has always been another, ever since Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman, floated the idea
"There is a lot of discussion going on between the three parties," an official involved in the negotiations told Cricinfo. "Nothing has been finalised just yet but we are getting closer to the possibility that Pakistan plays its Tests against Australia in England next year."
There are obstacles still in the way before any agreement is reached. The first is the itinerary: CA wants to play two Tests and two Twenty20 internationals, while the Pakistan board is keener on a three-Test and three-ODI series. Whichever schedule is settled upon, it will have to be worked in between three international series in the English summer: Bangladesh are touring in May-June for a Test and ODI series and West Indies in July and August. Additionally, in June, Australia are due to play a five-match ODI series with England. Further complication may come in the form of the P20, the ECB's answer to the IPL, which begins from next summer and may involve international players.
Other hurdles are TV rights and the costs involved. Sky Television has the rights to England's home Tests but this covers those contests where England are the hosts. As the rights holder to Pakistan's home contests, Ten Sports are likely to be the broadcaster. "The TV rights are a pressing question," the official said. "It is crucial for the PCB to continue to benefit from broadcasting rights and Ten Sports and Sky will have to come up with some kind of compromise to ensure that happens. It shouldn't be a problem."
As the PCB found in the series against Australia in the UAE, the costs involved in hosting a 'home' series at a neutral venue are prohibitive. Cash-strapped already - though perhaps not as much as initially thought - the cost of holding a series in England will have to be weighed up seriously. "As it was in Dubai, the costs in the UK will be very high," a PCB official said. "That is something we really have to look at, in terms of how much revenue we will be able to generate."
The venues for the series are yet to be decided though cities such as Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham - traditionally home to large British Asian populations - are likely to be on any shortlist.