KARACHI A court in Pakistan on Monday suspended a ban imposed by the countrys cricket board barring players from domestic matches after they agreed to join the unofficial Indian Cricket League.
Around 19 Pakistani players featured in the ICL, bankrolled by the countrys largest media group, Zee Television, but not recognised by the Board of Control for Cricket in India or the International Cricket Council (ICC).
In 2007, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) barred the players, who included former Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq and star batsman Mohammad Yousuf, from playing at all levels in the country.
The ICL players challenged the ban in the provincial Sindh high court last month. Their lawyer Zahid Fakhruddin Ibrahim said justice had been done.
'Judge Amir Hani Muslim has suspended the PCB ban imposed on the ICL players and they are now free to play,' Ibrahim told AFP.
Asked if the players could now play for Pakistan, Ibrahim said 'The ban was only on domestic cricket, its up to the PCB to select a player for an international match or not and that cannot be challenged.'The players lined up for the Lahore Badshahs in the ICL season and were a major attraction, winning the Twenty20 league last year.
Their coach Moin Khan, a former Pakistan captain, said the suspension of the ban was good for Pakistani cricket.
'Some of the ICL players can still play for Pakistan and when they play in domestic cricket, youngsters will learn from them,' Khan told AFP.
'The ban had hurt the players financially as well as cricket-wise, so its a great decision,' he said.
The court has summoned PCB officials to its next hearing on February 10 to hear their explanation for the ban. The PCB has a strict policy of banning all players who have joined the ICL.
PCB chairman Ijaz Butt said last week that the matter would be taken up at the ICC board meeting in Perth, Australia, after they received a legal notice from the ICL players.
Meeting at the weekend, the ICC delayed a decision on an ICL application for recognition, saying that further discussions would be held.
Butt, who took charge last October, hinted that the BCCI and ICC would be on weaker ground if the ICL or the ICL players legally contested the ban.
Former captain Inzamam-ul Haq and opener Imran Farhat welcomed the courts decision.
'The injustice done to the ICL players seems to be over,' said Inzamam.
'Not allowing the players to play cricket in Pakistan was unjust and I hope these players will play for Pakistan very soon,' he added.
Farhat, one of the 19 players reinstated by Mondays decision, said he still hopes to play for Pakistan.
'I am delighted,' said Farhat. 'I hope that the PCB will allow me to play for Pakistan again.'