Agent regulation is a good step forward
The move has been prompted by the alleged involvement of agent Mazhar Majeed in the scandal engulfing Salman Butt, Mohammed Asif and Mohammed Amir, with the PCB stating that every player under its auspices will have to register their agent with the board for approval, or be ineligible to play.
Majeed, agent to Butt, was arrested following the News of the World sting, where it was claimed he arranged for Asif and Amir to bowl deliberate no-balls during last month's Test against England at Lord's. Majeed was later released on bail without charge, while Asif, Amir and Butt have been provisionally suspended by the International Cricket Council (ICC) pending the police investigation.
A lack of regulation around agents on the subcontinent means there has never been a way of keeping track on who is getting involved in the game. Anybody is able to claim that they represent a player. Indeed, anyone can approach a player with an offer of representation and the player has very little assistance in checking the credentials and credibility of that individual.
Mohammad Amir, Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif recently returned to Pakistan. Picture: PA
In football, if a club or player wants to deal with an agent, that agent must first be registered with the Football Association. In cricket, the Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA) has always operated a voluntary registration system, but that is set to change.
BBC Sport understands that from 1 January 2011, anyone wishing to act as an agent to a cricketer in England and Wales will have to be registered with the PCA first. They will have to satisfy various requirements along the lines of a 'fit and proper persons' test, with checks carried out at Companies House.
The PCA will write to all agents known to them, instructing those currently registered to re-register, and those not already registered to do so.
Details of the new regulations were being hammered out in a meeting between the PCA and ECB at Lord's this week, and while it is understood that their plan has been in the offing for some time and is not a response to the allegations surrounding Majeed, it will in its own way play a small part in helping to police the game simply by keeping a record of who is involved in it.
So why are the PCA and ECB bringing in these regulations? Many agents or management companies who work in cricket have been around for years, are well known to the PCA and are widely respected in the game, particularly those involved with England players. However the appeal of the England team, the introduction of Twenty20 cricket and the advent of the Indian Premier League in particular, means cricket is now seen as a sport in which substantial money can be made. It is therefore attracting many more people keen to have a slice of it.
A senior source at the PCA told me that a number of agents primarily involved in football have been in touch asking how they can get involved with cricketers. This is not to suggest that football agents would be unwelcome in any way, just an example of how interest in the commercial side of the game has increased, meaning it has become harder for the PCA to keep track of who players are dealing with - their primary concern being the protection of the player.
Which brings me back to Pakistan, where there is no players' association whatsoever.
In England and Wales for example, it is the PCA who take on the prime responsibility for driving home the anti-corruption education programme among county players. Who takes responsibility for it in Pakistan? It is down to the PCB, who have spent much of their recent time either implementing bans or imposing fines for various fall-outs or bust-ups.
When asked about it during the Twenty20 internationals in Cardiff, Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi insisted the team had all had the proper anti-corruption education. However if it comes to light that the implementation of anti-corruption education has been sub-standard across the country, it should come as no surprise. How can one board effectively carry out all the duties that both a governing body and a players' union are responsible for elsewhere?
When Lalit Modi was in charge of the Indian Premier League he robustly stated that he didn't recognise players' unions, not even Fica, the international players' association. Until those attitudes change there is little hope for players in either India or Pakistan having their own representative bodies.