With both leagues less than a month from starting, the friction between the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) Pakistan Super League (PSL) and the Masters Champions League (MCL) shows no signs of abating. On Wednesday, the PCB said that the only Pakistani players who will be given No Objection Certificates (NOCs) to play in the MCL will be those who have “announced and confirmed their irrevocable resignation and retirement from international cricket”. The board, the statement continued, wants such a notice in writing, and says any such exit will not affect their status in domestic cricket. The board was responding, it said, to “requests for NOCs from various Pakistan cricketers”.
There are a fair number of Pakistani players in the MCL, though few, if any, could harbour realistic hopes of representing Pakistan again. Even the two players from the pool to have played most recently for Pakistan, the opener Taufeeq Umar and the all-rounder Abdul Razzaq, are unlikely to be recalled. Umar, who is with Libra Legends in the MCL, played a Test in November 2014, while Razzaq, an icon player at Capricorn Commanders, played his last Twenty20 for Pakistan a year before that.
What it does, however, is highlight once again the lack of clarity over the exact status of many players who will take part in the MCL. When it was first announced, in June 2014, it was assumed to be a league for veterans, former players who had retired from all forms of the game. But gradually, that assumption has proved incorrect. As the recent players’ auction for the league showed, it is actually a mixture of long-retired veterans as well as currently active domestic cricketers who have not retired from international cricket per se, but just have not played recently. These include players such as Richard Levi, Fidel Edwards, Krishmar Santokie, Graham Onions and several others. No doubt the flexible qualification policy is a result of worries that a genuine veteran league might not sustain enough interest beyond a few matches.
Where this leaves Pakistani players, especially Razzaq who is also a supplementary pick for the Lahore Qalandars in the PSL, is not clear. As Zafar Shah, chairman of the MCL, confirmed, an NOC would be required in Razzaq’s case.
“This is part of ICC regulations and every player must have an NOC to play in our tournament,” Shah said. “Those people who are retired from all forms do not need but those in domestic cricket still do need it.”
There are other non-Pakistani players who could play in both the MCL and PSL, such as Kumar Sangakkara. But in their case, the PCB has agreed that they will only join the PSL once their commitments with the MCL are over. The two leagues have been locked in a quasi-adversarial position almost from the off. At one point, the PSL was on the verge of moving to Doha because the dates for both leagues in the UAE were clashing. Ultimately they reached a compromise that saw the MCL move its scheduled dates a little earlier. But the leagues will still overlap by nine days and the fact that both are being played only in Dubai and Sharjah, and not Abu Dhabi, further intensifies the sense of the clash.