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Thursday Dec 07 2017

PCB allows top Pakistani cricketers to play in dubious Indian-owned league

Heera Group from India is the title sponsor of the T10 cricket league

ISLAMABAD: The leadership of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), to favour a few individuals, has controversially allowed its contracted cricket players to play a dubious Indian-owned league in Sharjah this month, in a format which is not approved by the ICC. The decision is likely to slash PCB’s own successful Pakistan Super League’s worth. Interestingly, India has not sent even a single player to the league in which, five out of six teams are owned by the Indian nationals while one has an Afghan owner.

The PCB was in a hurry to issue NOCs to the players who had central contracts because the franchise owners of PSL had severe reservation on sending players to a private Indian league. Upon getting such a strong and harsh response from the PSL franchise owners, seniors at the PCB who had first opted for voting on the issue later preferred tweeting the decision of supporting the T-10 league.

Cricket observers equate this decision as a suicide mission of PCB for the PSL because with the inclusion of Pakistan’s 1st tier players, the worth of T-10 League has increased manifold and it would become a mini PSL ahead of the main PSL.

Many eyebrows have been raised why the standard procedure has not been adopted with taking such a big step for Pakistan cricket. When did the invitation come from the UAE? How did the PCB treat it? Was any evaluation conducted on sending or not sending Pakistani players to a private owned Indian league? Was a value assigned to permitting Pakistani players and was that a market value open to others bidders? What benefit the PCB will attain after sending senior players to the T-10 league? Was the issue discussed in the Board of Governors of PCB? Why was voting not held when promised by PCB before the PSL franchise owners? Has PCB been given any favour by the T-10 league organisers?

The PSL franchise owners are feeling uneasy at PCB’s decision because the T-10 league is being held ahead of PSL and it is aimed at undermining the PSL which has now become a brand. The T-10 league is being held on the same venue where Pakistan plans to hold PSL and allowing Pakistani players without any evaluation would only undermine the value of PSL.

Earlier on September 4, 2017 the representatives of PSL franchise Karachi Kings had written an email to Chairman PCB saying that the franchises would like to express concern that such leagues will have an impact on PSL and will jeopardize our existing and potential sponsors in Dubai and even in Pakistan since “we all agree to point that November and December are the crucial months for us to finalise the sponsors. In this regard, we would request you kindly look into this matter and take some possible action to restrict the tournament like not allowing Pakistani players to participate and play for this league.”

The News Investigation cell through multiple sources has seen emails and minutes of PSL Secretariat and confirmed through PCB and PSL franchise owners accounts the unanimous protest of all the franchise owners.

Records show that Peshawar Zalmi representative had said, PCB had produced wonderful players through the PSL why should PCB risk throwing the players in an unregulated league where India has not sent its single players; our players might be trapped and blackmailed. Franchise owners had noted that PCB is unable to explain what benefit it has negotiated while making such a controversial decision? “Have the bilateral series between India and Pakistan has been revived?” questioned the franchise owners.

Representatives of Lahore Qalanders had noted at the PCB meetings that PCB had assured them that the decision to send Pakistani players would be done through voting on the issue but later instead of voting, PCB announced the decision of sending Pakistan players to T-10 league. The franchise representatives of Multan and Islamabad had maintained that the PCB was given choices that Pakistan may send its retired players or second tier players but not the one produced by PSL and main stars, but all suggestions fell on deaf ears. Records show that one franchise owners had said, “With such huge Indian funding in T-10 league, it is most likely that Pakistani players would be trapped and later blacked mailed by the bookies to manage them in the PSL. “T-10 league is actually a bookies’ gateway for PSL and it is not recognised or regulated by ICC”. When contacted, the owners of PSL franchise refused to go on record fearing PCB wrath against them and their contract adding that, “Our official reservations and feedback is with PCB and PSL secretariat.”

Details reveal that T-10 League is owned by a Dubai-based company owned by an Indian millionaire who has no background in sports. The T-10 league would have been worthless had it been played san Pakistani players and Pakistan players were only allowed after one of the franchise owners of PSL got some share in the T-10 league, thus ‘forcing’ the PCB to make a dubious decision not to the liking of other franchise owners and cricket observers.

Former Chairman PCB Zaka Ashraf, when contacted, said that what are the reasons that the PCB has all of a sudden developed soft corner for Indian businessmen holding private leagues in the UAE? He stated that this step of PCB is aimed at destroying the PSL in particular and cricket in general in the country. Everyone knows that the ultimate beneficial would be Indians from this T-10 league yet the PCB first rejected the proposal and then accepted the same in the next meeting. He urged the pattern in chief of PCB to order an inquiry into the matter to save Pakistan’s cricket.

Senior legal experts believe that as a state body, PCB, that owns and controls PSL, is bound by law take all decisions in accordance with law, in a transparent manner and in the best interest of PCB, PSL, PSL’s franchise owners and also the state of Pakistan instead of favoring a private party. Taking opaque decisions and announcing them through twitter, they say, is an example of abuse of law that is unacceptable under the laws of Pakistan. ‘Even if PCB had decided to allow its players to play for private parties,’ they claimed, ‘then, under the laws of Pakistan, PCB was bound to have conducted a transparent bidding process at least to demonstrate the it is selling its assets or rights for the highest value.’ Legal experts also maintain that if the PCB’s ‘twitter decision’ is challenged in court, , PCB will have to will have to satisfy the court that it had taken the decision in accordance with law, in compliance with prescribed procedures, in a transparent manner and in the best interest of the country and PCB as well as PSL’.

Javaid Miandad when contacted by The News said that if anything negative happens in the T-10 league then who would be responsible for that? He maintained that countries run their cricket through policies and regulations but in Pakistan, players are being sent to Indian owned private leagues, tainted players are being allowed to play and so on and so forth. The retired cricketer was of the view that the PM of Pakistan is the pattern in chief of the PCB and he should take cognizance of the serious blunder PCB has committed. Miandad was of the view that shorter formats of any game generate bookies’ interests and same is happening in cricket and with introduction of T-10 league that too financed by India, it is highly likely that Pakistani players would be offered lucrative things because there would be little or no check and balance.

Former cricketer Zaheer Abbas said that as our league PSL is around the corner with PSL franchises and sponsors locking deals, it was not wise move to allow top Pakistan players sign for T-Ten league as this may harm sponsorship prospects of PSL teams. “The timing isn’t good to let Pakistani players play this league which may become competitor of PSL. Future of T-Ten is yet to be determined, but I would suggest that for shorter formats of Cricket you need to minimise number of players in each team”, he said.

Even the Prime Minister of Pakistan, who is also the Patron in Chief of Pakistan Cricket Board, has been requested to take immediate action to save Pakistan cricket. A request sent to PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi says, “I take this opportunity to invite your kind attention, towards a very serious conspiracy, to isolate Pakistan in the community of cricket playing nations; and defame our country by involving our players in T 10 League or Ten Cricket League, which is not approved by the ICC, but is also heavily infested with the Indian nationals. As far as Indians are concerned, entire world knows that India is using boycott of Pakistani cricket, as a policy tool of its intelligence agencies/government, to disrupt any international cricket/sports revival in Pakistan, raising false bogey of security threats to foreign players in Pakistan. So much so, India has refused to play cricket with Pakistan on neutral venues, not allowed our cricket, hockey and Kabaddi players to participate in league tournaments in India, but has not allowed its cricket players to play in our PSL tournament. Now, suddenly Indians have sprouted to not only play the T-10 League in Sharjah, but Indian nationals, Neelesh Bhatnagar and Anis and Rizwan Sajan, have purchased Gujarat Tigers, who will compete in the upcoming Ten Cricket League. Moreover, out of the six teams of this league, five are owned by the Indians and one by an Afghani. In this regard, PCB instead of acting in prudent manner, has allowed over 25 Pakistani players to participate in this ICC unapproved dubious cricket league, which may be a disaster for Pakistani cricket, as any spot fixing reoccurrence and resultant ban of our players, will result in causing severe damage to our own PSL tournament, Pakistani international cricket and tarnishing the image of Pakistan. In view of the foregoing facts mentioned above, about the Indian connection with T 10 League, the sanction of NOC by the PCB to over 25 Pakistani players, is an unpardonable act of the….PCB, for which you are requested to immediately intervene in the matter; and order all the BOG members of the PCB, to swiftly act, to cancel the NOC granted by the chairman PCB, to the over 25 Pakistani players, for playing in an ICC unapproved league, having direct Indian connections.”

PCB Chairman Najam Sethi was contacted and messages were sent but he did not respond till the filing of the report. However, unofficial response from PCB was, “The T10 League Company is based out of Dubai and we have to oblige the host country as we have good relations. Also our players are getting exposure to more international cricket and sports is development. Rules have not been violated by PCB but PSL franchise owners are upset as it may compete with their financial interests however PCB has a larger goal of cricket development in mind also.” 

One of the officials of PCB on condition of anonymity told this correspondent that at first it was decided that Pakistan will not send its players to the T-10 league but later one of the franchise owners of PSL convinced the PCB chairman to allow Pakistani players to play the Indian-owned league.

Minutes of the 45th PCB Governing Board meeting held in Lahore on 28th July, 2017 reveal that ‘Members unanimously agreed that any such ventures which went against the interests of PSL and PCB should be opposed and subjected to approval of the BoG but at the same time tensions should not be created with Emirates Cricket Board if it supported such ventures.

While in the 47th meeting held on November 22, the PCB Board Meeting minutes say that in compliance with the guidelines given by BoG, PCB has approved its players to participate in T10 League in December 2017 which was sanctioned by Emirates Cricket Board. This approval was given after hectic deliberation with all stakeholders including sponsors of PSL to ensure that this decision does not impact PSL. The PCB has also stood to gain financially as it has negotiated a fee of US $400000/- to be paid by the organisers in lieu of issuance of NOCs to our players.

Originally published in The News


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