Pakistan players approached for SLPL
Up to eight top Pakistan players are likely to be in the running to play in the first edition of the Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL), allowing players from that country to finally benefit from some of the riches on offer in lucrative Twenty20 leagues around the world. The SLPL, likely to feature players from around the world, is scheduled to be held at the end of July and beginning of August this year, a window in the FTP where Pakistan has no commitments currently.
Both Pakistan captains - Shahid Afridi from the limited overs side and Misbah-ul-Haq from the Test side - have been approached, as have Shoaib Akhtar, Shoaib Malik and Umar Gul.
The players were first approached directly by the organisers of the tournament, the Singapore-based Somerset Entertainment, something that the PCB wasn't pleased about. But eventually the organisers contacted the PCB asking for clearance for the players to participate and they have been given a positive response. "We told them, in theory, we have no issues with our players taking part in the tournament," a senior board official told ESPNcricinfo. "The first priority of each player of course will be Pakistan's international commitments and if there is something on in that window and the player concerned is picked for Pakistan, that commitment will take priority."
The participation of Malik will depend on whether he will be cleared by the PCB's integrity committee, a condition which has kept him out of the national side since last summer.
Players from Pakistan are currently the only ones from the Test-playing nations not to be taking part in the richest domestic Twenty20 league of all, the IPL. Though a number of players took part in the inaugural season of the tournament, in 2008, deteriorating political ties between India and Pakistan in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks later that year have led to them missing out since, much to the chagrin of the players themselves, some of whom can rightly claim to be among the best international players in the format. The players were even put into the auction for the third season of the IPL but no franchise was willing to buy them, given the potentially tricky diplomatic and logistical issues that could have emerged.
For similar reasons, no Pakistan domestic side has taken part in the equally lucrative IPL spin-off, the Champions League, which brings together the best domestic Twenty20 sides from around the world. A few Pakistan players, including Afridi, Gul and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan have taken part in the Australian Big Bash but the timing of it generally tends to clash with international commitments and so curtails participation.
There is also regular participation in Twenty20 competitions in England, as well as longer-term county contracts but by and large, Pakistan's players have missed out on the bonanza of the last few years. "We are aware that our players have not benefitted as others around the world have done, though much of this is out of our hands," the official said. "This will be a good opportunity, if things work out, for them to take part."
Though full financial details of the league are yet to emerge, one estimate suggests that there will be three salary tabs with the highest at US$ 30,000.
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of ESPNcricinfo