In a U-turn as abrupt as the original development, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has allowed players recalled from the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) and the English county circuit to return to their respective franchises, a few days after first revoking the No-Objection Certificates.
Before returning to the CPL and county cricket, the players will have to undergo fitness tests from August 22 to 24. The path to the players' return was cleared after the Pakistan board chairman Najam Sethi announced that the National T20 Cup, which had compelled the PCB to revoke the players' NOCs, had been rescheduled for November, following official confirmation of the World XI series in Lahore.
"The World XI series was not officially confirmed when we set the dates for our domestic tournament," Sethi said in a press conference. "That series falls right in the middle of when our competition would have been played. Then there's a by-election [on September 17 on the seat of now-disqualified prime minister Nawaz Sharif], and after that the team has to go to the UAE, so the competition was squeezed out. As a result, we have moved it to November. An added advantage of this arrangement is that our players who are taking part in the CPL and other county will be able to take full part in those tournaments. This will make the players happy too, as well as the CPL."
The decision to revoke the NOCs of 13 players participating in the CPL and the English domestic circuit had taken many by surprise, with the affected counties reportedly frustrated at the players' recalls. Senior members of the Pakistan team management, too, were unhappy, with one telling ESPNCricinfo, "It's a bit of a mess. The PCB have brought this T20 competition in from nowhere. It's not ideal, but it is what it is."
The board had initially given 10 players, including seven centrally contracted cricketers, permission to play the entire CPL - which began on August 4 and runs until September 9. Three cricketers without central contracts - Kamran Akmal, Sohail Tanvir and Mohammad Sami - were also asked to return after they were selected by Rawalpindi, Faisalabad and Lahore Whites for the National T20 Cup. For someone like Shadab Khan, the travel schedule will turn out to be especially cumbersome. He arrived in Islamabad from the Caribbean on August 18 and will likely fly back as soon as the camp finishes on August 24.
The same notices went out to Mohammad Amir, who was to stay with Essex until September, Sarfraz Ahmed, who was to play five games for Yorkshire in the Natwest T20 Blast, and Fakhar Zaman, who was set to join Somerset until the end of the season.