PSL franchises concerned over Pakistan players in T10 League

Kamran Akmal lays into a cut shot AFP

A number of Pakistan Super League (PSL) franchises have raised concerns over the PCB's decision to allow contracted players to play in the T10 League, which starts in the UAE on Thursday.

The franchises fear the league could emerge as a potential threat to the value of the PSL itself. A central point in their concern also revolves around Salman Iqbal, owner of the Karachi Kings franchise, who is president of the T10 League and whose broadcast company is part of the management, while Quetta Gladiators owner Nadeem Omar was not allowed permission by the PCB to launch his own league in association with the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB).

Current PSL champions Peshawar Zalmi owner Javed Afridi was most trenchant in his criticism, who as champions have the most to lose if the PSL is adversely affected. "It's the PCB's responsibility to improve the PSL and protect the stake of Pakistan cricket," Afridi told ESPNcricinfo.

"Franchises are not the rights holders of the league but we are the important entity running the show and signed to do so for ten years. We worked so hard to build this brand collectively. If the PCB will not protect our interest, then who will?

"How can the PCB undermine its own league and kill the hype of its own tournament by allowing top contracted players to play in another league taking place at the same venue just a month earlier? It might work well for some individuals but it does not help Pakistan cricket at all. There is a value of our players and you cannot sell out our players in bulk. There is a big possibility it will come back to bite us."

PCB chairman Najam Sethi had broached the subject first in a routine meeting with PSL stakeholders last month. He reportedly asked each team if they had any concerns, only to found out that a majority of the teams did. A basic presentation by Iqbal was rebutted by Islamabad United owner Ali Naqvi, while Lahore Qalandars questioned the support given to a league mainly backed by non-Pakistani investors.

During another meeting, there was a suggestion that a vote be carried out to determine a future course of action, only for the idea to be dropped after the majority of franchises expressed reservations in allowing players to participate in the T10 League. Sethi, however, had the authority to take the final decision as PCB chairman, and allowed players to participate. He assured teams that they would continue to monitor the T10 League and promised the PCB would withdraw its support should the PSL be threatened.

A PCB spokesman said the PCB had been assured there was "no conflict of interest with the PSL". He also said the date of the T10 tournament had been changed from February to December after the PCB said the former was not acceptable to them. "The organisers wanted the PCB to issue NOCs to Pakistan players free of cost, like it's done for other boards. But since no reciprocity was involved in their case, the PCB demanded a hefty fee in exchange and obtained $400,000."

Lahore Qalandars - as well as Peshawar - also confirmed that they were indirectly approached at a very early stage in the inception of the league and offered to become a party in it. But the business proposition was turned down because it was understood to be counter-productive to their brand. Iqbal was himself initially against allowing Pakistan players in the T10 League.

"There are genuine concerns raised by a majority of PSL teams and the issue needs to be sorted with due diligence," a Qalandars official told ESPNcricinfo. "Allowing marquee players into other leagues that have the potential to undermine the PSL is a point of concern."

Quetta's owner, meanwhile, had been seeking permission from the PCB to buy a team in the Emirates League in the UAE but had not received permission. During the meeting, the owner of Gladiators didn't object to supporting the T10 League, but underlined the PCB's "double standard" in not allowing one owner to buy a team, and discouraging another for associating with other leagues in the UAE.

Not least of the impacts of the league will be that the final round of Pakistan's premier first-class tournament, the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, will be played without a number of big names who will be playing in the UAE this weekend. Pakistan players in the T10 League include Sarfraz Ahmed, Shahid Afridi, Misbah-ul-Haq, Mohammad Amir, Kamran Akmal, Umar Akmal and Hasan Ali.

The final QeA round begins on December 15 with eight teams competing for a place in the final.