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Pakistanis' absence in T10 league will cause 'serious damage' - Emirates board to PCB

Shahid Afridi celebrates with his team-mates 

The Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) has protested the PCB's decision to not allow Pakistani players to participate in the T10 League. Several accounts suggest that, according to the PCB at least, the decision to revoke the NOCs came from the board patron, Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan.

The PCB originally allowed players to be drafted in the league but unexpectedly revoked the permission last week. In a statement, the PCB said that the decision had been taken "to manage the players' workload, continued work on their fitness levels [and] to ensure primacy and participation of its players in its premier Quaid-e-Azam Trophy". The decision is a significant blow to this season of the T10 tournament, scheduled to begin on November 15, which was set to feature 16 top Pakistan players.

ECB vice-chairman Khalid Al Zarooni sent a letter last week to PCB chairman Ehsan Mani to say that the decision would directly hurt the UAE government's stakes in the tournament, and urged the Pakistani board to change its mind. Mani is believed to have told the ECB vice-chairman on the phone about the prime minister's role in the decision. He also advised the ECB to engage directly with Khan through a senior UAE minister to find a resolution. The ECB is thought to be weighing its options, including raising the issue of government interference in the PCB's affairs with the ICC.

"We are extremely concerned by this late decision and are surprised to see that the decision has been taken without engaging any of the Abu Dhabi T10 league or Emirates Cricket Board members," Zarooni's letter to Mani read, a copy of which ESPNcricinfo has seen. "Particularly considering that the PCB decision came after PCB has issued NOC to all the players who participated in the player draft on 16th October and various teams selected 16 Pakistani players, including Team Abu Dhabi which is owned by the Government of Abu Dhabi.

"As you must be aware, the three government entities (Abu Dhabi Sports Council, Abu Dhabi Cricket and Abu Dhabi Tourism) have officially supported and heavily invested in the Abu Dhabi T10 League to make it their home event," the letter said. "ECB is also looking to promote cricket in the country through this event and also utilising the opportunity to provide young emirates cricket players to improve their skills.

"Since this is our domestic property, ECB and UAE government have stakes in this league and the stopping of Pakistani players in the UAE governing / ECB backed league will cause serious damage to the property, sending a very negative message to the world about our cordial relationship. Emirates Cricket Board has always supported PCB and provided its ground and facilities to stage international matches and its domestic league, Pakistan Super League. In fact, the UAE as a destination has played a huge part in the success of the PSL."

Qalandars, one of three new teams in the league, has been hit hardest by the decision. The majority of the Qalandars squad is Pakistani - including Shahid Afridi, Mohammad Hafeez, Imad Wasim, Faheem Ashraf and Imran Nazir - while other players who could be affected include Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Irfan, Shoaib Malik and Sohail Tanvir. Afridi and Nazir, however, will not be affected by the revoking of NOCs, given they have retired from Pakistan cricket.

The PCB and T10 league have had a troubled history since the latter came into being two years ago. Last season, the PCB had held back the players' NOCs till the last minute after Mani had raised concerns over the league's ownership patterns and sponsorship. The controversy started after the league's president, Salman Iqbal - also a major investor in the tournament - stepped down citing a lack of "transparency" and "proper systems and monitoring". He had also warned Pakistani players against taking part in the league.