PCB reignites MCL dispute with retirement condition
Even though the PCB and MCL had reached a solution to host two T20 leagues simultaneously in the UAE, the Pakistan board has now triggered fresh friction by asking Pakistani players to announce retirements if they wish to feature in the MCL
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has imposed a policy on its cricketers to officially retire before acquiring a No Objection Certificate (NOC) for the upcoming Masters Champions League. The move has sparked more friction between the PCB and the MCL as earlier they had a long-standing dispute on securing the venues in the UAE for their respective T20 leagues.
At least a dozen Pakistani cricketers including Mohammad Yousuf, Abdul Razzaq, Saleem Elahi and Yasir Hameed are among the ones selected for the MCL with all of them already discarded from international cricket. The PCB, however, urged them to sign a letter to announce retirement from international cricket, which would be irrevocable in the future.
Earlier, when the idea of the MCL had emerged, its dates clashed with the PCB's plans to host the Pakistan Super League in the UAE. But since the MCL organisers had already booked the three UAE venues before the PCB, it led to a dispute between the Pakistani board and the Emirates Cricket Board, which is the sole regulator of cricket in the UAE.
The PCB was forced to look for an alternative venue and considered Qatar but the venue was probably not going to fulfill the requirements of hosting a T20 league involving international cricketers from around the world. Zafar Shah, the chairman of the MCL, and Najam Sethi, the head of PSL, then held talks and the PCB pushed the MCL organisers to reschedule their league and allow the PCB to utilise the available window in February. But the talks fell through and the PCB announced Qatar as the venue. Months after that, the PCB chose the UAE as the venue again, after finding a middle ground with the MCL. ESPNcricinfo understands the two leagues will be run concurrently with the PSL to hold matches in Sharjah, the MCL in Abu Dhabi, and Dubai to be shared by the two leagues. However, the MCL website currently states Sharjah and Dubai as the venues, and not Abu Dhabi. The dispute appeared to have ended then but the PCB has now asked its cricketers to fulfill the retirement criterion if they want to play the MCL.
The MCL is for retired players but the PCB has said any Pakistani player active in domestic cricket who has signed up with the league will be considered retired, regardless of his prior announcement regarding retirement from international cricket. There is a long list of players from other parts of the world who might have not announced their retirement but signed with the MCL, such as South Africa's Richard Levi and West Indies' Fidel Edwards. But PCB said they have their own policy which is based on their direct competition with the privately-run MCL.
"It is clarified that PCB will issue NOCs only to those cricketers who have announced and confirmed their irrevocable resignation and retirement from international cricket on behalf of Pakistan, in writing to PCB," the board said in a press release. "Such cricketers will, however, remain eligible to play in domestic cricket as per rules.
"Keeping in view this direct clash in dates and venues and the resulting consequence that any Pakistani players featuring in the MCL poses a direct competition to the PSL and the PCB. The Policy did not allow for NOCs to be issued freely to Pakistani players wishing to participate in the MCL and instead a criteria was put in place."
While Mohammad Yousuf refused to accept this unique policy, some other players have reportedly accepted it, including Humayun Farhat, who last played for Pakistan in 2001, Yasir Hameed (last played in 2010), Rana Naved-ul-Hasan (2010) and Mohammad Khalil (2005).
"I don't mind doing it but I have no idea what is the purpose of it," Hameed told ESPNcricinfo. "It's not like we are getting some retirement benefit from it or any provident funds so that doesn't make any sense but what can we do. I am not selected in PSL, never been considered for national team since 2010, then for us it's like we are retired already so I have no issue of signing it."
Yousuf, who last played for Pakistan in 2010, said: "If I am not playing any kind of cricket at any level from club to international then what is the point for me to announce? I think it is an opportunity for those cricketers who are not in international contention and MCL is the platform where they can play and keep their livelihood on."
Players in contention for MCL: Abdul Razzaq, Saleem Elahi, Mohammad Yousuf, Saqlain Mushtaq, Naved-ul-Hasan, Taufeeq Umar, Yasir Hameed, Mushtaq Ahmed, Azhar Mehmood, Hasan Raza, Humayun Farhat, Mohammad Khalil.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson