Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent
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Twenty-one Pakistan players, including Saeed Ajmal and Imran Khan, and commentator Aamer Sohail found themselves in a pay dispute with the Afro T20 Cricket League organisers and decided to return home without completing the tournament. The players' return tickets were also cancelled at one point but according to Ajmal, their flights were rebooked for December 21 after talks with the Uganda Cricket Association (UCA).
The Afro T20 Cricket League, featuring eight teams, is supported by the UCA and was approved by the ICC, according to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). The tournament started on December 17 and was scheduled to run until January 1. However, a few days into the tournament, the organisers were not releasing payments for players. The league had reportedly set USD $50,000 for the winning team with each player having a contractual agreement. Ajmal said he got multiple verbal assurances from the organisers who later flew to Dubai with yet another promise that they were going to arrange the payments and return.
"The organiser wasn't paying us and we insisted for our payments as per the contractural agreement," Ajmal told ESPNcricinfo. "But he deserted us with a promise that he is going to Dubai to arrange payments and will return but he hasn't and we decided to return in protest. Our return tickets were blocked and we had informed Uganda Cricket Association and with some pressure we managed to rebook our return flight for December 21. But we are perfectly fine in Uganda, we are in touch with the Pakistan consulate as well and things are under control."
The PCB issued a press release saying the ICC had been in touch with the board about the availability of the players for the league, and things were firmed up by the PCB on that basis. The board said it is looking into the matter and will decide how to act once the facts are established, while also stating that it had been up to the players to negotiate their terms with the organisers.*
"PCB received applications from players to participate in the Afro T20 League being played in Uganda. Upon inquiring of the bonafides of this League from ICC, we were advised by the ICC that Afro T20 League has been approved by them and that it is been played under the umbrella of Uganda Cricket Association (UCA). The ICC sent us a list of players which were provided to the ICC by the League organisers and asked us to allow them to take part in the tournament. Upon receiving confirmation from ICC, PCB issued NOCs to all Pakistani players who were mentioned in the approved list.
"PCB is currently looking into the incident which has taken place in Uganda during the Afro T20 League and once complete information is received, further course of action will be advised.
"It may be mentioned that it is the responsibility of the players to negotiate the terms of their engagement and not that of the PCB whose role is confined to the issuance of NOCs on the condition that the players are not required for PCB duty at home or abroad."
*18.30 GMT, December 21: This story was updated after the PCB released a statement