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Free Hit

Usama Mir's predicament underlines the need for a Pakistan players' association

The legspinner has been denied an NOC to play in the T20 Blast when he could easily have been given one

Osman Samiuddin
Osman Samiuddin
Usama Mir took 3 for 32 for Multan Sultans, Peshawar Zalmi vs Multan Sultans, PSL 2024, Rawalpindi, March 5, 2024

Usama Mir could be upskilling in England, but he's cooling his heels at home  •  PSL

Usama Mir has not been given a No-Objection Certificate (NOC) to play for Worcestershire in the T20 Blast, and the only sensible conclusion to draw is that it has never been more urgent for Pakistan cricket to have a players' association.
The facts first. Mir is not part of Pakistan's T20 World Cup squad. He's arguably unlucky, not only given the form of the incumbent leggie, Shadab Khan, but because he was the leading wicket-taker in an irrepressible PSL this season.
The key fact is that he is centrally contracted to the PCB, the terms of which mean that he is allowed to play in two T20 leagues other than the PSL in a contract year. Mir played in the 2023 Hundred and the 2023-24 BBL (albeit curtailed). If he played in the Blast, it would have been a third league in a year. The PCB said no.
Deviating from that policy by allowing him to play, the PCB fear, would set a precedent whereby the whole "PSL plus two" policy becomes redundant - and it's a concession, by the way, that the players fought pretty hard to gain last year. Allow Mir to play a third league this year and next year another player might agitate for a third. Then another and another, and then the whole thing falls apart.
There is an officious, box-ticking logic underpinning the NOC refusal, which officious, box-ticking types might agree with. It's brittle, though, especially given Mir's immediate circumstances, which, in short, are that he's not doing anything right now. No national duty. No domestic commitment. And he has played six List A and T20 games since the end of the PSL on March 18, so there's no question he's overburdened.
As a leading, centrally contracted Pakistan spinner (and that cupboard, remember, is bare) he could be playing in an established T20 competition, learning, evolving. Maybe even keeping himself primed should he get an emergency call-up during the T20 World Cup.
He could also be earning the kind of money that helps builds futures. Mir is a category D contracted player for Pakistan. He earns approximately US$4000 per month. His contract with Worcestershire, running for the full group stage of the Blast - six to seven weeks - was, it is believed, going to earn him north of £50,000 (about $63,600).
He stood to earn this money at zero cost to the PCB, and zero impact to any plans they may have had for him. How difficult, then, was it for the PCB chairman, Mohsin Naqvi, who has the ultimate and discretionary power to grant such requests, to consider all this and grant the NOC? To set a precedent for flexibility and common sense? Similar, in fact, to how the ECB manages its players in this landscape - not through rigid policy but on a case-by-case basis, which - *checks notes* - has worked out pretty well for all concerned.
Mir would have thought inestimably better of his employers, as people who care and look out for him, and not as an uncaring organisation that wields a grossly disproportionate power and denies him entirely reasonable opportunities to make a living. How must he be feeling right now?
It is this skewed balance of power a players' association can correct. Above all, apart from ensuring fairly negotiated contracts, or leveraging the benefits of collective bargaining, what the association does is position players as truly equal stakeholders in the future of the game, not simply employees beholden to - in Pakistan's case - an impermanent, unstable and unreliable employer.
Intermittently since the mid-70s, Pakistan's senior players have pursued a players' body with varying degrees of commitment but reliable degrees of failure. The current generation has also done so, half-heartedly and with no great unity. Mir is far from the first to face this plight. Pakistan's cricketers have repeatedly had the NOC weaponised against them. He is simply the latest to discover that ultimately, in order to help themselves, they'll have to come together in a players' association.

Osman Samiuddin is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo