Yusuf Pathan's hopes of being the first Indian male cricketer to play for an overseas franchise-based T20 league looked to be over with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) going back on the approval that it granted only a few days back.
The hard-hitting batsman was on Saturday unveiled by the Hong Kong T20 Blitz franchise Kowloon Cantons, and was expected to play a big role for the side in the second edition of the league, which is to commence from 8-12 March. Pathan had thanked the BCCI and the Baroda Cricket Association (BCA) for allowing him to play in the Hong Kong tournament.
According to a report on The Indian Express, the BCCI apparently had a change of heart after other players also started to apply for permission to play T20 leagues around the world. The BCCI has for a long time been loath to grant NOC to Indian players for any venture that can even remotely be seen as competition to the money-spinner that is the Indian Premier League (IPL). The way the Indian Cricket League (ICL) was ruined following strident opposition by the Indian board is well-documented.
The 34-year-old Pathan is a key member of the IPL franchise Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), but had fallen out of favour with the Indian selectors since 2012, and is also no longer contracted by the BCCI. He was also not selected for the ongoing Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy. Futhermore, as pointed out by Pathan himself, since the Hong Kong T20 Blitz was a short tournament, his domestic commitments would not have been affected and he would still have been available for a large part of the Vijay Hazare Trophy starting from 25 February. He also said that the stint in Hong Kong would have offered him a good opportunity to prepare for the IPL.
“This would be a good opportunity to get into the groove before the IPL, because international cricketers — Shahid Afridi, Tymal Mills, Darren Sammy to name a few — are playing the tournament. I played the 50-over domestic tournaments in Bangladesh and Kenya after last year’s IPL and the people at the Hong Kong T20 event had been in touch with me for the last three months,” Pathan said.
Curiously, the BCCI game development manager MV Sridhar had also initially justified Pathan being given permission to showcase his wares in the Hong Kong tournament. So it was being expected that the Indian board had softened its stand on its players signing up with foreign T20 leagues.
The U-turn now also threatens to jeopardise the prospects of former Indian stumper Dinesh Karthik playing in the Caribbean Premier League.
The BCCI has avoided issuing an official statement on the matter, though an official said on the condition of anonymity that giving the green signal to Pathan was wrong in the first place, as it would have led the BCCI's sponsors to invest in the other leagues, given that the Indian players come with a brand name and attract viewers from the massive and lucrative India market.