Major League Cricket 2023 – Pakistan players awaiting clearance on MLC participation

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A handful of Pakistan players are waiting to hear if they will be permitted to play in the inaugural season of Major League Cricket in the United States in July.

Imad Wasim and Azam Khan – who do not hold central contracts with the PCB – have agreed deals in principle to play for Seattle Orcas, whose backers include GMR Group, the co-owners of Delhi Capitals.

Two other players, who are national team regulars in both white-ball formats and are centrally contracted, have also been in talks with another franchise but are waiting to hear from the PCB whether they will be granted No-Objection Certificates (NOCs) to play in the tournament.

ESPNcricinfo understands that MLC’s organisers have been in talks with the PCB in recent weeks to discuss the potential participation of Pakistan players. The PCB are thought to be evaluating the league and exploring the specific terms and conditions upon which NOCs may be granted. There are some suggestions that the PCB could ask for a fee in the region of USD$25,000 in exchange for an NOC. There is some anxiety from league organisers as to whether Pakistan players will be granted visas, though that is not believed to be a serious obstacle.

A more pressing obstacle to their potential participation will be the nature and, indeed, fate of Pakistan’s July commitment in Sri Lanka. That series is currently a two-Test World Test Championship series which overlaps with MLC – the league takes place from July 13-30 at Grand Prairie Stadium in Texas. There is speculation that series may turn into an ODI series as preparation for the World Cup. If so the two centrally contracted players will likely not be able to play in the US as they would be required to appear for Pakistan.

Any appearance by Pakistani players would be significant because they have missed out on the two other big leagues launched in the UAE and South Africa, both with significant IPL franchise ownership. The ostensible reason for their absence from the ILT20 and the SA20 was because of a busy international home season for their top players. But there were also suggestions at the time that IPL franchise owners were reluctant to pick Pakistani players because of strained political ties between India and Pakistan – Pakistani players have not featured in the IPL since the inaugural season.

Four of the six MLC franchises have investors who own or co-own IPL teams, while Cricket Victoria and Cricket New South Wales have stakes in the other two.

Each franchise has a salary cap of $1.15 million and several leading international players – including Quinton de Kock and Anrich Nortje – have signed deals worth up to $175,000.

Each team will only play five group games in the inaugural season, though MLC is likely to expand in future years.

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