ESPNcricinfo understands Rauf’s NOC is almost certain to be delayed until at least December 11, four days after the BBL begins. There is no confirmation that it will be issued immediately after. Mohammad Hafeez is scheduled to hold a press conference in Lahore ahead of the Pakistan team’s departure to Australia, and it is understood light on Rauf’s situation will also be shed.
The official reason for the delay is that the National T20 Cup in Pakistan runs until December 10, a tournament the PCB expects Rauf to participate in in its entirety.
Rauf’s absence from the BBL is also likely to ruffle feathers with the league, and particularly with Melbourne Stars, who signed the Pakistan fast bowler as a marquee player. It was initially assumed Rauf would only be unavailable from the BBL for the duration of Pakistan’s five-match T20 series in New Zealand in mid-January, but further delays will throw a spanner in the works of that league, too.
That is especially true since Rauf’s availability has been heavily used as a marketing tool for the BBL this year, as the league – and Cricket Australia in general – looks to target their domestic South Asian audience in a concerted marketing strategy. The Melbourne Stars introduced what they called “House of Rauf” Membership on sale for the first three games at the MCG this year, as well as Haris Rauf Bay, a specifically dedicated seating zone.
If Rauf’s NOC situation drags on, it may raise concerns with Pakistan’s centrally contracted players in general. Protracted contract negotiations between the PCB and the players hit a snag partially because of disagreements between each party about how many foreign leagues the players would be permitted to play each year. It is understood they settled on two, though participation in any league remained subject to the PCB issuing an NOC.
The BBL runs from December 7, 2023 to January 24 next year.