Cricketers from Pakistan have been permitted by the PCB to sign up with the CSA’s SA20 league, after not being part of the main player auction.
ESPNcricinfo understands that the change came after the league introduced the option of additional wildcard entries. The process will allow each team to pick one extra player in their squads, and at least two Pakistani players who do not have PCB central contracts are aiming to secure deals. The PCB has also allowed contracted players to play in the SA20 league, if they can get takers. The first edition of the tournament begins in January 2023.
“We are introducing a wildcard pick,” Graeme Smith, commissioner of the SA20 league, told ESPNcricinfo. “Post the World Cup, we will allow teams to pick one other player. From a league perspective, we don’t get involved with selection. The teams go to the market and pick.”
No Pakistan players featured in the original auction, in part because most of the top players will be involved in a busy home international season. But there was also a sense within the PCB that their players would get snubbed because the franchises are owned by owners of IPL teams; Pakistan players have been effectively barred from the IPL since 2008 because of poor relations between the governments of India and Pakistan.
It is unclear what made PCB change its mind, though the postponement of West Indies’ tour to Pakistan is thought to be one of the reasons. That tour, of three T20Is, was scheduled for January 2023, but has been called off, providing space in the calendar for players from both countries to become available for T20 leagues in the January-February window.
Apart from the SA20, the ILT20 (in the UAE), Australia’s BBL, and the BPL in Bangladesh are all on at the same time, and the PSL is set to start in early February.
The PCB, however, will keep its players away from the ILT20 as originally planned. Fast bowler Mohammad Hasnain and wicketkeeper batter Azam Khan were both denied NOCs for the league earlier. Both players were in contention to sign a deal with Desert Vipers, one of the teams in the league that is not Indian-owned.
The SA20 auction took place in September with a long list of 533 players. Tristan Stubbs fetched the highest bid of Rand 9.2 million (US$ 520,000 approx.) for the inaugural edition, with Sunrisers Eastern Cape winning a fierce bidding war against MI Cape Town and Johannesburg Super Kings to pick up their homegrown star-in-the-making.
With additional reporting from Firdose Moonda