The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on Friday issued a press release maintaining it will not issue No Objection Certificates (NOCs) to Pakistani “players and officials (coaches) contracted to Afghanistan T20 league”.
To drive the message home, it added that “no player or official can feature in the league”.
Afghanistan’s domestic T20 league, the Shpageeza Cricket League was set to host a number of Pakistani players in its inaugural edition due to be held in Kabul in July this year.
Babar Azam, Umar Akmal, Kamran Akmal, Sohail Tanveer and Rumman Raees had all been picked up by franchises participating in the Afghan T20 league. The PCB’s decision to not issue NOCs has thrown their chances of inclusion in the lucrative league in jeopardy.
The PCB’s commitments with the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) for this year however, go deeper than the Shpageeza cricket league.
Last week, an agreement was reached between the ACB and PCB management to play bilateral matches at all age group levels including at the national level, in Kabul and Lahore during July and August. That agreement collapsed in the wake of Wednesday’s deadly Kabul bombing, that saw 80 dead and over a hundred injured.
Acting in line with the point of view of the Afghan intelligence agencies, ACB cited the attack in Kabul and announced its decision to nullify the agreement it had reached with the PCB.
The ACB’s stance seems to have shifted as just last week, ACB president Shukrullah Atif Mashal had said at a press conference; “Sport should not be mixed with politics; especially cricket should be kept away from politics. Both the countries (Pakistan and Afghanistan) have to look at national interest but sports is sports.”
The PCB however ‘rejected’ Afghanistan’s stance.
‘Security situation there is very bad’: Najam Sethi
Offering a brief explanation as to why the decision was taken to bar players from featuring in the Shpageeza T20 League, Najam Sethi, Chairman Executive Committee of the PCB on Friday tweeted his thoughts on the development.
“PCB will not issue NOCs to players/coaches/umpires for Afghanistan. Security situation there is very bad,” he said.
The Pak-Afghan cricket relationship is in many ways a reflection of the geo-political power-play that defines South-Asian politics.
In 2013, a deal between ACB and PCB was reached with the aim of giving Afghan cricketers access to the training and coaching facilities at Lahore’s National Cricket Academy. After complications arose, the ACB found a different venue for the programme – Greater Noida in India.
In 2015, the then ACB president Nasimullah Danish expressed his desire for Afghanistan to play their home-matches in India, a proposition that further dented Pakistan’s chances of hosting international games, suspended since the 2000 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team.
In 2016, a plan for Afghanistan to tour Pakistan was cancelled due to security reasons.
In another example of the rocky cricket relationship between the two countries, earlier in May this year, ACB Chairman Atif Mashal reportedly revealed that Younis Khan has shown willingness to coach the Afghan Cricket team after his retirement from Pakistan cricket — a claim Khan immediately refuted.