Aaqib Javed believes Pakistan’s reputation in the international game is being ruined by their handling of the release of players to play in overseas leagues, and he has called on Prime Minister Imran Khan to act.
The former fast bowler is in the capital trying to prepare his hastily-assembled Qalandars side for their debut in the Abu Dhabi T10, starting on Friday.
The franchise arrived for their first training session at the Tolerance Oval on Wednesday. Their playing staff is without any Pakistanis, after the Pakistan Cricket Board revoked the no objection certificates (NOC) they had initially granted to a raft of players to participate in the 10-over event.
Aaqib confirmed the measures even extend to the likes of Shahid Afridi, who was the headline recruit for the team, and Imran Nazir, as well as all of the franchise’s development players.
“It was like a rollercoaster for us,” Aaqib, the Qalandars coach, said. “First they said ‘no renowned players’. I said ‘OK, we can take our development squad’.
“Then they said ‘no, no Pakistani will get the NOC to play in T10’. In two days, we had to rebuild our team."
When the draft was made for the competition last month, the Lahore franchise included 10 home-based players. The PCB then ruled that players of renown like Mohammed Hafeez, Imad Wasim and Faheem Ashraf were ineligible.
Qalandars were confident that retired players like Afridi and Nazir, as well as players with no international experience like Haris Rauf, would be available.
But, despite claims Rauf and other emerging players would leave Pakistan domestic cricket and travel to play T10 instead, their squad is manned instead by new, overseas players.
At short notice, they have been able to pick up Dawid Malan, who rose to No 3 in the ICC rankings for T20 international batsmen this week, as well as a number of other English players.
They have also bolstered their squad with Sultan Ahmed, the UAE left-armer, and a 16-year-old spinner from Ajman, Hassan Khalid, who is missing school in order to take part.
“People don’t understand, when you are working at the top level, you have to think about what other people think about your decision making," Aaqib said.
“First of all, there was 192 players who are involved in red-ball domestic cricket [who had to remain in Pakistan] but the rest of the people could go and play T10 cricket. On the basis of that, we had a draft where everyone picked Pakistani players.
"Then all of a sudden, pressure from somewhere destroyed everything – their reputation, everything.”
Aaqib said he even contacted Imran, who was captain when they won the World Cup with Pakistan in 1992, for clarity on the situation.
Even with the mass overhaul, he said there was never any consideration Qalandars would go back on their commitment to play. “The team name is bigger than any player,” Aaqib said.
“I don’t know who plays for Chelsea, or Man United – but the team name is bigger than anything.
“Qalandars are here. The whole world knows what Qalandars is and who we are. It is just a short time. This is not a solution.
“It is about creating more opportunities, rather than under Imran’s regime, where they are cutting short everything.
“The real test for Imran will be cricket and sports. I think he should think about it, talk to PCB about the way they have handled the situations.
“If the policy, from day one, is to have no Pakistan players in T10, then OK. Give a solid reason why.
“But once you give a green signal, an NOC, don’t revoke it. It is damaging to the cricket board, and the government as well.”
Despite having just a few days to knit together a new team, Aaqib still believes his side can challenge for the T10 title.
“Why not?” Aaqib said. “We have Luke Ronchi, we have Tom Banton, who is like AB de Villiers [who played for Qalandars in the Pakistan Super League], he is that good, and we have Dawid Malan.
“We have a very exciting batting line up. Chris Jordan is a very experienced bowler, and we have two talented UAE players as well. We are still hopeful and very positive.”