When is retired not retired? Masters Champions League fixing ‘teething issue’
The ongoing confusion over what exactly constitutes a retired cricketer is under the spotlight once again, a week out from the start of cricket’s first league for retired cricketers.
Next Thursday in Dubai marks the launch of the Masters Champions League (MCL), involving some of the biggest names to have played the game over the past 20 years.
But this week, several Full Members have begun to express concerns about the lack of clarity over the playing status of some participants in the league; the International Cricket Council (ICC) is also understood to be uncomfortable about the league and has been called into action.
The ICC has sent an email, seen by The National, to its members asking them to notify the ICC if any of their “current/non-retired” players request them for an NOC (No Objection Certificate) to play in the MCL.
The email says the ICC has “received notification from two Full Members that its current players have just been approached to play in the event, by requesting those players to seek NOC’s from their respective Board.”
As the ICC approved the league (after the Emirates Cricket Board had sanctioned it) on the basis that it was a tournament for retired players only, “the actions of those involved with the MCL in seeking current player participation in the event is unacceptable to us”.
The ICC is in communication with the MCL over the matter as well. It is thought that the ICC and its members feel the idea that was approved initially is not the reality of the league as it currently stands.
At that time, it was assumed to be a league for veterans, former players who had retired from all competitive forms of the game.
But gradually, that assumption has proved incorrect. As the recent players’ auction for the league showed, it is actually a mix of long-retired veterans as well as currently active domestic cricketers who have not retired from international cricket per se, but just have not played recently; players such as Richard Levi, Fidel Edwards, Krishmar Santokie, Graham Onions and several others.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) are the boards who have flagged the ICC. There is thought to be at least one more board that has raised concerns.
A week ago, the PCB announced that only those Pakistani players would be given NOCs to play in the MCL who had “announced and confirmed their irrevocable resignation and retirement from international cricket”.
The board is irked especially by the presence of Abdul Razzaq in the MCL (with the Capricorn Commanders) and that he has been used for promotional purposes, especially as they will be launching their own Twenty20 league, the Pakistan Super League (PSL), in the UAE the following week.
Razzaq is unlikely to be picked again for Pakistan, and he is likely to be a peripheral presence in the PSL. Recent reports suggest he has announced his retirement but clearly the prospect of a Pakistani player being used to promote what has become a rival league has annoyed the PCB and contributed to long-standing friction.
Several MCL franchises have contacted national boards directly to obtain NOCs for players they purchased at an auction in December. The NOC is an ICC pre-condition to participation but it now seems as if the PCB, other members and the ICC think that an NOC can only be granted upon full retirement from the game.
Zafar Shah, the head of the MCL, confirmed he was in communications with the ICC and said these were the kinds of “teething issues” the league would face.
“This is the perfect time for players who have never announced their retirement to do it now,” he told The National.
“For example Mohammad Yousuf never retired, he just found himself out and then not picked, he’s not even playing domestically.”
One official, however, suggests this could be seen as the MCL almost forcing players to retire to play in their league.
“The board is saying they have to come out and say they have retired and I agree with them,” Zafar said.
“Our format is very clear: retirement is a must. Otherwise we will not entertain anybody. But we don’t have influence with players to tell them to go and retire.
“It’s a teething issue because clarity is not there between players and their boards. It has never been done before. We are now setting this platform. Everybody will understand what to do from now.”
The blurring of lines between a player who is retired and one who is merely not being picked was made evident in the case of Shaun Tait this week. Tait was bought by the Libra Legends for the MCL, having not played an international game since 2011 and so, assumed to have retired.
Yet this week he was recalled to the Australian Twenty20 squad after a string of impressive performances in the Big Bash League, so he is, officially, not retired. He is also now out of the MCL.
“Well, this is a Catch-22 situation,” said Zafar.
“If people are going back to their boards, we have no issue.
“It’s OK, I will let Tait go. Obviously he will not play for us. We are here to help cricketers.”
As if to drive home the point, the PCB also announced on Thursday that Tait has reached an agreement to play with the Peshawar Zalmi in the PSL.
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Updated: January 21, 2016 04:00 AM