For the first time, the BCCI has allowed an Indian male cricketer to play in an overseas T20 tournament, with Yusuf Pathan signing up a contract with Kowloon Cantons for the upcoming Hong Kong Blitz T20. The four-team domestic tournament will be played from March 8 and will be played over five days. The BCCI prohibits Indian cricketers from playing in foreign T20 leagues ostensibly to safeguard the IPL’s higher brand value. The BCCI general manger, cricket operations MV Sridhar, however, clarified that this was an ICC tournament and was not a T20 League hosted by a particular cricket board.
“It’s a tournament, not a league. There’s a fine difference. A league is an ongoing annual affair like Big Bash for example. This (Hong Kong T20) is a tournament which is approved by the ICC. They (Cricket Hong Kong) told us and we have cross-checked, and it doesn’t clash with any engagements of the Baroda Cricket Association. The Baroda Cricket Association is OK with it and that is only when we said, ‘you (Yusuf) can play this one-off tournament,” Sridhar told The Sunday Express.
“League would mean franchises, league would mean auctions, league would mean players being requested and paid according to their capabilities — there’s a lot of difference,” he added, confirming that Yusuf is the only Indian cricketer to be invited for the tournament.
Yusuf said he would use the tournament for his IPL preparations. “The BCCI and the Baroda Cricket Association has granted me the NOC. This would be a good opportunity to get into the groove before the IPL, because international cricketers are (Shahid Afridi, Tymal Mills, Darren Sammy to name a few) playing in this tournament. I played the 50-over domestic tournaments in Bangladesh and Kenya after last year’s IPL and Hong Kong T20 had kept in touch with me for the last three months. I put forward a request to my state association and the BCCI and I’m thankful to them that they have allowed me to play,” Yusuf told this paper.
The overseas assignment doesn’t prevent the him from playing in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, as the group phase of the tournament will be held from February 25 to March 6 followed by the knockouts from March 13. But does the Hong Kong invitation make Yusuf a trendsetter? “I can’t talk about the BCCI. But it helps to have exposure in different conditions,” the 34-year-old said. Yusuf is contracted with the Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL.