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ACB's decision on NOC - logical or dictatorial?

Last updated on 27 Dec 2023 | 02:25 AM
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ACB's decision on NOC - logical or dictatorial?

The mushrooming Indian investments in various leagues around the world have ensured that players are no longer dependent on their central contracts to make money

On Monday, the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) sanctioned the trio of Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Naveen-ul-Haq, and Fazalhaq Farooqi, delaying handing out a national contract to them while also revoking their No Objection Certificate (NOC) to participate in franchise leagues across the world. 

Why? Because the players decided not to take a fresh national contract and focus more on T20 leagues around the world. In a normal scenario, it would have hardly created any news - but there is an Indian Premier League (IPL) stake involved for all three players. That made this development quite a big one. 

In a world where international cricket is slowly losing its relevance and players choosing their priorities according to their personal whims and fancies, ACB’s decision came as a stern warning for their players. 

NOCs are important because they work in the interest of international cricket sanity. It acts against the incentive of players dreading their teams mid-way. And even if some players are not contracted with the national board, having NOC means boards maintain professional sanity at their level.

But things are fast changing. 

In the West Indies, New Zealand, South Africa, and even England, the cricket boards hardly have any control over their players’ availability now. The mushrooming Indian investments in tournaments like SA20, CPL, ILT20, and MLC have ensured that players are no longer dependent on their central contracts to make money, and many are ditching it for a career as a freelance cricketer. 

In such a developing estate, does it really make any sense for the boards to have the power to hold someone’s NOC if they are no longer interested in being a part of the national ecosystem? The question really needs a vivid answer.

In football, club vs country has never been a debate. International matches are often a brief interlude in the club calendar, but cricket has been a rather conservative sport for a long time. However, the pace at which things are changing has made many boards suddenly caught off-guard, especially if you don’t have a big-money league running in your backyard.

If you ask the same question to two different boards - let’s take Afghanistan and South Africa, for example - the revelation would be entirely different. While Afghanistan desperately want to control its players’ choices, South Africa have downplayed their international calendar to make SA20 a run-away success. They need overseas players to make it big.

Meanwhile, the Indian cricket economy has been a self-sufficient unit that can sidestep all the boards worldwide. They don’t need any support - if they want, they can offer contracts to the players round the year and force them out of their international circuit. 

The news around the Mumbai Indians conglomerate offering Jofra Archer a round-the-year contract made rounds earlier, and no one really batted an eyelid doubting its viability. If BCCI wants to take cricket the European football way, they would hardly have any roadblocks.

But how many boards could afford to lose players without their international performance being hampered? West Indies, a two-time ODI and T20I World champions, couldn’t even make it to the 2023 ODI World Cup. You can’t squarely blame the board without looking at the player availability concern. That makes ACB’s decision not to grant NOC to the three of their star players such an important precedent. 

According to Section 32A in the ICC's operating manual, NOC applies to all players, whether or not they are contracted by their member board, even if they are retired. In 2022, Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) released a set of guidelines asking for three months' notice of their intention to retire and a six-month waiting period post-retirement to obtain an NOC to play in overseas franchise tournaments. Even Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) centrally contracted players may seek clearance for up to a maximum of four leagues, including the Pakistan Super League. 

You could understand why they would do that.

While a team like Australia or England could somehow afford to lose players to other leagues and still continue to thrive overall, it is not the case with smaller boards, whose finances are already in the ventilator. 

From that perspective, Afghanistan taking a harsher route to safeguard its own interests may be a feasible step in the right direction. Perhaps there will be a discussion with the players, and the ban might effectively be lifted, but ACB are not the one at fault here.

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