What’s the story?
All rounder Yusuf Pathan has become the first active male Indian cricketer to sign up for an overseas T20 tournament. In a massive change of policy, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) have given their approval for his participation in the 2017 edition of the Hong Kong T20 Blitz.
The 31-year old will join the likes of Shahid Afridi, Tymal Mills and Scotland's Calum MacLeod in a strong international contingent for joint defending champions Kowloon Cantons.
“This is amazing news and we are very appreciative of the BCCI in granting this NOC (No Objection Certificate) – a world first for them to allow a current player to take part in a T20 league outside of India. This will go a long way to help the development of the sport in the region and with even more stars still to be announced this is shaping up to be a superb tournament that will be enjoyed by millions across the world. The tireless work of the Cantons should also be acknowledged,” said Cricket Hong Kong’s chief executive Tim Cutler.
In the past, BCCI have never allowed any active Indian cricketer to feature in a T20 event outside India in order to protect the brand value of the Indian Premier League (IPL). However, leading women’s team players like Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana were permitted to participate in the 2016/17 edition of the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL).
The heart of the matter
Having played 57 ODIs and 22 T20Is for India, Yusuf’s last appearance came in 2012. A hard-hitter and an under-rated off-spinner, he has been an integral part of the Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL. The 2016 season saw him score 361 runs from 15 games at an average of 72.20 and strike-rate of 145.56 including 3 fifty-plus knocks.
His all round skills should bolster the Kowloon Cantons who lifted the inaugural edition of the Hong Kong T20 Blitz along with Woodworm Island Warriors. Some of the other high-profile international stars who have taken part in the tournament include Michael Clarke, Darren Sammy, Kumar Sangakkara, Misbah-ul-Haq and Tillakaratne Dilshan.
The second season of the Hong Kong T20 Blitz will take place at the Mission Road Ground in Mong Kok from March 8 to 12. Apart from the Cantons, the other teams featuring in this edition are Hung Hom JD Jaguars, Galaxy Gladiators Lantau, Hong Kong Island United and City Kaitak.
BCCI’s move to allow Indian players to participate in overseas T20 leagues is certainly a commendable one. In the future, they could also permit other leading national cricketers including promising youngsters to feature in foreign tournaments like Big Bash League (BBL) to gain significant exposure.