Even if India’s cricket administrators bar Pakistani players from participating in the cash-rich Indian Premier League (IPL), who says IPL franchise owners cannot recruit them for teams they have bought overseas – beyond Indian jurisdiction?
As it turns out, Indian cricket investors in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL), which begins on Wednesday, are not altogether averse to having Pakistani players on board. And they include Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan. Of the four Pakistani players to have been picked up at the CPL auctions this February Sohail Tanvir, Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal and Imad Wasim two will play for franchises owned by Indians who have IPL teams. The other two will turn out for outfits owned by investors with Indian roots. The Indian link with CPL began last year, when India’s largest two-wheeler manufacturer Hero MotoCorp Ltd signed the title sponsorship deal with the league; this has now been extended to 2018. Shoaib Malik will turn out for Barbados Trident, bought earlier this year by troubled Indian billionaire Vijay Mallya who formerly owned the Virat Kohli-led Royal Challengers Bangalore, and still remains its “chief mentor”.
However, it is rumoured that Mallya, hounded by Indian banks for dues of over INR 90 billion (about PKR 140 billion), has since then re-sold the franchise to Nita Ambani, who owns IPL team Mumbai Indians. This means Malik will still be playing for an IPL franchise owner, whose husband is the billionaire Mukesh Ambani, the richest man in India with a net worth of $20.3 billion. Umar Akmal will play for Trinbago Knight Riders, co-owned by Shah Rukh Khan and the husband-wife duo of industrialist Jay Mehta and actress Juhi Chawla. The third Pakistani picked up at the CPL auctions, Imad Wasim, was bought by Jamaica Tallawahs, winner of the inaugural tournament in 2013 and co-owned by two Dallas, US-based Indian American entrepreneurs Manish Patel and Ron Parikh. Incidentally, Hollywood actor Gerard Butler has a small stake in Jamaica Tallawahs.
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And finally, Sohail Tanvir will turn out for Guyana Amazon Trident, owned by a Guyanese businessman of Indian origin, Ranjisingh Ramroop. Ramroop, who owns several media outfits including the Guyana Times and five radio frequencies, apart from one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the Caribbean, paid $160,000 for Tanvir, making him the highest grossing Pakistani at this CPL. In fact, Tanvir’s price tag has propelled him among the highest paid CPL cricketers this year; he rubs shoulders with Kieron Pollard (Barbados Tridents), Dwayne Bravo (Trinbago Knight Riders), Chris Gayle (JamaicaTallawahs), David Miller (St Lucia Zouks) and Lendl Simmons (St Kitts & Nevis Patriots), each of them of going for $160,000 at the auctions. Shoaib Malik is the second highest Pakistani earner, having commanded a sale price of $110,000, while Shah Rukh’s Trinbago Knight Riders is spending $70,000 on Umar Akmal, who shares the third spot in terms of auction price with Imad Wasim. Incidentally, Shahid Afridi, among the top picks in 2015 with a sale price of $150,000, found no buyer this year.
CPL will end on August 7, thus freeing up the Pakistani players engaged in CPL for the limited over series against England that begins with the first ODI in Southampton on August 24. None of the four are required for Pakistan’s Test series against England in England, which begins on July 4 and ends on August 15 eight days after CPL ends. While Malik retired from Test cricket last year, the injury-plagued Tanvir’s last Test appearance was in 2007. The selectors overlooked the other two for the Test squad. Malik is certain for Pakistan’s short format commitments in England, and perhaps, so is Imad Wasim. However, a cloud hangs over the out-of-favour Umar Akmal. CPL opens up a chance for him to make a statement before the ODIs commence. The question is: will Umar Akmal grab the lifeline?