190317  Suresh Raina 22
Suresh Raina feels Indian players who are over 30 years of age, with no central contracts, should have an avenue open to show there is still enough cricket left in them. Image Credit: PTI

Indian cricket establishment, historically, does not take it too kindly if any of their policies – however draconian – are questioned. It’s turned out to be no different in the case of Suresh Raina, a backbone of India’s batting in white-ball cricket not so long ago, along with the recently retired allrounder Irfan Pathan.

It was a few days back that Raina, who now has no central contract from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), told Pathan during an Instagram chat that the board should allow players like him to play in at least two overseas T20 leagues. A legitimate claim for a professional cricketer to ply his trade, which was backed by Pathan, as the Chennai Super Kings batsman said it would offer sidelined players like him an opportunity to show the national selectors that there is still some cricket left in them - apart from giving a freedom of choice.

A BCCI official, while hinting that such a request is backed by a ‘tunnel vision’ to make money, have thrown back the exclusivity cause at Raina – highlighting that it does not allow its players to play in overseas leagues unless they formally announce their retirement. As per rules, the players need to take a mandatory ‘No Objection Certificate’ from the board to play in other leagues, but it never arrives.

Irfan Pathan

The last few years have seen a number of leading cricketers being denied such NOCs - which saw Pathan pulling out his name from the draft pick of Caribbean Premier League, Harbhajan Singh being denied a go at ‘The Hundred’ in England, while Pathan’s elder brother Yousuf not being able to take part in Hong Kong Sixes after an objection.

The ‘exclusivity’ cause about playing in the IPL, which the BCCI feels is done to ensure that even the non-contracted players can command good price tags in the auction, however, is unique for Indian players. There are any number of foreign professionals who ply their trade in franchise leagues all over the world today - the likes of Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Shane Watson or Eoin Morgan are as much admired names in IPL as in any other leagues in the world – including often the Pakistan Super League.

One remembers the curious case of Virendra Sehwag, one of the most feared strikers of the ball in Indian cricket, having to hurriedly announce his retirement in New Delhi before he could commit himself for a now defunct T20 league in the UAE sometime back. Last year, Yuvraj Singh (alongwith Manpreet Gony) had to emulate Sehwag for BCCI to hand him a NOC to participate in the Global T20 Canada tournament.

Harbhajan Singh

While the rulebook is there for all to see, these Indian cricketers may be past their prime but still can be major crowdpullers among the Indian diaspora in other cricket-playing countries. This year itself, while the IPL is ‘indefinitely postponed’ for now, the Caribbean Premier League has announced its dates from August 19 to September 26. What harm, would it have done, to release a few of such Indian names in the CPL?

Interestingly enough, a number of India’s top cricketers like Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana and Jemimah Rodrigues have been allowed to play in franchise leagues Down Under.

Easy, because there is no women’s IPL in place yet!