The prospect of Pakistan players once again participating in the IPL is nearing reality, as the Pakistan board and the league clear the paperwork required for players to return after a one-year gap.
Pakistan's players were absent from the second IPL, held earlier this year in South Africa, after their government did not allow them to travel to India - where the tournament was originally to be held - for security reasons. The decision came in the wake of the Mumbai attacks last year, after which relations between India and Pakistan deteriorated considerably. Eleven players from Pakistan had taken part in the first IPL, though after the Mumbai attacks, only four were retained by their franchises, though their contracts were suspended until further resolution.
The PCB has been keen on getting their players involved once again after Ijaz Butt, board chairman, raised the matter on a trip to India last month and said after that the relevant government authorities had also cleared Pakistan's players to play. The IPL said on Monday, after an internal meeting, that they required NOCs from the PCB as well having their visas in order by November 20.
The NOCs, according to Wasim Bari, COO, PCB, have already been sent to the IPL and now the board has asked the IPL to send letters of invitation to Pakistan players to initiate the visa process. An IPL official told Cricinfo that the league will help to facilitate return of Pakistan's players.
"The NOCs have already been sent a week ago," Bari told Cricinfo. "The normal procedure with visa requirements, for India or even England for playing county cricket, is that letters of invitations are sent and then the visa process begins from there."
As well as the four players who already have contracts - Kamran Akmal and Sohail Tanvir (Rajasthan Royals), Umar Gul (Kolkata Knight Riders) and Misbah-ul-Haq (Royal Challengers Bangalore) - a number of others are likely to be in demand as the third season approaches. Pakistan won the World Twenty20 earlier this year and are arguably the top side in the format, having won their last seven games and reached the final of the inaugural World Twenty20 in 2007.
And other players who formed the basis of Pakistan's win in June, such as Shahid Afridi who has already had an unsuccessful stint with the Deccan Chargers, Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Aamer and Abdul Razzaq, are likely to attract the attention of franchises.
"From our point of view, Umar Gul is a great bowler and we would definitely want him for the next IPL," Joy Bhattarcharya, team director of Kolkata Knight Riders, told Cricinfo. "However, whether he will be able to join depends on the understanding between the IPL/BCCI, the PCB and both the governments."