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Haris Rauf central contract terminated by PCB for not committing to Australia tour

The PCB has come down hard on fast bowler Haris Rauf, who made himself unavailable for Pakistan’s Test series against Australia late last year, by terminating his central contract. In a statement released by the PCB, the board said a hearing was conducted following Rauf’s decision to not participate in the three-match series, and that “the views of all stakeholders” was considered.

Rauf will also not be granted an NOC to participate in any overseas league until June 30, 2024. ESPNcricinfo understands this punishment does not extend to Rauf being omitted from the national side; to the contrary, the PCB want him to be available for all international commitments during this time.

The focus of the hearings concerned the lead-up to Pakistan’s tour of Australia, where they were scheduled to play three Tests. When chief selector Wahab Riaz announced the squad, he said Rauf had reneged on an earlier commitment to be available for that series, criticising him for going back on his word and saying it would “hurt Pakistan cricket”.

ESPNcricinfo understands Rauf viewed that exchange very differently, claiming he had never confirmed his availability, and stating he wanted to take care of his body and prioritise white-ball cricket. However, it would appear that that argument did not cut through with the board in the hearing that followed.

“The PCB management provided a chance for a personal hearing to Haris in compliance with the principles of natural justice on 30 January, 2024, and his response was found unsatisfactory,” the PCB said. “Playing for Pakistan is the ultimate honour and privilege for any sportsperson. Refusal to be part of Pakistan’s Test squad in the absence of any medical report or justifiable reason is a material violation of the central contract.”

Pakistan did find themselves devoid of high pace during the series against Australia. Shaheen Afridi hasn’t yet recovered to hit the speeds he did before his knee injury in the final of the T20 World Cup in 2022, while Naseem Shah and Mohammad Hasnain were also out with long-term injuries over the winter. In the event, the difference between Pakistan and Australia’s fast bowlers’ pace was clear, and the visitors were clean swept 3-0.

The decision to refuse Rauf an NOC till the end of June is more a rhetorical expression of the PCB’s dissatisfaction than a material disadvantage to the player. The PSL, which begins on February 17 – and which Rauf will play – extends till March 18, and Rauf would regardless not have been a part of the IPL, which follows the PSL.

The T20 Blast in England does start in May, but Rauf’s commitments with the national side in England, where Pakistan will be playing a white-ball series, would have precluded his participation anyway. The T20 World Cup begins in June, and extends beyond the end of the month, when the restriction on Rauf’s participation in overseas tournaments lapses.

It is not yet clear if Rauf has any avenues of appealing the decision. He has been approached by ESPNcricinfo for comment.

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