Usama Mir's T20 Blast contract cancelled after PCB deny NOC

Usama Mir celebrates a wicket Getty Images

Pakistan legspinner Usama Mir will miss the T20 Blast after the PCB refused him a No-Objection Certificate (NOC). Mir, who was signed by Worcestershire Rapids for the tournament, was expected to be available throughout after he was omitted from Pakistan's T20 World Cup squad.

However, ESPNcricinfo has learned his application for an NOC was turned down. Mir was among the players who signed three-year central contracts with the PCB after protracted negotiations in 2023. According to the contract, all centrally contracted players are permitted to play two franchise T20 leagues in addition to the Pakistan Super League per season.

The PCB told ESPNcricinfo that makes him ineligible to play any more T20 leagues during his current contractual cycle, which runs from July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024. Mir played the Hundred in August 2023 and the Big Bash League in 2023-24. While he hadn't signed his central contract when he played the Hundred, it was backdated to begin from the start of July. He was pulled out of the BBL after just five appearances by the PCB after being recalled to the national side for a five-match T20I series in New Zealand. According to the PCB, "all NOCs are subject to national duty".

Given Mir's curtailed BBL involvement, it is understood the player - and Worcestershire - believed there was a realistic chance of an NOC being granted to him for the Blast. However, the PCB's position is that "PSL +2" is a non-negotiable policy, and Mir did take part in two overseas franchise leagues in the current cycle.

Mir was the highest wicket-taker for Multan Sultans in the 2024 PSL season, but has not played any overseas T20 leagues since. He also played for Manchester Originals in the Hundred last season, and has since been retained for the 2024 season on a £60,000 contract. ESPNcricinfo understands he aims to play the Hundred and one more league this season.

Last season, Mir was one of the stars of the Blast in his 11 matches for Worcestershire. He hit 132 runs in six innings, at a strike rate of 162.96, and took 19 wickets at 16.89. He has been replaced by the legspinner Hayden Walsh, who is one of West Indies' five reserves for the T20 World Cup.

Walsh was recommended to Worcestershire by Jason Holder, whose stint at the club recently came to an end. "Hayden is a versatile and talented cricketer whose skills will be a great asset to our squad," Ashley Giles, Worcestershire's CEO, said.

"He comes with a glowing reference from Jason, which speaks volumes about his abilities and character. While it's unfortunate that Usama couldn't join us, we are confident that Hayden will fit in seamlessly and make a valuable contribution to our campaign."

Walsh said: "I am thrilled to join Worcestershire and be part of such a prestigious club. Both Jason and Alzarri [Joseph] have said a lot of good things about the club and the group of players, and I look forward to contributing to the team's success… it's an exciting opportunity, and I can't wait to get started."

Worcestershire begin their T20 Blast campaign away against Yorkshire on Thursday night, with Josh Cobb and Tom Taylor both in contention to make their debuts for the county. Yorkshire have included Joe Root in their squad, and expect him to be available for their first seven T20 fixtures of the season.