Forced to stay out of the inaugural Hockey India League (HIL) because of diplomatic tensions between the two countries, Pakistani players are likely to feature in the second edition of the franchise-based event to be held from January 23 to February 23 next year.
"Unlike IPL, the Pakistani players, who have been signed by different franchises for a three-year tenure, are free to play in HIL 2, provided there are no diplomatic issues between the two neighbouring nations," a Hockey India source said.
"We have already asked all national federations, including Pakistan to sent us No Objection Certificates of their players by October 31. There is still three months left for the deadline to end," the source told PTI.
"It was unfortunate not to allow them to play in HIL 1 but if the situation in the lead-up to next year's tournament is normal, we are expecting them to play in HIL 2," he added.
Nine players from across the border -- Mahmood Rashid, Fareed Ahmed, Muhammad Tousiq, Imran Butt (Mumbai Magicians), Mohammed Rizwan Sr. and Mohammad Rizwan Jr. (Delhi Waveriders), Kashif Shah (Jaypee Punjab Warriors) and Muhammed Irfan and Shafqat Rasool (Ranchi Rhinos) -- were supposed to play in the inaugural HIL earlier this year.
But the simmering tension on the Indo-Pak border over the killing of Indian soldiers and subsequent protests by right-wing organisations had forced Hockey India to send back the Pakistani players without playing a single match.
When contacted, Hockey India secretary general Narinder Batra, who is also the chairman of HIL, said there is still plenty of time to take call on the matter. Batra sounded optimistic and said before the HIL 2, Pakistan players are scheduled to visit the country for the Junior World Cup to be held in the Capital from December 6-15.
"There is plenty of time for HIL 2 but before that Pakistan are supposed to play in the Junior World Cup which is a big tournament," Batra said.
"As far as we are concerned we are hopeful of everyone playing in HIL 2," Batra said rejecting a report that top Dutch players may skip next year's league to concentrate on preparations for the World Cup to be held at The Hague four months after the HIL.