Pro­mot­ing Pak­istan Cricket

Slogan - - EDI­TOR'S DESK - Javed An­sari

Much hype has been cre­ated about the PSL – the Pak­istan Cricket League - and the fact that it is al­ready in its sec­ond suc­cess­ful year. What a pity, how­ever, that while Pak­istan launched the PSL as a ‘me-too’ event fol­low­ing the suc­cess of the IPL, the BBL, the Big Bang, etc., this par­tic­u­lar tour­na­ment is played out­side Pak­istan though it pur­ports to rep­re­sent Pak­istan cricket and to serve as an en­gine of the game’s growth at home. As Pak­istan’s re­cent per­for­mances in New Zealand and Aus­tralia show, noth­ing of the sort has hap­pened and Pak­istan con­tin­ues to be placed al­most at the end of the ta­ble in lim­ited overs cricket, not that its per­for­mance in Test cricket is any­thing to write home about. There was a time when Pak­istan was one of the world’s ma­jor cricket teams and com­peted with a lot of re­spectabil­ity with the likes of Eng­land, Aus­tralia and the West Indies, while it dom­i­nated na­tions like In­dia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Per­haps South Africa was not a part of the equa­tion in those days be­cause of its iso­la­tion due to apartheid. That is a thing of the past, how­ever, and to­day’s top Pak­istani crick­eters get the jit­ters when they play on a wicket that takes bounce and swing.

The PSL is played on pitches in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Shar­jah, which are said to be as placid or flat as grounds in Pak­istan and the par­tic­i­pat­ing teams be­long to Pak­istan’s five cities – Karachi, Is­lam­abad, La­hore, Pe­shawar and Quetta. The only at­trac­tive fac­tor about PSL is that each of the teams also have a smat­ter­ing of in­ter­na­tional crick­eters and that is per­haps what makes the tour­na­ment an in­ter­est­ing propo­si­tion. What is not in­ter­est­ing is that while all other tour­na­ments are played in their home coun­tries and pro­vide en­ter­tain­ment for the home crowds, cricket lovers in Pak­istan get to see the PSL only on tele­vi­sion and the ground spec­ta­tors are only the Pak­istani Di­as­pora in the UAE or some lo­cals who hardly have any affin­ity for or in­ter­est in the game. They do not un­der­stand cricket’s in­tri­ca­cies and those finer points of bat­ting, bowl­ing and field­ing that gives cricket its par­tic­u­lar char­ac­ter. The non-Pak­istani play­ers par­tic­i­pat­ing in the PSL are prob­a­bly there be­cause it of­fers a good chance to them to earn some pre­cious money and that is also per­haps the main rea­son why the Pak­istani play­ers, whether re­tired or oth­er­wise, play in the League. In fact, ac­cord­ing to one re­port, even the ju­nior play­ers in the PSL get paid more US dol­lars than they would be mak­ing while play­ing for any other league around the world. It is also said that pay­ments are made to the play­ers be­fore the tour­na­ment ends and they do not have to be wait­ing to get paid till months af­ter the tour­na­ment. This prob­a­bly does not hap­pen in other leagues.

Of late, there has been much talk of bring­ing the fi­nal of the PSL to Pak­istan – to La­hore, more specif­i­cally. Even then, noth­ing is cer­tain be­cause it is be­ing feared that none of the for­eign play­ers in the two fi­nal­ist teams would want to come to La­hore. The PCB is of the view that the men­ace of ter­ror­ism has now been largely con­trolled and a fi­nal can be safely played at the Gaddafi Sta­dium. But it seems that other crick­et­ing boards and more so the par­tic­i­pat­ing play­ers don’t agree with this view and would rather stay away from Pak­istan. What is worth con­sid­er­ing is that why is the PCB or the pow­ers be­hind Pak­istan cricket in­sist­ing that only the PSL fi­nal be played in Pak­istan? What about cricket as a game re­turn­ing to Pak­istan and reg­u­lar home se­ries be­ing played in the coun­try at Test, One Day and T-20 level? Why is the PCB not work­ing to­wards mak­ing this a re­al­ity? If the PCB con­tin­ues to be weak on this front, the rest of the crick­et­ing world will con­tinue to take ad­van­tage of Pak­istan and will con­tinue to en­ter­tain the coun­try only on their own terms. The con­di­tions in Pak­istan con­tinue to be dire some­what from the se­cu­rity point of view and not many risks can be taken. But be­sides hold­ing the PSL in the UAE, the PCB can make some kind of a be­gin­ning by or­ga­niz­ing sim­i­lar tour­na­ments in ma­jor cities of Pak­istan, such as Karachi, La­hore, Faisal­abad, Hy­der­abad, Sialkot, Is­lam­abad, Pe­shawar and Quetta, etc. in which top Pak­istan play­ers are fea­tured, along with the re­cently re­tired ones and young play­ers. This way, lo­cal crowds will get to taste some of the thrill and ex­cite­ment of cricket. This would also boost growth of the game in terms of play­ers and grounds in the long run. If it re­ally takes off, the tour­na­ments could even have the same com­mer­cial at­trac­tion for spon­sors and mer­chan­diz­ers as the PSL or the in­ter­na­tional cricket leagues.

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