Re­viv­ing Cricket

PSL could open doors for in­ter­na­tional cricket to re­turn to Pak­istan.

Southasia - - FEATURE PAKISTAN - By Faizan Us­mani

At last, the first edi­tion of the Pak­istan Su­per League (PSL) is around the cor­ner. As re­peat­edly stated by the Pak­istan Cricket Board (PCB), the ra­tio­nale be­hind hold­ing Pak­istan's own T20 league is to bring in­ter­na­tional cricket back to the coun­try. How­ever, PSL is go­ing to be held in the United Arab Emi­rates from Fe­bru­ary 4 to Fe­bru­ary 23.

PSL is a fran­chise-based Twenty20 tour­na­ment which is be­ing launched with the of­fi­cial ap­proval of the In­ter­na­tional Cricket Coun­cil (ICC). The mega event is sim­i­lar to the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL), the Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL), and the In­dian Premier League (IPL).

A three-week tour­na­ment, PSL will fea­ture lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional play­ers who will rep­re­sent five teams from ma­jor Pak­istani cities like La­hore as La­hore Qa­lan­dars, Karachi as Karachi Kings, Is­lam­abad as Is­lam­abad United, Pe­shawar as the Pe­shawar Zalmi and Quetta as the Quetta Gladiators.

Based on their ex­pe­ri­ence and track record, play­ers have been grouped in five cat­e­gories, i. e. Plat­inum, Di­a­mond, Gold, Sil­ver and Emerg­ing. Each team can pick three play­ers from each of the top three cat­e­gories, while at least two play­ers will be se­lected from the Emerg­ing cat­e­gory. Each team has been sold as a fran­chise for a pe­riod of 10 years and will have a 16mem­ber squad, in­clud­ing ten to eleven Pak­istani crick­eters plus for­eign play­ers.

Among the in­ter­na­tional play­ers are some lead­ing names like Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Dar­ren Sammy, Kevin Pi­etersen, James An­der­son, Ku­mar San­gakkara, Shane Wat­son, Brad Haddin, Shakib Al Hasan and many oth­ers.

The idea of PSL first emerged in 2007 but it took PCB eight years to ma­te­ri­al­ize the pro­ject ow­ing to fre­quent ad­min­is­tra­tive changes

in the Board. The pur­pose was not only to re­vive in­ter­na­tional cricket in Pak­istan, but or­ga­nize PSL as as a use­ful in­stru­ment to take the PCB out of its fi­nan­cial cri­sis in­curred through repet­i­tive can­cel­la­tion of bi­lat­eral se­ries against many in­ter­na­tional sides.

Sur­viv­ing in the cricket world with its no­madic ex­is­tence since 2009, no coun­try, at the mo­ment, needs in­ter­na­tional cricket on its own land other than Pak­istan. Now hav­ing sold its five teams for 9.3 bil­lion ru­pees (93 mil­lion dol­lars) fi­nally, the muchawaited Pak­istan Su­per League is ready to take off next month. Given that the ICC clearly re­fused to send its match of­fi­cials to Pak­istan for a se­ries played be­tween Pak­istan and Zim­babwe last year and the Fed­er­a­tion of In­ter­na­tional Crick­eters' As­so­ci­a­tions (FICA) has re­peat­edly warned in­ter­na­tional teams against tour­ing Pak­istan, the ques­tion re­mains: will the PSL be able to re­vive in­ter­na­tional cricket in Pak­istan?

“The global game can­not af­ford to rest un­til Pak­istan is fully in­cor­po­rated again. We need this land of cricket war­riors ev­ery bit as it needs us,” said Mark Ni­cholas, the for­mer Hamp­shire bats­man.

Ac­cord­ing to him, “The ICC must con­tinue to watch over Pak­istan and en­sure that pas­toral and fis­cal help is at hand, as it is ex­pen­sive and desta­bil­is­ing to play home games abroad. Zim­babwe’s re­cent visit to Pak­istan was a suc­cess, as were trips by Kenya and Afghanistan. The next move should be for a rep­re­sen­ta­tive ICC team to tour the coun­try, a World XI if you like,” says Ni­cholas.

Waqar Younus, a for­mer Pak­istan fast bowler who is cur­rently the head coach of the Pak­istan cricket team, fears the fu­ture of Pak­istan cricket could be shaky if its ex­ile does not end in the near fu­ture. “If in­ter­na­tional cricket is not re­vived in the next cou­ple of years I fear the game will die down. No in­ter­na­tional cricket (at home) has hit Pak­istan badly. Look at the gen­er­a­tion which took up the game in or around 2009. They have not been able to watch in­ter­na­tional cricket and a whole lot of play­ers have not played in Pak­istan,” says Younus.

Chair­man of the In­dian Premier League (IPL) Ra­jiv Shukla, who is also a se­nior of­fi­cial of the Board of Con­trol for Cricket in In­dia ( BCCI), says “If Pak­istan con­tin­ues to play in the UAE, its cricket will suf­fer. If PCB de­vel­ops La­hore into a safe venue by con­struct­ing a team ho­tel near the sta­dium and by pro­vid­ing ad­e­quate se­cu­rity, then In­dia will have no ob­jec­tion to play in the city.”

Con­tin­ues Shukla: “If one in­ci­dent hap­pened does it mean there should be no cricket in Pak­istan?”

In com­plete con­trast, for­mer In­dian bats­man Su­nil Gavaskar terms Zim­babwe’s tour of Pak­istan last year as a ‘baby step.’ He says, “What­ever the coun­try’s Boards may de­cide, I am sure not many top In­dian play­ers would like to go there and play if they are asked to­day. Af­ter what hap­pened in 2009, most play­ers would refuse to tour the coun­try. In­dia’s top play­ers may not tour Pak­istan.”

“There are more steps re­quired be­fore it can say that in­ter­na­tional cricket is back in Pak­istan,” says Gavaskar.

Though Gavaskar’s re­marks may ap­pear to be quite harsh for many of us, PCB Chair­man Shahryar Khan, too, thinks on the same lines. In a re­ply to the ques­tion, ‘Is Pak­istan safe for in­ter­na­tional cricket?’ Khan says, “No, not yet. Not com­pletely. It’s only safe be­cause we’re able to take pre­cau­tions.”

“Around eight to nine years ago, Imran Khan said no­body will at­tack cricket in Pak­istan be­cause the pub­lic will turn against those ter­ror­ists. I dis­agreed with him right away and felt it was a wrong state­ment. To me, ter­ror­ists will at­tack cricket be­cause it’s so im­por­tant to the pub­lic. The ter­ror­ists want to achieve some­thing out of it and it’s a fact, which has to be ac­cepted. The army is do­ing a bril­liant job, but we have to make sure the safety of for­eign crick­eters in Pak­istan. And if you don’t un­der­stand and re­alise this re­al­ity, you are turn­ing a blind eye to the real is­sue that ex­ists on the ground.”

Tak­ing the afore­said into con­sid­er­a­tion, PSL is not more than an over­hyped idea to bring in­ter­na­tional cricket back to the coun­try. The league will bring money to the cash-starved Board, of­fer its lo­cal play­ers the op­por­tu­nity to play with lead­ing in­ter­na­tional play­ers and will en­hance a pos­i­tive im­age of the coun­try. How­ever, un­less PCB man­ages to or­ga­nize the event on its home grounds, its abil­ity to bring in­ter­na­tional cricket back to the coun­try may not be a pos­si­bil­ity.

Even if PSL turns out to be a huge suc­cess, it would not bring in­ter­na­tional cricket back to the coun­try un­less it is held in Pak­istan and nowhere else. When the chief of Pak­istan cricket doesn’t re­gard Pak­istan as a safe place for in­ter­na­tional play­ers, it will take more than a mere PSL to re­vive in­ter­na­tional cricket in the coun­try.

The writer is the mem­ber of the staff.

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