Pakistan win - but there’s no one to celebrate with
The lack of fans is a major concern for the PCB and UAE cricket
While Pakistan sealed the Test series against the West Indies with a 133run win at Abu Dhabi but the absence of fans in the stadia is still a worry.
In the second Test, Yasir Shah picked up another 10-wicket haul and man-of-the-match award. Pakistan did not enforce a follow on and Younis Khan and Misbah-ulHaq made valuable contributions with the bat.
The series of events seem like a carbon copy of reports from previous series in the UAE. Pakistan last lost a Test series in the emirates way back in 2002, when they were beaten 2-0 by a dominant Australian side.
Having loyal, dedicated and passionate fans is any team or sportsperson’s dream and Pakistan are blessed with stadia full of them across the globe.
But, not being able to play at home is a thorn in the flesh that is starting to hurt Pakistan now, more than ever.
In 2015, when Zimbabwe agreed to tour Pakistan for two Twenty 20s and three ODIs, each player from the visiting team was promised $12,500 and the Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) a sum of $500,000 by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).
Zimbabwe were received with fervour and celebrations. “Cricket comes home”, “thank you Zimbabwe” and many such banners adorned the sold-out Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, but the matches, sadly, were too one-sided.
The first Test of the current series played in Dubai, the first day/night Test for both teams, the first pinkball game in the UAE and the second ever in international cricket, failed to attract crowds big enough to make a noise.
Azhar Ali’s unbeaten 302 was not even witnessed by as many spectators in the 25,000 capacity stadium, much to the disappointment of the batsman who went of to say “I would have enjoyed it more if it was at home”.
This despite the UAE being one of Pakistan’s biggest overseas fan bases.
The Pakistan Super League (PSL) on the other hand had close to sellout crowds for it’s inaugural edition at the same venues.
Cricket administrators have not turned a blind eye to this drought, PSL chairman Najam Sethi announced that the final of the 2017 edition of the tournament will be played in Lahore. But again, foreign players had to be wooed with “financial incentives” in view of the possible risks.
The UAE has been a happy hunting ground for Pakistan, but several players including Test captain Misbah-ul-Haq have expressed their grief over not being able to play at home.
While the arrival of the PSL finale is a step in the right direction, questions still loom over the willingness of fullmember teams to come back to country and the PCB’s efforts to bring cricket back to Pakistan.