Finally, Pakistan’s campaign to revive international cricket at home seems to be on track. After hosting Zimbabwe for a limited-overs series in 2015, this year turned out to be much better for the country as it not only hosted the ICC World XI but also the Sri Lankans for a one-off T20 game recently.
It was in a fact a generous step from the Sri Lankans who came under a terrorist attack during their tour to Pakistan way back in 2009 that also turned the state into a no-go area for foreign teams until Zimbabwe broke the jinx by touring Pakistan two years ago.
And the West Indies have also pledged to play a three-match T20 series on Pakistan’s soil in March-April next year after signing a formal agreement with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) a few days ago.
Pakistan’s professional league (PSL) final in Lahore last year also contributed in the whole cause. What is happening is really encouraging for Pakistan’s cricket at a time when the security issues have been minimized due to terrific job from the military. And the world’s iconic football figure Ronaldinho and his friends’ recent visit to Pakistan is also a clear indication that the nation is capable of hosting more international sports teams.
But the issue is that all international cricket activities have been hosted by Pakistan in Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium, also the headquarters of the PCB, a factor which has in fact given a great weightage to the Punjab capital.
The cricket pundits sit there, think for the centre and the Punjab government has always contributed in hosting the same international cricket meetings. And, particularly, when Pakistan was hosting Zimbabwe a couple of years back at the Gaddafi Stadium, Sports Board Punjab (SBP) was at the driving seat in the whole arrangements.
Karachi, the country’s major test centre, has been ignored so far despite the fact that the port city was the first that hosted International World XI skippered by former Sri Lankan hard-hitting batsman Sanath Jayasuriya in 2012.
It was no one but former Sindh Sports Minister Dr Mohammad Ali Shah who made an amazing effort to bring in the same team to Karachi, a city which has a rich cricket history.
If there is a will, there is a way. Shah did what the PCB could not do at that time. Had late Shah been there he could have pressed Karachi’s case more vigorously. And now the city is on the mercy of the PCB’s will.
The leadership of Karachi’s business community also needs to play its role in the revival of international cricket in the city. Former PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan would often say that Karachi would have to pass security clearance test by hosting some of PSL matches before hosting international matches. And it is after a long time that finally the PCB thought about National Stadium Karachi and has been kept as an option for hosting the PSL-III final on March 25, 2018.
However, it is yet to be seen what will happen as the venue is being renovated and reconstructed which would definitely take more time.
Similarly, there is an immense contribution of Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Multan and Sialkot in cricket development and these centres should also not be ignored by the PCB.
The problem with the PCB is that it wasted so many years since 2009 when Sri Lanka’s cricket team bus was attacked in Lahore that closed the doors on Pakistan for hosting international cricket.
Keeping in view cricket revival and future challenges, the PCB needed during the last eight years to focus on improving its infrastructure. It did nothing at that time which is damaging its cause now. Keeping in view the fast-increasing population and in a bid to boost the revenue, the PCB needs not only to increase the capacity of all test centres of the country but also establish new centres which could meet the demands of cricket in future.
The Board should now come out of its home Lahore and also think for the other centres. The PCB also seems to have no idea how to run its domestic cricket.
It has been seen taking ridiculous decisions. It kept rescheduling the National T20 Cup several times. First it decided that Faisalabad and Rawalpindi would jointly host it in August-September. Then it decided that Faisalabad would host it from November 7 before it decided that Rawalpindi would host it from November 11 due to smog in Faisalabad.
And another ridiculous decision came when the PCB announced that the players draft for the PSL-III would be held on November 12, just a day after the National T20 Cup commenced in Rawalpindi.
All this wasted the utility of the National T20 Cup as franchises have already picked their teams.
If West Indies had already announced not to come to Pakistan in November then what was the need of holding National T20 at a time when the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy was in progress. It has broken the flow of the country’s first-class cricketers who had been playing four-day cricket for the last one and a half months. It was important for them not to switch over to the T20 mode but to complete their Quaid-e-Azam Trophy by playing in its Super Eight stage which is yet to begin.
Another important point which I want to highlight here is that the PCB opted this season to prepare green pitches for the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. We have seen that due to green pitches and duke balls (also bowlers friendly) pacers got the edge and teams were seen getting out within no time. Some of the matches even decided inside two days.
I don’t know what the PCB wants. Nowhere in the world you will see such type of pitches. If the PCB really wants to improve its cricket it will have to prepare sporting tracks which could equally help both the bowlers and batsmen.
It’s right time for the PCB to install such people in the domestic cricket wing who could in reality work for the betterment of first-class cricket which serves as the backbone in cricket development of a state.
It’s time for the PCB chairman Najam Sethi to take apt decisions and bring improvement in various areas of Pakistan’s cricket.