Having been elected as the President of the Zone-I of Karachi City Cricket Association, I now have the opportunity to observe the District/Zonal Under-19 Championships more closely than before. This is for the first time that I work directly with them during the preparation phase.
I am very clear in my mind that the District/Zonal Under-19 Championship level is one stage higher than club cricket but I was really disappointed to witness the standard of the games in these competitions. I found the approach and attitude of the cricketers just like beginners.
There is obviously no lack of talent but the mental side of game is rather poor. The game sense is even poorer. Then the fitness level is too low.
This under-19 competition is the backbone of Pakistan cricket. This is the first step for the players as they get the maiden opportunity to represent their districts.
As many as 99 Districts/Zonal teams participate in the event which means that 1,980 players get exposure. This is the first platform for young cricketers in their quest to play for the country.
Therefore, we must keep in mind that we are actually grooming the future stars. We must educate, guide and train these players to get the best out of them in future.
This semi-refined talent cannot perform well under pressure. The weaknesses of this stage are reflected in the national team but it should be corrected at this level. If we want Pakistan to perform consistently in all conditions, we have to invest at the District Level hugely.
All the stakeholders have to play their role to improve the standard of the game in Pakistan.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), as the umbrella body, has to take the responsibility and take all the stakeholders on board.
The deficiency in most of the game areas is due to lack of competitive club cricket.
There is no check and balance or accountability from Regions or the PCB. My observations are based on Karachi Region Under-19 competition. The KCCA’s past regime claimed it did a lot of work at the club level. It said Karachi won under-16 and under-19 titles during its tenure.
Those performances were an eyewash. But they can’t fool cricket experts. Those who have in-depth knowledge of the game can analyse victory and defeat elements in details.
KCCA did not do anything for the development of players during their six years.
Enough is enough. As I have been pointing out for the last 10 years or even more, the PCB needs to work at the grassroots level to improve Pakistan cricket.
Cricket development should start at this level. Develop infrastructure and human resources and I can guarantee that Pakistan can again produce world class players, because we have raw talent as good as anywhere in the cricket world.
There is a great communication gap between the PCB, the Regions and the players.
The PCB should announce the tournament dates in advance to let the Zones/District prepare and finalise their teams well before the event in terms of trials/age verification and other administrative matters.
This year things were messed up as the age verification process completed one day before the tournament began. On an average, 8-10 players of each Zones/District were declared overage which created untold problems in team selection at the eleventh hour.
Even some District/Zones were not left with enough players after medical test which was indeed disadvantageous to them and it put others at some advantage which was unfair and not in accordance with the PCB Code of Conduct.
It was also amazing that a few teams made hue and cry over the overage issue. It caused unnecessary burden on the team’s management as their resources and energies were consumed in counter-productive activities.
Fulfilling my responsibility as the President of Zone-I, I have developed a three-year strategic plan which is based on five pillars: facilities, players’ pathway, competition, game education and finances.
The strategic plan is a roadmap for the management to follow and execute. I hope this model will work and my team will help me implement the plan in letter and spirit to make it a model for other Zones of Karachi Region.
The people at the helm of cricket in Pakistan will have to take the junior development programmes very seriously. Otherwise disappointing results like the national Under-19 team’s huge defeat against India in the semi-finals of the U19 World Cup in New Zealand will continue to hamper our cricket.