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Placid pitches hurting Pakistan

Preparing quality tracks is one of the most pressing issues Pakistan cricket faces

Placid pitches hurting Pakistan

In Pakistan lack of quality tracks has been inflicting an unprecedented damage on the country’s cricket. The authorities don’t seem to take the country’s most popular game seriously. These lifeless surfaces reduce the careers of fast bowlers and also contribute to producing mediocre batsmen.

In today’s world, if a country wants to make its presence felt in international arena it will have to cope with diverse challenges. Preparing quality tracks is one of the most pressing issues Pakistan cricket faces.

In the final of the Patron’s Trophy Grade-II, between Karachi Port Trust (KPT) and Omar Associates, here at National Stadium, 1447 runs were scored inside four days. And there was no result.

In the semi-final on the same track, between KPT and K-Electric, 1208 runs were scored, with the three-day game also ending without any result. The fast bowlers had to toil very very hard.

In the final, left-arm Test pacer Mohammad Amir of Omar Associates was ineffective in the first innings. It was a blessing in disguise for the Gujar Khan-born fast bowler that he developed a hamstring injury which forced him to miss the rest of the match.

Had he been fit during the entire game, he could have been ineffective because of the sort of track prepared. The dead surface becomes even deader under simmering heat.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had to shift the KPT-K-Electric semi-final and the final to Karachi because of rains in Punjab.

The KPT-K-Electric semi-final at Jinnah Stadium, Sialkot, had been washed out due to rain. Not a single delivery could be bowled in the three-day show.

However, the other semi-final between Omar Associates and Khayaban-e-Amin at LCCA Ground, Lahore, had been won by the former on the basis of the first innings lead due to a devastating spell from Mohammad Amir who ended the tournament with 22 wickets. He returned to domestic cricket after four and a half year ban due to his involvement in spot-fixing.

The tracks in Punjab produced some bounce but that, too, was uneven, which is not a healthy sign for cricket.

I was stunned to listen from a senior official of the PCB on the last day of the four-day Grade-II final that “Grade-II is not cricket at all”. I had asked him why the Board kept only Rs200,000 prize money for the winners.

KPT qualified for the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy Silver and that served the Board’s purpose. They don’t care about the quality of cricket.

This is not only a problem in Grade-II but in the first-class cricket, too, sub-standard pitches are prepared which damage cricket in Pakistan.

The authorities should prepare pitches that equally support bowlers and batsmen. Only by doing this can we have quality cricket in our domestic tournaments.

Clubs are the basic nurseries from where cricketers go to the mainstream. But their players also practise on very poor pitches.

When our star cricketers are dropped from national team because of their poor form, they gain form within no time in domestic cricket and it is because of the weak system, the poor quality of surfaces, poor umpiring and the type of balls being used.

The services of foreign experts should be taken in preparing quality tracks. The PCB should allocate a handsome amount from its budget for the preparation of tracks and for purchasing quality balls. These two steps might bring a drastic change in the standard of cricket in the country.

Now, let’s come to KPT’s achievement of reclaiming their first-class status after a gap of ten years.

KPT emerged as the champions on the basis of first innings lead as the final ended in a draw.

KPT will have to face stiff challenges when they play in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy Silver first-class 2015-16 season. With the available stock, they would not be able to survive at the top level. If they are to maintain their seat in top cricket they will have to induct a few quality players ahead of the first-class season which is expected to begin in October this year.

This will be the second time when KPT will be seen in action in first-class cricket. They participated in Patron’s Trophy Grade-I in February-March 2005 but were relegated, finishing at the bottom in their six-team group.

During Pakistan People’s Party’s tenure from 2008 to 2013 the KPT Board decided to focus on cricket, football and boxing and called for fresh induction in their teams but no concrete step was taken.

For recruitment of players they will have to depend on the scouting system through their experienced coaches in place of the obsolete system of giving advertisement in media.

Alam Zeb Safi

Alam Zeb copy
The writer is a sports reporter at The News International. He may be reached at [email protected]

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