At a time when it seemed that international cricketers would finally turn up in Pakistan after a gap of more than three years, the latest postponement of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) could possibly mean that international cricket will not resume during Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Zaka Ashraf’s tenure.
The announcement came as a blow for cricket lovers who have been dying to see their players back in action in their own country. On the other hand, experts are relieved by the development as they believe that the PSL remains a double-edged sword and it may have been too early to stage it.
Ever since being appointed the PCB chief, Ashraf has reiterated that his main aim is to bring international cricket back to Pakistan in order to end the drought that stretches back to the 2009 after an armed attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore.
The board has said that it will announce the new dates of PSL soon, but the question arises, when?
The original dates of March 26-April 7 this year may not have been ideal to attract international players due to prior commitments with their respective national sides and the Indian Premier League (IPL) looming. However, there was a chance that some top players along with some average ones would have helped Pakistan in redeeming the lost confidence of hosting an international series.
There have been indications that the top cricket boards of the world would not have released their players due to security concerns in Pakistan while players associations were too pressing against the PSL.
Sports in Pakistan is very closely related to politics; both are yet to be separated despite pressure from the International Cricket Council (ICC), which stressed that the PCB chairman should be elected instead of being directly appointed by the Patron of the board who is the President of Pakistan.
With the current ruling government close to completing its tenure and elections around the corner, it seems that by the time the PCB announces new dates of the PSL, there will be a new PCB chairman if the ruling political party fails to win enough votes.
Given the culture of Pakistan cricket, the appointment of a new chairman would mean everything restarting from scratch. Thus the money splashed on roping in former ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat as PSL consultant for a staggering $25,000 per month may go down the drain.
Even those involved in the venture appear doubtful of the future of the glittering Twenty20 (T20) event that had to be delayed for a second time. Although the PCB is trying to put on a brave face about it, there is a big difference in what they claim and what they can actually do.
Is this move of postponement a deliberate act by the PCB to save face after all the tall claims they had made?
The common sense says yes because they were struggling to rope in the biggest names in cricket despite claims that they had signed 80 foreign players for the auction. Being a foreigner does not guarantee success as there are dozens of players who are in search of quick money since their international careers either didn’t blossom or have ended.
On a more practical note, what PCB can do is improve its own domestic T20 event by breaking their kitty so that players can earn handsome money. This would help scores of domestic cricketers to live a better life besides sending a soft message to the foreign players that Pakistan is a market which would gradually become a giant in years to come. Strengthening domestic events would be a smarter move on the part of the PCB as it will build confidence. They can then decide to run an international edition in the future.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 10th, 2013.