Save cricket in Pakistan

Street cricket is a good pastime, but it cannot produce world class cricketers.

Muhammad Abbas Hassan February 15, 2012
For a developing country like Pakistan, with a population of almost 190 million, sports play a vital role in developing the society on both social and ethical grounds. Although the national sport is hockey, cricket is the heart and soul of the whole nation.

Taken as a platform to express feelings, every day history is made in the numerous cricket grounds across the country. As the game does not involve severe exercise, it is played by many and more recently the gender discrimination that used to exist has also ended.

Cricket is amongst one of the few sports in the country played without any religious hostility. Growing up, every Pakistani dreams of playing for the country and representing it at the highest level. When Pakistan played against India last year at the world cup semi-final, the whole nation was behind the players and the government announced a half day at the office so people could watch the full game. The players playing for the national side are literally living their dream.

Sadly, the sport that is played with such great love by Pakistanis  has suffered a lot during the past few years for various reasons, the topmost being the lack of interest and support by relevant authorities. This lack of support leads to a decline in talent as the talent never gets the opportunity to bloom to its potential. A sad story indeed, but the lack of infrastructure in the country is also a core reason. There are very few stadiums where cricket can be practiced and school cricket is also at an all-time low.

The match-fixing and the spot-fixing scandals didn't help either. Pakistani cricketers got labelled as the bad fish of the sport, willing to sell their country for money. The recent spot-fixing scandal destroyed the image of cricket in Pakistan, and it might take years to come out of the shadow of this scandal. The final nail in the coffin was the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team by terrorists in Lahore. This attack deprived Pakistan to host the prestigious cricket World Cup and as a result no international team was willing to come to Pakistan. Pakistan was forced to host series on neutral venues.

We need reforms at the grass roots level itself. School cricket should be promoted and basic facilities should be provided to young aspiring cricketers. Regular coaching camps by experienced coaches and cricketers should be arranged throughout the year to train the cricketers. Most of all, merit-based selection should be ensured. No one should be selected just because they have a good connection at the selection committee or someone in their family is the sponsor of the event. These mistakes have already resulted in irrecoverable damage to cricket in Pakistan.

Appreciation of talent is a must; scholarships and awards should also be given to the players who perform well at the grass roots level and have the potential to play for Pakistan in the future. Similarly, academies to nurture talent should be set up across the country to help young cricketers. These academies can work as platforms that will provide the cricketers with all the necessary training facilities and teach them every trick in the game.

We need to realise that while street cricket is a good pastime, it cannot produce the world class cricketers that Pakistan is known for.
Muhammad Abbas Hassan A post-grad student studying International Relations, who is an entrepreneur by profession and a part-time writer/blogger
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.