Bringing cricket back, the South African way
So, the latest news is that eight companies, including Ten Sports, Nimbus and Geo TV, have already made their recommendations to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), while another three are expected to do so this week.
Chairman PCB Zaka Ashraf is working on what can easily be called the Pakistani 'mission impossible'. He wants Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India to visit Pakistan; his players to be a part of the Indian Premier League, Sialkot to play the Champions League and to start the Pakistani Premier League in couple of months.
What the PCB needs to understand is that they are repeating a barrage of tried, tested and failed sequences all over again. These ambitions are the ones that led Mr Naseem Ashraf and Mr Ijaz Butt to their respective dead ends.
At this point, Mr Ashraf needs to analyse the situation proactively and understand a few ground realities that can help the board take a productive decision.
What PCB needs to understand
1. It was not the March 2009 Lahore attacks that kept international cricket out of Pakistan.
Sri Lanka was the last team to quit. New Zealand had witnessed terrorists’ attacks in Karachi, and rest of the world including Australia, England, South Africa and India had already stopped visiting Pakistan far before 2009.
2. India and Bangladesh will not be interested in touring Pakistan for many reasons. The terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team is one of the known reasons but there are many that are not spoken of.
3. The Bangladesh Cricket Board is under strong influence of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). Had the BCCI not supported the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL), Bangladesh would have not been able to host it successfully. An unsupported Sri Lanka could not hold onto the Sri Lankan Premier League (SLPL) because of this very same support or lack thereof.
4. Australia and West Indies will not visit a country that has shown signs of instability with regards to security, just as they did in 1996 when they refused to visit Sri Lanka for the World Cup.
5. The Pakistani cricket team has performed exceptionally well since the 2011 World cup. This on-field performance can help the PCB play its cards in meetings with other boards, especially knowing that the Pakistani players are crowd pullers.
6. The PCB has been unable to develop good diplomatic relationship with the other Asian boards. Mr Ashraf sternly reminded the BCB of the consequences when they refused to visit Pakistan and as a result, Bangladesh agreed to visit India at the end of the year.
Despite the fact that India is hosting England and Australia on those very dates and visiting Sri Lanka for the T20 World Cup, they will accommodate Bangladesh.
IPL, Champions’ League - way out of our league
The PCB should stop making efforts for its players to be a part of the IPL or the Champions’ League.
Even the BCCI cannot help. It is a political issue, and the quicker we accept that fact the faster we will be able to move on.
The PCB needs to give structured suggestions to the patron in-chief so that he can play his role more effectively. And “cricket diplomacy” or any “goodwill series” should be avoided as this really does not serve Pakistan anymore.
PPL is not feasible
The PCB is going to stage the PPL (a different version though) but this will not bring cricket back to the Pakistani soil. This is because most of the famous cricketers do not want to visit owing to the external media reports and internal environment. And without them, it will be a failure.
What to do now?
The PCB should follow the South African method.
In their toughest days, they strengthened their domestic cricket to the extent that international players started visiting South Africa even at the cost of their own careers. Players like Graham Gooch, Mike Gatting, Kim Hughes, Tim Robinson, Chris Broad, Graham Dilley and many other superstars rebelled and played in South Africa.
How to execute the South African Model
It should be altered to meet Pakistan’s needs:
- The PPL should be played between November to February when the IPL is not taking place in order for Pakistan to make the most of the attention we get.
- Domestic cricketers should be dealt with as brand ambassadors and should be paid heavy remuneration.
- The top 10 domestic players from test playing countries and the top 10 international players of the non-test playing nations should be invited to be part of this tournament.
- Multinationals should be encouraged to sponsor players, events and teams. They should further be encouraged to invest money for different categories of awards.
- Organisations operating in Pakistan should be encouraged to have their teams play in the event.
- City and district association teams should also be invited to take part in the event.
- Matches should be played in all the major cities of Pakistan.
- The board should focus on the players’ development; providing security should be the responsibility of the state.
- Every moment of the event should be advertised via print, electronic and social media.
- Superstars should be invited to the second phase of the event and should be encouraged to promote the event.
Pakistani players have performed under all kinds of external and internal pressures. They have managed to beat the world’s best teams in all forms of cricket and at all venues. Even in the face of controversies they have performed well.
Pakistani spectators are mature and more likely to come to the stadiums even in the absence of superstars - just to enjoy the sport.
Pakistan has already proven itself a safe country for sportsmen to come and visit. Such a tournament, based on this model, will definitely bring cricket back to Pakistan, and perhaps more effectively than ever before.
Read more by Ahmad here.