FAISALABAD: While the match fees of players has been doubled by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for the ongoing Pakistan Cup to ensure high player motivation, the tournament itself has failed to attract big crowds to the Iqbal Stadium in Faisalabad.
The PCB has made several changes to the tournament. The board changed the tournament’s name — from the Pentangular Cup to the Pakistan Cup — as well as its schedule — from an end-year tournament to a mid-year tournament — and the players’ match fees — doubled from Rs10,000 per match to Rs20,000. However, for all these changes, the board has somehow managed to ignore the interests of the fans.
The tournament was initially expected to take place in Multan but was moved to Faisalabad in order to avoid rains — a futile exercise so far as all three matches have been affected by the weather to varying degrees.
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The people of Faisalabad, though, are far from happy. “I came to the stadium on the opening two days to see my favourite stars in action but today I faced difficulties entering despite having bought a ticket,” said cricket fan Mohammad Umer. “The police were not letting us enter from the gate number written on the ticket.”
The tickets may be cheap but stadium-goers are still not satisfied with the value for money they are getting. “I bought the Rs100 ticket with my own pocket money as my parents were not allowing me to come but I wanted to see Umar Akmal play,” said Aslam Siddiqui. “I wish I was able to take a picture with him just like fans of other countries do with their stars.”
The timings of the matches, which go late into the night, have also dissuaded people from adjoining cities and towns to come watch the matches.
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“I wasn’t able to see Pakistan’s star pacer Mohammad Amir, who is playing for Sindh, bowl as my dad said we must leave after the first innings otherwise it will get very late,” said a 12-year-old Amir fan who came to watch the Sindh vs Balochistan match from Hafizabad — a town two-hour drive away from Faisalabad.
Others were also disappointed at not being able to see the star turn bowl. “We came directly from our college from 30kilometres away, and the way back to our village is not that safe,” said BS student Mudassar Shahzad. “Many people from my village wanted to come but the hours do not allow them to do so.”
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The stadium administration, on the other hand, refused to comment on these oversights. But the empty stands and near pin-drop silence hanging heavily over the action of the Pakistan Cup provide an all-too-harsh reminder that the success of any sporting events hinges directly on the fans.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2016.
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