LONDON: It has been seven years since the Sri Lankan team came under attack on Pakistan soil.
Cricket has veritably suffered since and is in urgent need to be restructured and resurrected. However, the public sector seems bewildered, confused and incapable of improving the state of affairs.
Amid the helplessness, there is a need to re-look at the success stories of private enterprises like ESPN, Cricinfo and franchises like the Pakistan Super League (PSL) to better evaluate the private-sector option. A possibility of an exchange where individuals could invest in players may not be too distant.
Rebuilding Pakistan cricket — a pipe dream?
Infrastructure for sports in Pakistan on the grassroot level has gone completely missing. Focus on sports in government-run schools, colleges and universities has diminished, as most private schools, especially stand-alone owner-managed institutions, have little or no sports facilities.
While large school chains catering to the wealthier strata may have facilities or resources, their emphasis is mostly on academic excellence or extracurricular activities like debating, drama and intellectual pursuits. Physical training and sports lie on the last rung of their preferences.
Notwithstanding that Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) continues to receive government support, many observers and sports analysts argue that the measures taken by PCB cannot succeed in putting cricket on a path to recovery until a robust governance system is created.
Such a governance regime should allow PCB to exercise its legitimate authority, combat corruption and promote talent. Others take a rather radical stance. Privatisation of control and management of cricket is the only viable option in this alternative thinking. Some disgruntled fans have also started proposing a Pakistan Alternative Cricket Board (PACB), which could be based in Dubai or London, and should pick up an Alternative Pakistan national cricket team. These proposals, however, are at best wishful thinking.
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The story of evolution of Cricinfo is an inspiring one. Started in 1990 as an informal information providing tool, called rec.sport.cricket, ESPNCricinfo is today the most authentic source of information on cricket in the world.
Reading the story on ESPN Cricinfo website, one can easily point out three important factors that helped it evolve into what it is today: passion of the individuals involved, technological expertise and (eventual) access to capital. It is important to note that the first two factors were necessary conditions and pre-requisites for the third, which may be deemed as necessary but only in a secondary sense.
To resurrect cricket in Pakistan, it is important that passionate individuals with immaculate expertise in technology and driven by private initiatives are brought into the governance structure of the PCB that must be restructured as a private venture. If it performs and produces results, there would be no shortage of funds.
Pakistan Cricket Exchange
The PCB could also develop a Pakistan Cricket Exchange (PCE) on which cricketers should be listed. Investors (both individuals and institutions) should be able to invest in the listed players.
The proposed PCE should have a listing fee (say Rs100,000 per individual player) and an on-going fee (Rs10,000 per month). Based on their performance, domestically and internationally, each player should have a market value that should attract investors and help create a trading stock on the PCE. The investors should receive either dividend or capital gain or both, depending on whether a listed player wants to be a dividend-paying stock or not.
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The individual players may in addition have sponsors and promoters. The domestic cricket clubs should be able to buy players from the PCE. Similarly, PCB can also buy players from the PCE to constitute the national team.
This would certainly mean death of the public PCB and emergence of a private one.
In a country where very little is working in the public sector, a private initiative and enterprise should be given a chance to revive the sport of cricket. Otherwise cricket would go into oblivion, as has been the case with hockey.
The writer is an economist with PhD from the University of Cambridge
Published in The Express Tribune, June 27th, 2016.
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