Pakistan cricket hit a new low as the scheduling of domestic matches is now being dictated by broadcasters in order to accommodate the Indian Premier League (IPL) matches.
The President’s Cup semi-final between HBL and SNGPL was forced to start one hour before the normal scheduled timing of 9:30 am as the IPL match between Kings XI Punjab and KKR was set to start at 3:30 pm, according to Pakistan Standard Time.
The change proved important in context of the game as HBL, who batted first, failed to handle the early fresh conditions of the National Stadium and lost to SNGPL by eight wickets.
The rescheduling was also criticised by players and experts who believe that the broadcaster and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had undermined the importance of their national events by giving preference to the IPL — a tournament that has banned Pakistani players from participating in it.
“It’s an embarrassing moment for Pakistan cricket as broadcasters are having a say over the PCB,” an HBL official told The Express Tribune.
“PCB chairman Zaka Ashraf should look into this serious matter and question the concerned board officials. And if the chairman was already privy to this change, then I’m afraid to say that Pakistan cricket is in the wrong hands.”
Even the SNGPL team and its management expressed their astonishment, saying that the semi-final could have been staged on a different date if the airing of IPL matches was unavoidable.
“Today we’ve shunned our cricket and this indicates the level of importance that we attach to our national events,” said an SNGPL official.
When contacted, the PCB officials confirmed that the match had been rescheduled upon the broadcaster’s request who wished to give the maximum possible air time to both the national and IPL fixtures.
Pacers demolish star-studded HBL
Having won the toss, SNGPL asked HBL to bat first in order to take maximum benefit of the moisture present in the wicket and their opening bowlers did not disappoint.
Samiullah Khan Niazi and Asad Ali responded to the call by taking two wickets apiece to leave HBL reeling at 22 for four.
The bankers were eventually bowled out for 111 in 35.1 overs as Bilawal Bhatti and leg-spinner Yasir Shah ran through their middle order, picking up three and two wickets respectively. Shahid Afridi and Abdur Rehman were the top-scorers (26), with the former hitting five boundaries.
In reply, Mohammad Hafeez led SNGPL by scoring 62 off 70 with a six and nine boundaries while Taufiq Umar chipped in with 23 as they reached the target in 23.5 overs for the loss of just two wickets. Afridi and Rehman claimed a wicket each.
One of the international stars of HBL said that even before the start of play, they were aware of the fact that the toss will play a vital role.
“When you start play at 8:30 am, it means that the team batting first would have to survive nearly 20-24 overs instead of normally surviving for eight to 10 overs,” he said. “The PCB should think twice before making such self-serving decisions.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2013.
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