The 1970s are considered as the transformative years of Pakistan cricket — and for good reason. Coinciding with the glamorous World Series Cricket (WSC), this particular period saw many famous Pakistani cricketers trump authority, despite the prospect of being banned from playing international cricket, and join the lucrative league organised by Kerry Packer.
Eventually the country’s cricket board adopted a more pragmatic approach, giving in to the players’ demands, agreeing to pay raises, and allowing them to play for Pakistan and the WSC simultaneously. Following these pay battles was a great deal of inflow of cash into the sport, which helped turn emerging cricketers into superstars, while the wider media coverage transformed them into bona fide legends and heroes.
Unsurprisingly, this era also sowed the seeds for the coming generations of Pakistan cricket, which not only saw them emerge as world-beaters, but also as a remunerative market for sponsors and potential investors. Although the series of pay battles were an indirect agent of change, they also set an unfortunate precedent which was to continue in the future, with the tug-of-war between some of Pakistan’s most adored-yet-self-involved players, and its equally stubborn administrators, becoming a recurrent feature in the country’s illustrious yet chequered cricketing history. Sadly though, what none of these pay disputes could yield was a players’ association.
With cricket in the country becoming increasingly notorious for its legal battles and off-field sagas, an organised players’ association would help mitigate such controversies. It could provide conflict resolution between the players and those in power. Consider how Pakistani cricketers have been segregated from the riches of the Indian Premier League (IPL), both on a financial and experience level. The players have only responded by venting their frustrations and sorrow on multiple media platforms. Just imagine the progress a local players’ association, in sync with an international body, could have made or how it would go a long way in securing the financial future of those who are unable to make the leap from domestic to international cricket.
It is true that in a country like Pakistan, the chances of a players’ association compounding problems are high. But given the current scheme of events — from the poorly paid domestic cricketers to lack of representation of smaller areas — forming an association is of utmost importance. Over the last half-decade, there has been a growing clamour for a players’ union, with legends like Rashid Latif to present-day stalwarts such as Younus Khan, all pushing for the idea. Much has been said on this issue in the past. The time to act is now.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2015.