Saturday, 12 January 2013

Reviving international cricket

 Is PCB doing enough to bring back foreign teams to Pakistan? Maybe not

By Muhammad Asif Khan

It is said that even a long journey begins with a single step and later on every single step matters. More sensitive the job at hand the more careful is the approach required as a single wrong move is enough to make one go off the track.
These things come to mind when we look at the efforts of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for the revival of international cricket in Pakistan.
The PCB is looking to have international teams visit Pakistan, but to achieve this target it needs to undertake a long voyage with tremendous care.
Arabian Sea Country Club Cricket ground  
Primarily the PCB should concentrate on tiny steps to adequately build the case to regain the lost trust. To be honest, this aspect has been neglected thus far.
What could be those tiny steps? Of course the way the PCB is planning to organise an indigenous brand of Twenty20 league, which also includes a few foreign players, is a step in the right direction but haven’t such efforts been made in the recent past by others?
Last year, renowned cricket administrator Dr Muhammad Ali Shah successfully organised a couple of exhibition matches in Karachi. A lot of former international players participated in the event which was cheered by the spectators who turned up in huge numbers.
The effort — the tiny step — was widely appreciated but the gesture shown by the PCB was not enough. They did provide Dr Shah with stadium and other facilities, although they should have done something to take the process forward from there.
That was not the first time a genuine effort was not duly recognised. In the early part of 2012, Arif Ali Khan Abbasi, the former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Board of Control for Cricket in Pakistan (BCCP) — now PCB — also managed to persuaded some international players — including a few from India — to visit Pakistan and feature in a T20 cricket tournament at his Arabian Sea Country Club in Karachi.
I met with Abbasi a few weeks back and he was dejected the way his plan to contribute to the cause was ‘sabotaged’.
He was of the view that as per the regulations he formally sought PCB’s prior permission for the event but, according to him, the PCB did not pay heed and did not respond for the next two months.
Later on a set of prerequisites was sent to him which, he said, were fulfilled as well but to no avail because “no stadium in Pakistan has the facilities which PCB demanded.  Yet I somehow fulfilled their requirements but it was too late then.
“Late reply from the PCB with tough conditions caused further delay and in the meantime sponsors backed off while the local players also got engaged in a domestic event.”
The PCB negates the claim made by Abbasi. It said all was done in view of the ICC regulations and the proposed event was in fact shelved by Abbasi himself.
With these recent episodes — Dr Shah and Arif Abbasi — it seems that the PCB wanted to do it all on its own and was not willing to share the pride of achieving the goal, of bringing back international cricket to the country.
I might be wrong in my assessment, but this is a perception held by many cricket lovers.
It would be unfair not to commend the efforts of the PCB though. They had almost succeeded in hosting Bangladesh — the first International team since March 2009 — but still this would not have been enough to convince the other countries. The goal of the revival of international cricket would have remained unachieved even if they had come.
The PCB’s own international T20 league — scheduled in March this year — will be a step in the right direction.
After the smooth happening of the Pakistan Super League the board would be in a position to build a strong case to persuade teams to visit Pakistan.
However, had the efforts made by others been duly acknowledged and patronised probably half the journey in this regard would have already been covered by now.
If the PCB can consult with former ICC Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat and is ready to pay him a hefty sum then why not seek help from those who are willing to assist and are not demanding anything in return? When our own people, with sound reputation abroad, tried to assist the PCB, they were given a cold shoulder.
The return of international cricket to Pakistan is indeed a dream which would hopefully come true sooner rather than later. But the board will have to take small steps instead of trying to jump to the destination. 

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