This year has seen so much cricket that it is feared the common fan’s appetite for the game may have sickened and died. Over the course of 24 hours there is either live or recorded cricket of all sorts being screened by various channels.
We have had all the 10 permanent members (Test playing countries) in action as ever-improving, as well as the associate members like Afghanistan and Ireland besides others like Namibia, Papua New Guinea, Netherlands, UAE… I could go on and on but I am sure you have formed an idea of what has been going on in the cricketing world. There have been Test matches, ODIs, as well as Twenty/20s. We have had ICC tournaments for under-19 players. Not to be left behind the women have had a fairly busy year, and the blind cricketers have been kept quite busy. All these, be they bilateral or multilateral, come under the aegis of the ICC.
However, there is another type emerging whose status to me is nebulous. These are the bashes, and the leagues.
Some are domestic like the Indian Premier League (IPL), the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL), the Sri Lankan League, the Caribbean League, the Australian Big Bash and the cross Atlantic Warne-Tendulkar League. There may be others which slip my mind at the moment. Although these are national (except for the last named), the ICC does seem to have a handle on them as well.
What is the ICC’s role in these, I am not sure and as such will only leave this by saying that ICC generally oversees these and ensures there is no foul play in these games. ICC does allow its officials, umpires and referees to supervise the proceedings, and the rules of the games applicable to ICC events are normally applied to these as well.
For some years, Pakistan had also been toying with the idea of having its own league, which they named Pakistan Super League (PSL). To put it briefly the PCB started with a bang some years ago, and of course since our cricket home is ‘UAE’, it was suggested that it be held there. Money was pumped in, so-called experts like a former CEO of ICC and a former senior banker were inducted into the team. But with in-house problems of the PCB, the idea fell through or to be more precise the event was postponed sine die. It lay dormant I suppose for some time while the PCB changed chairmen as frequently as someone changes shirts on a sweltering summer’s day.
At last the PSL is on, but are we on safe ground yet?
With the arrival of the dynamic and progressive Najam Sethi after the Zaka Ashraf fiasco was put to bed, things took a different turn. Najam Sethi and Shahryar Khan first flip flopped as chairmen and after another round of musical chairs it was settled that Shahryar would be the chairman of the PCB while Najam would be the chief of the all powerful Executive Committee. The PSL idea was revived by Sethi, who ruled that the event would be held off shore in the UAE. This was opposed and in fact refuted by Khan, but even before he had finished uttering these words he recanted and made his now familiar U-turn.
I must add that during the last year and a half, the PCB has had its hands full of problems mostly of its own creation, such as trying to bend backwards to woo India to play a ‘home’ series, which was enshrined in an MOU. It was worth 20 million dollars — at least that is what we are told. That was not to be. It was conjectured at that time that the PSL’s birth depended on the staging of the series against India.
Apart from this major ‘disaster’ for PCB, there were other niggling problems like the case of Mohammad Amir (and Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt; and some ask why not of Danish Kaneria??). As if this was not enough, Yasir Shah, the kingpin of the Pakistan bowling, was sidelined on a doping charge. For the PCB chairman it does not rain, it pours.
There was also a ‘home’ series to be arranged in UAE against England and the results were a far cry from what they were the last time; tours were taken for the World Cup, and for bilateral contests against Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and New Zealand. Then there were the under-19; ‘A’ Team’s trips and above all, the all important Quaid-e-Azam Trophy followed by the shorter format domestic tournament. The quest for Indian dollars and the arrangements for ‘the jewel in the crown’ PSL had absorbed the energies and efforts of the already bloated but laid-back staff and managers of the PCB; thus little attention was given to matters aforementioned.
The results of the matches played by the senior team were far from satisfactory; though the juniors did much better.
Unfortunately, the arrangements for the domestic events yet again left much to be desired, due to neglect and attention to detail. These were held at the wrong time without taking into account the calendar, other cricket engagements, and weather conditions. This resulted in the arrangements coming across as shabby and shoddy. PCB also allowed some important players to go and play in the BPL and other leagues while some others were on national duty. It seems that our international cricket is being kept afloat in spite of our domestic cricket, rather than because of it.
Not to be deterred by such ‘minor’ setbacks, Sethi went ahead like the proverbial “soldiers marching as to war…” and completed the structure of the PSL, overcoming obstacles by holding it in Qatar or UAE. By the time this piece sees the light of day the PSL would be three days into the event in Dubai and Sharjah.
I must confess that that I am clueless about the ‘drafting’ or the categories of the players of PSL but I am sure those giving and receiving the remunerations know the calculations. There are certain “drafts” which remain a mystery — such as why the Quetta Gladiators (who had second bite of the peach after Islamabad had been “cajoled” not to bid for Shahid Afridi) not go for the prime crowd puller the charismatic all rounder and the former Pakistan captain in all formats? Or why was the Pakistan one day captain Azhar Ali “squeezed in” as a last-minute thought for Lahore. Arguably one of the least paid of the squad, he is now their captain (compare his fee with that of Chris Gayle). I also fail to comprehend the meaning of “emerging” players.
The broadcasting rights and TV rights have been worked out differently from what the PCB does. To some it makes no sense; to me I do not care. The production teams and technical crew would (as usual) be non Pakistanis, perhaps mostly Indians. By the way, just to correct the impression of those who think Ten Sports (PCB’s ‘lifelong partner’) is a Dubai company, let me tell you that it hardly has any presence in the UAE. It is an Indian company based in NOIDA (New Okhla Industrial Development Authority, which is a short distance from New Delhi).
While still on the subject of TV and radio, I am informed that the radio commentary will be in English and Urdu (fair enough) with our Chief Selector Haroon Rashid on the panel; I hope this information is incorrect as Haroon would never let his interests clash. However, it seems that the TV commentary will be in English. Pakistan’s inaugural Super League should have been in Urdu (and English) and we have enough talent to do the job. There were days when Radio Pakistan and PTV used to cover all Pakistan matches (cricket and hockey) and ICC events by sending their commentary teams so that the Pakistani audience could get the Pakistani flavoured version of the proceedings. Wake up chairmen PTV and PBC (Radio Pakistan)!
If we have five teams, each should have had a Pakistani icon (their fee was 15 per cent more than the highest paid player auctioned) — maybe chosen from Misbahul Haq, Younis Khan, Shahid Afridi, Mohammad Hafeez, Saeed Ajmal, Shoaib Malik. Just as a reminder, if my memory serves me right the icons of the first IPL were Indian greats Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly, Yuvraj Singh, Vengipuruppu Venkatsai Laxman, Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag.
It must be noted that Laxman withdrew from accepting that status so that the money thus saved could be used to buy some other players for his team the Deccan Chargers. It is ironic that Younis Khan and Saeed Ajmal, two of the top performers for Pakistan in recent years have no role in the PSL — imagine a Pakistan cricket ‘Who is Who’ without the names of Hanif Mohammad and Fazal Mahmood. The mentors, managers, head coaches and other support staff should have been mainly Pakistanis.
We are all looking forward to see the success of PSL; and I am sure with the professionally managed franchises they will have a smooth sailing. Nadeem Omar of the Quetta Gladiators is a polished industrialist and a cricket club owner and enthusiast; Peshawar Zalmi owned by Javed Afridi are piloted by the experienced event manager Rao Hashim, and the Karachi Kings have the advantages of a TV channel and Salman Iqbal, their owner, son of Haji Iqbal and the nephew of the late A.R. Yaqoob, all cricket enthusiasts for over three decades.
I must confess ignorance about the Islamabad and Lahore owners. Lahore Qalandars have mixed Sindh with Punjab in their slogan and name which is a good sign, and will strengthen their team. Lal Shahbaz Qalandar was a Sindhi Sufi Saint buried in Sehwan in Sindh and we all have grown addicted to listening to the tune of “Laal meri puth rakhiyo bhala jhoolay laalan; Sindhri da Sehwan da Shahbaz Qalandar … Dama dam mastt qalandar.”
Remember that the BCCI/IPL would not want PSL to be a roaring success as it will have an adverse affect on IPL; and compete with them. As such extraordinary efforts are required by PSL marketing, administration, franchisees, and the high powered and popular ambassadors appointed by the PSL who I am confident have been working overtime to make their league a success.
But now as Hamlet said “Ay there is the rub…”. The so called Masters Champions League (I use so called because I do not see many ‘masters’, or ‘champions’ in this league owned by Zafar Shah, a Pakistani born Irish national who is a genius businessman). His Indian connections were evident from the end of his speech at the inauguration of the MCL when he ended with the words “Jai Hind! …” I am at a loss to know who approves the names of these leagues and bashes.
Also remember that the BCCI/IPL would not want PSL to be a roaring success as it will have an adverse affect on IPL; and compete with them. As such extraordinary efforts are required by PSL marketing, administration, franchisees, and the high powered and popular ambassadors appointed by the PSL who I am confident have been working overtime to make their league a success.
To witness if I lie here is a sample of the players playing the MCL; decide for yourself how many ‘Masters’ and ‘Champions’ there are.
Here are the final squads for MCL T20 2016:
Team Virgo Super Kings (total players: 16)
Money spent auction: $718,000 (remaining funds
Costliest player: Brett Lee — $100,000
Graeme Smith (batsman, South Africa) — $50,000
Azhar Mahmood (all-rounder, Pakistan) — $50,000
Brett Lee (fast bowler, Australia) — $100,000
Jonty Rhodes (batsman, South Africa) — $40,000
Neil McKenzie (batsman, South Africa) — $52,000
John Mooney (all-rounder, Ireland) — $31,000
Dirk Nannes (fast bowler, Australia) — $40,000
Owais Shah (batsman, England) — $75,000
James Foster (wicketkeeper, England) — $29,000
Murali Kartik (spinner, India) — $52,000
Malinga Bandara (spinner, Sri Lanka) — $35,000
Gareth Batty (spinner, England) — $20,000
Hasan Raza (batsman, Pakistan) — $20,000
Jacob Oram (All-rounder, New Zealand) — $74,000
Humayun Farhat (wicketkeeper, Pakistan) — $20,000
Mohammad Yousuf (batsman, Pakistan) — $30,000
Team Leo Lions (total players: 16)
Money spent at auction: $750,000 (remaining funds: 0)
Costliest player: Brian Lara — $100,000
Heath Streak (all-rounder, Zimbabwe) — $50,000
Scott Styris (all-rounder, New Zealand) — $50,000
Brian Lara (batsman, West Indies) — $100,000
Herschelle Gibbs (batsman, South Africa) — $40,000
Brendan Taylor (wicketkeeper, Zimbabwe) — $70,000
James Franklin (all-rounder, New Zealand) — $62,000
Johan Botha (all-rounder, South Africa) — $46,000
Robin Peterson (all-rounder, South Africa) — $80,000
Fidel Edwards (fast bowler, West Indies) — $80,000
Mohammad Tauqir (all-rounder, UAE) — $10,000
Neil Carter (all-rounder, Scotland) — $10,000
Hamish Marshall (batsman, New Zealand) — $28,000
Kyle Jarvis (fast bowler, Zimbabwe) — $28,000
Ramesh Powar (spinner, India) — $40,000
Simon Jones (fast bowler, England) — $20,000
Darren Gough (fast bowler, England) — $36,000
MCL seems to have done their utmost to cause impediments in the functioning of the PSL. However, in all fairness to them, MCL through Dean Jones (now with PSL as an official of the Islamabad franchise!) had announced this league earlier. Once again, PCB was caught napping. Qatar was chosen as an alternate for UAE when Zafar Shah dug his heels. Sethi once again came to the rescue and after some time it was back to good old UAE. How? Elementary my dear Watson… The dates were adjusted by MCL; then readjusted; why? The grounds did not include Sharjah for MCL and Abu Dhabi for PSL; now for both MCL and PSL they are Dubai and Sharjah. Why? Have patience the real story will hopefully be out soon. MCL like PSL is also for 10 years. The former has the patronage of the Emirates Cricket Board who own the UAE grounds. PSL and PCB will have to act swiftly. Maybe this will be a catalyst to make them hurry up and bring international cricket back to the Pakistani grounds.
From the initial MCL matches the stadia are not really bursting at the seams; PSL must take a cue from here and strengthen their marketing efforts; otherwise we shall see empty stands. PSL must go all out and make efforts to fill the grounds — complimentary snacks/cold drinks/tea plus public transport facilities could be a beginning. (I believe an ice cream company is sponsoring a franchise; in winter ice cream sales are not really booming in Pakistan; so free ice cream for cricket lovers watching PSL — just a thought from an ice cream fanatic! ). Maybe take a few leaves out of the book of the business magnate Kerry Packer. In the end I hope and pray that nothing untoward (and I know what I mean) happens in this prestigious Pakistani event as many wags are predicting.
Courtesy : BRecorder