Tour with Pakistan Cricket as a Fan

Pakistan Cricket TeamThis year (2012), Pakistan has almost exclusively played in the neighborhood. Most of their matches (barring a few) have been played England in UAE (Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi), Asia Cup in Bangla Desh and bilateral series in Sri Lanka. Later this year, they will take on Australia in UAE, T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka and a bilateral series with India in India.

At the same time, it is disheartening to see half empty stadiums and just a few scattered Pakistan cricket fans supporting our team against the best in the world.

Would it not be great if Pakistan Cricket Board announced a tour package for the fans. A package that includes basic amenities like:

  • Visa for the country where the games are played
  • Travel tickets through the air lines (preferably a local like PIA, Air Blue or Shaheen Air)
  • Hotel options where we can choose to stay
  • Tickets to the games (we can choose how many we want to see)
  • Pick and Drop from the airport. It could be cheaper if fans band together in one bus.
  • Local sight seeing and shopping options. Places like Sri Lanka, Dubai do offer great opportunities
  • And a chance to have a dinner (paid of course) with the team during the tour

Read more of this post


The Trouble with Pakistan Cricket

Pakistan Cricket Board

Pakistan Cricket Board

2008 was a unique year in the history of Pakistan Cricket. It was a year, when no Test Cricket was played by Pakistani team anywhere in the world. Yes, it was not just the cancellation or postponement of domestic Test matches in Pakistan, but amazingly no international tours were planned throughout the year. The situation has further aggravated this year (2009) with no planned Test matches for the whole year anywhere in the world. And after the cancellation of India’s tour to Pakistan and abrupt but unfortunate end to Sri Lanka  tour of Pakistan (where only one full and one half test was possible), Pakistan Cricket Board has failed to schedule any international Test series. So in essence, 2009 will also be a barren year for cricket fans around the world.

Turmoil in Pakistan and the Taliban infestation has caused cancellation of numerous tours to Pakistan. However, it still does not explain effectively why Pakistan is not touring abroad. Currently, almost all Test playing nations of the world are busy playing matches somewhere. For example, India is touring New Zealand, Australia in South Africa while England in West Indies. Yet, Pakistan is sitting at home and no tours planned for the rest of the year.

These tours are decided and scheduled years in advance with consultation of ICC (International Cricket Council) with national cricket boards. Hence, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) led by Nasim Ashraf should have scheduled and confirmed some foreign tours for Pakistan Cricket since he took over in 2006. His failure to secure matches abroad is now creating a second year where Pakistan team will not see action in the field. When Nasim Ashraf took over as the head of PCB in Fall of 2006, Pakistan Cricket was ranked among the top three teams of the world in Test Cricket as well as One day internationals. Today, however, we are not among the best.

ICC statistics show that Pakistan has played the lowest number of test (22) in the preceeding years. While teams like India (43), South Africa (41), and England (47) have played twice as many tests than Pakistan. Even Bangladesh, the lowest ranked Test team has played more tests (23) than Pakistan during the same period. Source CricInfo.

This once again points us to turmoil within Pakistan Cricket. It is not just the players, or the Taliban causing mayham. It is the ineptness and sloppy management of the board who have not only failed to organize any form of cricket anywhere in the world but also failed to promote it to its full potential. Barring a few “begged” tours (with Sri Lanka recently) and with now postponed tour with lowly ranked Bangladesh, Pakistan really has nothing planned for the foreseeable future.

Today, Nasim Ashraf and his cronies are replaced by Ijaz Butt and his new board team. Let’s see if he can organize the game better. Otherwise, Pakistan’s cricket future continues to be bleak.

Bring on ICL franchise to Pakistan

Indian Cricket League

Indian Cricket League

The cricket community generally belonging to the Australian and the European continent are reluctant to travel to Pakistan due to their absurd security concerns (as discussed earlier in my blog). Thus, depriving the fans here in Pakistan of much sought after cricket extravaganza. In fact, 2008 will go down in history as one of the “dead” years when no Test Cricket is played in Pakistan. Barring a few one day matches, the year has been a barren for Pakistan Cricket and a game-less season for the fans.

Meanwhile, just across the border, in India, a rebel cricket league is keeping the fans here in Pakistan glued to the Television screens. Indian Cricket League, or ICL is currently playing 20/20 style of cricket with some of the best talent from across the world  led by some of the greats of International cricket including Inzimam ul Haq, Abdul Razak, Saqlain Mushtaq (Pakistan), Damien Martin, Jason Gillespie (Australia), Brian Lara (West Indies), Marvin Attaputu (Sri Lanka), Murray Goodwin (Zimbabwe), Andrew Hall (South Africa) among many others. In fact, there is now a team from Pakistan called Lahore Badshahs and one from Bangladesh as well.

Now here is an idea. Let’s invite the teams from ICL to come and play competitive cricket here in Pakistan. In fact, let’s extend the tournament to include venues in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi among other cities and give us fans the chance to see some of the biggest cricket stars slug it out in the middle. Just because ICC sanctioned teams do not want to play cricket in Pakistan does not mean the ICL teams will not travel here. I bet, all of them will be here the moment they get a chance.

So let’s not wait and make this request immediately to Kapil Dev, the foremost Indian cricketer of yester-years and now CEO of ICL. So Mr. Kapil Dev, if you ever get to read this blog, then make it a point to discuss this option with the players and teams and expand your franchise right here inside Pakistan. We will welcome you with open arms. Heck, I am even ready to help organize it. Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) may raise a few objections to such an event, but then again, when did ICL ever needed to ask anyone for permission to organize matches. Besides, PCB has failed to organize any serious cricket this year in Pakistan so their objections have no meat.

The second question is whether the sponsors will join in the bandwagon to make it a financial success? Of course! Already, Lahore Badshahs have Telenor (Pakistan’s second largest mobile operator) splattered all across their jerseys. And almost all major brands are advertising heavily on television (and any other medium possible) during the tournament as they all know and understand quite clearly, that Pakistani cricket fans love cricket and ICL is providing them with the a great opportunity to watch some competitive matches.

Cricket a great spectator sport with a following of over a billion worldwide. Every living person has a right to organize, play and watch this great game as they please regardless of any board, any country or any person.

Can Anyone Monopolize Cricket?

ICC might be the governing body, but do they really control everything that is cricket? Do Country Boards like PCB (Pakistan Cricket Board), BCCI (Board for Control of Cricket in India), ACB (Australian Cricket Board) and others have monopoly over cricket in their respective countries? Or do they “perceive” they have such powers? It is quite disheartening to note that ICL has been construed as a rebel league and that most of the players who play in that league have been banned by their respective boards (barring probably England) from all forms of cricket, first class inclusive.

Now, say Roger Federer, the great tennis star, plays in a match that is not sanctioned by ITF, would he be banned from playing in Wimbledon tournaments? Does ITF have monopoly over it? Or if Tiger Woods decides to play for a little known golf tournament or league in China not sanctioned by the official body, would he be banned from all Golf tournaments? Does anyone monopolize Golf?

ICL or Indian Cricket League is a revolutionary concept to take hold in the Indo-Pak subcontinent. For the first time, in the history of the South Asian cricket, there is a league that offers competitive salaries for playing matches of first class cricket quality. It also is probably the first time when large crowds are actually going to the stadiums to watch competitive cricket other than international matches. Yes, local leagues and first class matches have never really garnered any spectators in South Asia. However, since it is not sanctioned by BCCI in India or ICC (International Cricket Council) internationally, most of the cricket boards decided to ban their players (first class inclusive) from participating. Despite such punitive measures, giants of Cricket including Inzimam ul Haq, Abdul Razzaq, Brian Lara opted to quit International cricket and play in the league. Now even some lesser known players from around the world have joined the league including Taufiq Umar, Imran Farhat from Pakistan and Andrew Hall (South Africa) and Franklin Rose (West Indies) and many others.

The Pakistan first class cricket structure is so badly designed that there are just a few quality matches in a year and the salaries for professional cricketers is nothing short of pittance. Hence, when ICL came along, many potentially good cricketers decided to sign up to make those extra dollars and thus forgoing a chance to represent Pakistan at national level. Take the example of fine cricketers like Taufiq Umar, Imran Farhat who have played test cricket for Pakistan in the past, but don’t seem to find a regular place within the Test team these days. The salary of a professional cricket who does not play for Pakistan is probably not much higher than a clerk’s monthly income. Therefore, these talented youth opted to make some extra money by joining the ICL in India this year and played the whole season. However, our board reacted sharply against it and have already moved to ban all players who play in ICL from not only from the national team, but also from the first class matches within the country.

It just does not add up. The Board does not pay well and makes them live on a frugal salary. Yet if they find a league to make some extra money on their own time, they are banned from representing the national team and playing competitive cricket in their country. The punishment is so severe that it is worse than the punishment one gets for taking illegal substance to enhance their performance. It is totally bizarre!

The concept of control and punishment is as old as the colonial mindset. In today’s world, it has no place. The boards should be enablers and supporters of promoting sports in this era and age. Cricket is a spectator sport with fans now in billions. We do not like to see the boards tell us what we can see and what we cannot. So step back and let us all enjoy the game and if someone wants us to see better cricket, be it ICL, embrace it, not ban it like some maniac dictator.

Cricket and PCB

Here are some things that Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and Dr. Naseem Ashraf should seriously consider if they want us to fill the stadiums and be more active in watching their games within the country.

Marketing of the Event
It is not surprising for many folks to inquire “Aaj match hay?” if they see someone glued to a radio or a TV set. Since the series is never announced in advance, people find out about it during the matches!

South Africa, Zimbabwe and later Australia are playing cricket in Pakistan this season. However, not once has PCB done anything to promote these matches in the local press or advertising hoardings within the city. Rather, if you ask anyone where the games are being played or what is the schedule, no one really knows for sure. There is virtually no effort or campaign created to promote a series locally by the board. If the board announces in advance where the matches are being played at what time and date, then many people like me can reorganize our lives and spare a few hours to be at the stadium.

Ticket Sales
Barring one series a few years ago against India, no one really knows where to buy the tickets from. It is the best kept secret in town! Amazing isn’t it! There should be some relationship with banks, or other commercial entities where tickets are available with easy reach. If they expect us to come to the stadium to buy the tickets or to their head office in Lahore then the board must be crazy. Here is a suggestion. There are so many call centers sprouting all over Pakistan. Sign up with one of them and get yourself a toll free 0-800 number. Announce it to fans like me in the newspapers and websites and ask us to call and buy tickets by paying through credit card, check or even money order. This would be easy, quick and no hassle of long lines or driving for hours. And do it at least a month before the beginning of the series.

Weekend Matches
Today, on a Monday, Karachi stadium was completely empty as hardly anyone came out to see Pakistan vs Zimbabwe one day match. Which is not surprising. This was also true during the test matches and a few one dayers against South Africa earlier in the season. Empty seats all the way. The reason is simple. If you are planning on holding matches only on week days, then don’t expect us, the fans, to come. Hold them on weekends also! During the South Africa series, the two test messages were played from Monday through Friday. They both missed the weekends with the result no one really showed up to watch. One has to be crazy today to expect fans to miss work for 5 days in a row. But weekends, even I could have made it on a Saturday or Sunday or maybe both.

Do the above and the stadiums will begin to fill up. Don’t bother about it, and we will continue to ignore the matches even on Television eventually generating little revenue for the Pakistan Cricket Board.