The great gig in the sands

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PSL in UAE is no favour to Pakistan cricket

 

The Pakistan Super League (PSL), the first edition of which started from Feb 4th and will run through Feb 23rd, is an excellent initiative for promoting Pakistan cricket… outside of Pakistan. Players of many nationalities have gathered under the banners of five teams to duel in venues as foreign to the vast majority of Pakistanis as is chicken biryani to Muscovites. Fans thirsty for some exciting cricket in our home grounds are once again being asked to seat their tushes in front of the magic box to watch the slogfest take place many hundreds of miles away. Players such as Shahid Afridi, Misbah-ul-Haq, Shoaib Malik, Chris Gayle, Kevin Pietersen and Shane Watson are plying their trade — some to enthrall and some to disappoint — in Dubai and Sharjah.

In its desire to not be left behind in setting up professional leagues and generating revenue, our exalted governing body for cricket has effectively executed a hairpin from statements it has issued, with much confidence and aplomb, over the last few years that Pakistan is now safe for international teams. By allowing or conniving the PSL to operate in the UAE, the PCB has sent a crystal-clear message to all that Pakistan, far from being safe for foreign national sides to tour, is not even safe for a domestic league to play its tournament. In fact an appropriate name for this league would be the Pakistan Globetrotters League; this way it can aspire to play in countries besides the UAE, say anywhere where there is a green round or oval field just as long as it is not situated at 33.6667º N, 73.1667º E.

Now, one is not being critical just for the sake of being printed. There is a deeper issue at stake. Money talks and the proverbial bull droppings walk. If PCB and the sponsors of the PSL had the foresight and the spine to do so, the league could have played its games in Pakistan. Some, if not all, foreign players would still have come to play. Providing security to a handful of individual players is significantly more manageable than conspicuously driving a whole team in a bus. Security at the stadiums can be managed as was demonstrated during the 2015 Zimbabwe tour of Pakistan. But no, why go through all the hassle when money can be made in an easier manner. So what if the Karachi Kings will not entertain fans in the country’s largest metropolis! Who cares if the Peshawar Zalmi will not bring fans thronging back to the Arbab Niaz Cricket Stadium — after all, there are enough sons of Peshawar in the UAE! And why treat the denizens of Lahore to games involving the Lahore Qalandars in a stadium, the name of which is a testament to our leaders’ love and admiration for despots and tyrants.

So, let us get ready for watching the PSL. It will be a great tamasha, to borrow a term from the vernacular of the Raj. It will be a great gig in the sands, to corrupt a phrase from Pink Floyd. Some expect the PSL to outshine what has been described by Najam Sethi as the league of ageing has-beens (a few games of the Masters Champion League will run concurrent to the PSL) — I guess it takes one to know one. However, what it will not be is a service to the cause of bringing back cricket, with an international flavour, to Pakistan. And therein lies a tragedy of epic proportions.