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Has Pakistan cricket been revived?

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Pakistan_Cricket_home_LahoreThe first step to the revival of cricket in Pakistan had been taken when the final of the 2017 Pakistan Super League was successfully staged in Lahore. Pakistan’s inspiring victory in the Champions Trophy was the catalyst that sped up the process, leading to a historic World XI Tour of Pakistan just months later.

The PCB left no stone unturned to satiate the cricket-hungry nation that had been bereft of the game they truly love. They used security measures, promotion of the series and off-field camaraderie to make sure the visitors felt welcomed.

I am happy to see the game being resurrected not because of the narrative that the decade-old drought had to be brought to an end someday. A generation of players do not deserve to miss out on the experience of a lifetime through no fault of their own and every country deserves to enjoy cricket at home.

There has been a revival, a resurrection of sorts. Though the cynic in me does question if cricket really has returned in Pakistan. Has the unhindered Independence Cup series convinced the Australians, South Africans and, most significantly, the Indians to play in Pakistan anytime soon? James Sutherland was quick to say that Australians may be allowed to play in a group, but not as a team, in the “short term.”

Sure, the mission of showing the cricketing fraternity that it is possible to safely host a tournament in Pakistan has been successful, thanks to PCB and ICC’s combined efforts of hiring the best security forces and ensuring quality cricket, but at what cost?

 

After long standing discussions between the PCB and ICC, it was decided that ICC would bear the $1.1 million cost for the world class security that we saw during the tournament. Apart from that, the players have to be made a payment that is convincing enough for them to tour the country. In March this year, foreign players were paid up to $50,000 to play in the PSL final in Lahore. For this series, the World XI squad has been paid around $100,000 each.

 

And without a doubt, foreign teams and players will continue to seek financial incentives if they visit. At some point, financial reserves being exhaustible, the PCB will have to draw the line. It also faces the challenge of taking cricket to cities beyond Lahore- where the cricket actually came to a halt. With their next focus being on Karachi, partly because the National Stadium is one of the venues it actually owns, which would help with managing the entire operation and costs, they face a bigger problem in winning complete support of the Sindh government like it did from the Punjab government.

However, as the cynic takes a backseat, and my urge to find the silver lining comes to the fore, I’m certain of one thing. People outside Pakistan, overseas players and cricket fans who do not let politics and biases cloud their judgement, will take initiatives independent of their boards to add to the cause of enhancing cricket.

I mean, things get better for people like you and me when underdogs, or even teams written off like Pakistan, go on to defy odds. With the presence of a Pakistani side that is confident, there is no dearth of drama, competition, or challenges. And most cricketers would know and look forward to that.

The fact that the addition of more countries that want to play the beautiful game at the highest level is what every fan, whatever their loyalty to their team, will support. And they all will also collectively disapprove of the existing cricket-playing countries falling down. Remember, cricket and its comebacks are ingredients of the choicest recipes and the Pakistan team really enjoys cooking it.

Most importantly, representing their country at some point of time is the goal for aspiring cricketers and for fans to pour out love while watching them play. And, God knows, we’d love to see someone mention in an interview ten years down the line say that Hasan Ali was to him what Wasim Akram was to generations of fast bowlers. That’s when we’ll know cricket was revived, for real. And this tour was a baby step for that ultimate mission.

 

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