The absence of Pakistani players in the IPL can affect its viewership in the Pakistani expatriate community-dominated UAE © Getty Images
The first leg of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014 will be held in the United Arab Emirates and its success could have implications on the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) plans to host the Pakistan Super league (PSL) early next year. Nishad Pai Vaidya explains…
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is ready to welcome the Indian Premier League (IPL) bandwagon with the tournament’s 2014 edition set to begin on April 16 at Abu Dhabi. While UAE has been an Associate nation of the International Cricket Council (ICC) for years, but is a familiar venue for fans. Sharjah was a cricketing oasis, and then emerged Abu Dhabi and Dubai. With the huge expatriate population, the potential is enormous. But this IPL may unknowingly open the floodgates for another league in the desert of Emirates.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) recently announced that they are aiming to host the first edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in the UAE early next year, with an endeavour to host the finals in Lahore. The way the IPL pans out could very well determine the fate of the PSL as the franchise concept would be tested in a foreign land. So far, only national teams have played in the UAE. Of course, that would bring the expatriate fans in numbers to the ground as they support their respective teams. This time it would be different.
During an IPL game, the fans’ loyalties get divided. One may root for a team from their city or state, but may have a soft corner for their favourite India player in another side. That brings in an interesting flavor and the Indian community in the UAE may have a tough time to decide their favourites. But with the presence of international stars, one may see other nationalities also making their way into the stadiums. There is a significant Australian population in the UAE. That is one fan base the franchises would target.
But what about the Pakistani fan, who is used to watching his stars in those arenas? Whenever Pakistan has played a match in the UAE, one has seen a decent turnout for the one-day games. When compared to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah have a bigger Pakistani fan base and they would be disappointed with their heroes missing out on the action. Some of them may still come to watch the games, for the pure love of cricket or for entertainment. But the IPL could perhaps lose a bit of their fan support due to the absence of Pakistan players.
However, this could work for the PSL as that humongous Pakistani fan-base would be eager for their nation’s Twenty20 league. The IPL’s success in terms of creating the buzz may set off an interest and anticipation for the PSL. Plus, if the IPL is a logistical success, the PCB could well use it to their advantage and work with the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) to perhaps create a much more successful tournament to fit the needs of the resident fans.
Needless to say, the PCB would watch the first leg of the IPL very closely and monitor each move. They have a lot to learn from the success and failures of the IPL in the UAE as that would help them chalk out their own plans. The PSL too would feature international stars, but how many? That is a bigger question, which could help the PCB turn the tide!
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)