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By Mohammad Wasim
Cricket is the most popular game in Pakistan and has the legacy of being the most innovative and creative cricketing nation. Whether it’s introducing the Doosra, the art of reverse swing or neutral umpires, Pakistan has truly been the soul of this game.
However in the last ten years, Pakistani cricket has suffered major lows and the team has been labelled as being the most unpredictable outfit. The only consistency achieved is its inconsistency which often worries even the team’s most die-hard fans and followers.
The inconsistency of the Pakistan team can be attributed to factors like poor teamwork, a lack of match planning, selection policy or the fact that all of the team’s matches are away from home, but I believe that the core reasons of the problem are associated with the governance and management of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and their lack of a clear vision, the reluctance to change and the preference of short term measures over long term sustainable solutions.
All these management issues not only have hampered the image of Pakistan cricket but are also hindering the development of a strong domestic cricket system. At this time I will limit myself to the local cricket of Pakistan.
Pakistan has not been able to find a suitable domestic system despite having experimented with the system almost each and every year. We are not clear about the number of tournaments, number of teams, number of players, the ball to be used, the schedule and venues.
It is important to realise that a sub strategy or plan only becomes successful or produces results when it is aligned with the other strategies, particularly to the main strategy or objective.
The objective of domestic cricket has to be to promote competitive cricket, identify and groom talent. In today’s world, no proposal or venture can be successful without having economic and commercial sustainability; the same is the case with cricket.
If we want to promote cricket and cricketers then we will have to realise the importance of injection of money into domestic cricket so that a player playing only domestic cricket can survive and choose the path of cricket as a priority option. The match fees of domestic players of Australia, India, England and South Africa is much more than the fees being paid out in Pakistan.
Additionally these countries share revenues with the players. We do understand that Pakistan is going through economic problems and it’s difficult to match these countries but it is important to understand that it will be more difficult with the focus on enhancing the number of teams instead of quality.
Now is the time to finalise the number of domestic competitions, teams and players after proper and complete analysis. The quality of domestic cricket needs to be enhanced to attract the crowd and sponsors unlike the recently-concluded Twenty20 competition, which was hardly noticed by the diehard followers of the game.
It is the role of the PCB to recognise cricket as an industry and to at least bring our cricketers on a par with other professionals in our own country. With the existing economic constraints of the PCB, we will have to think for out of the box solutions. One of them is to promote education and cricket simultaneously through schools and colleges so that youngsters can experiment or test their potential and talent for the game without sacrificing their education, keeping other options open.
By making cricket and other sports stronger at school level, we will be able to engage more numbers towards sports and physical activities which are declining in our youngsters since the arrival of mobile phones and other telecommunication activates and devices. The focus should be given to the Under-16 and Under-19 level cricket to find the talent at the right age.
Introducing good rewards in the form of scholarships and the implementation of sports quotas in educational institutions or any other encouraging tool is a good idea. Grooming and developing talent at Under-16 or Under-19 cricket through the National Academy is also extremely important.
Another perilous trend emerging in the major cities which demands the immediate attention of the PCB is that most of the grounds are being converted into housing schemes, commercial plazas or parks. Grounds are a vital resource for learning and offer unique opportunities to deliver and enhance the emotional and motivational aspects of children.
The PCB needs to get engaged with the local authorities, education ministers, directorates, regulators and with other relevant concerns for protection of existing grounds and for development of new ones to ensure the availability of grounds to the majority of our communities.
The results of the Pakistan cricket team do affect the goodwill of the PCB but the real litmus test of the performance of PCB lies with the development of a strong and sustainable system of cricket in Pakistan from school level to the First -Class level. Therefore the Board must come up with immediate and long term plans to promote and save the game of cricket in Pakistan.
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