Poor response for the T20 championship baffles organisers

The national T20 championship matches are being televised live on Geo super channel and many cricket analysts believe this is one reason for the low turnout Getty Images

Karachi: Sep 28, 2011

With the ongoing National T20 Championship in Karachi failing to attract big crowd despite presence of some top players, experts have suggested to organise the tournament in smaller cities in future.

The Super eights T20 tournament, held early this year in Faislabad, was a resounding success as far as spectators presence was concerned.

Top players such as Abdul Razzaq, Shoaib Malik, Younis Khan, Umar and Kamran Akmal, Wahab Riaz, Aizaz Cheema, Danish Kaneria and Rana Naved are all part of the ongoing tournament but the crowd turn out has been very low.

“If you look at the big crowds that showed up for the super eights in Faisalabad and compare that with what is happening in Karachi it is obvious that domestic events need to be held in the smaller cities where the people are more passionate about the sport and lack entertainment and recreational options,” former Test player Asim Kamal said.

“In the big cities people have more entertainment and recreational options and lead a busy life that is why I think we are not getting big crowds for the tournament,” Kamal added.

Wazir Ali Khoja, Chairman of the Organising Committee, said he has no clue why people are not coming to watch.

“It is hard to pinpoint any specific reason for big crowds not showing up for the matches as we have even now allowed free entry to some of the enclosures including, one only for families,” he said.

The Lahore City Cricket Association lamented the shifting of the national championship from their city to Karachi because of the dengue fever outbreak in the Punjab capital.

“I can tell you there would have been bigger crowds in Lahore as in Karachi big crowds only show up for the semi finals or final,” said the Lahore Lions team manager, Shahid Nawab.

The cricket fraternity in Lahore and other cities of the Punjab province are not very pleased at the decision to move the event to Karachi and blame former Test captain Javed Miandad for creating a situation and influencing the government for the same.

“Whenever the national T20 event has been held in Lahore it has been a big success,” a member of the Lahore team said, insisting that anyone can catch the dengue fever anywhere in Pakistan.

President of the Karachi City Cricket Association, Siraj-ul-Islam Bukhari says the main reason for low turnout at is strict security arrangements at the stadium.

“People get discouraged coming to the stadium because of the security hassles they have to go though as no one wants to walk a few kilometers after parking their cars to the stadium,” Bukhari said.

He also blames lack of aggressive marketing of the tournament for the low turnout.

“When the tournament was held in Faisalabad the full house was a great advertisement for Pakistan cricket and strongly supported our argument that the ICC needs to support having international cricket again in Pakistan,” a PCB official said.

The national T20 championship matches are being televised live on Geo super channel and many cricket analysts believe this is one reason for the low turnout as people prefer to watch the matches from the comfort of their homes given the recent violence and killings in Karachi which is Pakistan’s biggest city and financial hub.

The violence and the ever-present threat of terrorist attacks have also prompted the local administration and the PCB to have extraordinary security arrangements for the national tournament and also for the visiting Afghanistan team which plays its first match in the competition on today.

For the first time PCB has allowed a foreign team to take part in the domestic T20 competition.

On Tuesday there were at least six to seven police mobiles and vans that escorted the Afghanistan team bus from the airport to their hotel and then to the ground for nets.

“We are taking no chance with the security, given the situation in the country. We can’t afford to have anymore incidents. We can live with poor crowd turnout but can’t afford another terrorist attack during the event,” a senior police official said.

A terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore in March, 2009 led to foreign teams refusing to tour Pakistan.(PTI)