LONDON: The Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) plans on hosting its Twenty20 league in the United Arab Emirates or Qatar will have a damaging effect on cricket in Pakistan, according to former all-rounder Azhar Mahmood.
The twice-postponed Pakistan Super League (PSL) was scheduled to be held in the UAE next February but the unavailability of grounds forced the PCB to look to Qatar.
The PCB chairman Shahryar Khan told Dawn in a recent interview that the uncertainty surrounding the tournament made it look ‘dicey’ and that it was better to postpone it once again.
In a forced change of opinion, however, Khan backed the staging of the league next year and claimed that hosting the opening season abroad would benefit the PCB “not just for cricketing reasons but also financially”.
Mahmood, who played his last match for Pakistan in 2007, warned against hosting it outside Pakistan and insisted it should be held in the country even if the top players refused to come due to security concerns.
“I don’t know why there’s a huge delay with holding the tournament in the first place,” Mahmood told Dawn after a training session with Surrey at The Oval.
“It’s not essential that you start your own league and bring international players. You saw Zimbabwe came to Pakistan. I know there are problems but you need to make the effort.
“I don’t think hosting the league in Dubai is a good idea. That’s going to kill cricket in Pakistan. If the tournament happens, it should happen in Pakistan,” Mahmood, who has played in T20 leagues in Australia, England, West Indies and India, said.
The PCB is in the process of sending a proposal to the Qatar Olympic Committee, pumping up its efforts to ensure the league becomes reality.
A Qatar Cricket Association official told Dawn that while the sole international-standard cricket stadium in the country would need an upgrade, the association would be willing to host the event as early as February.
Domestic cricket in the dumps
Staging the event in Pakistan will also help improve the state of domestic cricket in the country which, according to Mahmood, was in a steep decline due to the flawed structure and the quality of players on offer.
“You need to reduce the number of teams and increase quality. That’s why our cricket is going down. Pay the players well, give them financial motivation.
“You also need to ensure they have proper technique. If you ask a youngster who his batting hero is, he’ll say Shahid Afridi. No one talks about Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf and Inzamam. Our first-class cricket isn’t great and that’s the problem.”
Lack of accountability on the regions’ part and lack of investment into domestic cricket by the PCB remain the two biggest reasons behind Pakistan not producing world-class players, added Mahmood.
Pakistan are currently third in the ICC Test rankings having won three of the last four series (against Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Australia). Younis is the only Pakistani in the top-10 batsmen rankings while Misbah-ul-Haq, Sarfraz Ahmed, Asad Shafiq and Azhar Ali feature in the top-20.
In the bowler’s list, Yasir Shah is the highest ranked Pakistani – sitting in fifth – with the out-of-favour spin duo Saeed Ajmal ranked 11th and Abdul Rehman at 19th.
Despite experiencing a resurgence of sorts in the last couple of series, Mahmood said there was no reason to celebrate because the situation at the domestic level was yet to be addressed.
“When we used to play, the standard was higher. We had quality players but the quality of domestic cricket was high too. Good shoes now cost around Rs 30,000, a good bat will cost over Rs 25,000 but you only pay the players around Rs 15,000.
“You need to invest in domestic cricket. You need to pay the players well. And also tell the associations that you’re going to privatise them. Or tell them to bring sponsors. Right now, they’re living off PCB’s funding. There is no accountability and no improvement.
“Tell them to move their a** and do some work. That’s how you’ll improve our cricket.”
Lack of talent, according to Mahmood, was not an issue but instead, it is the authorities’ failure to groom the resources at hand that is causing issues for the national side.
The PCB Chairman Shahryar Khan, in a recent interview with Dawn, had questioned the selection committee and team management’s reluctance to try new faces and their insistence on picking familiar faces despite their average performances.
“I don’t think we were introducing enough young players with fresh legs,” Khan had said.
“We are producing enough talent but it’s a matter of chancing the future with the devil I know rather than the one I don’t. They wanted the Sohail Tanvirs, the Taufeeq Umars and the Nasir Jamsheds because these are the people that are known to people, Misbah-ul-Haq and Waqar Younis.”
Mahmood urged the importance of grooming all-rounders, especially for the ODI side, and questioned the handling of Anwar Ali, Bilawal Bhatti and Hammad Azam.
Ali did hit a match-winning 46 to help Pakistan win the Twenty20 series in Sri Lanka earlier this month, Bhatti and Azam have not featured in the playing-XI recently.
“We don’t know how to groom and improve talent. Anwar and Bilawal have performed and you need to keep them with the team and give them confidence. They can’t be Abdul Razaaq, Imran Khan or Azhar Mahmood right now, but it’ll take time. Maybe then can be even better than us.
“It takes time to develop an all-rounder. It doesn’t happen overnight. I don’t know why they don’t realise this.”