HYDERABAD: The civil administration of Hyderabad has revived hopes that the historic Niaz Stadium may be handed over to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) through Sindh government for hosting cricket matches including those of Pakistan Super League (PSL).
But till it happens, Sindh cricket fans’ agonizing wait to see international cricket returning to Niaz Stadium — the only international Test stadium in Sindh after Karachi — would be unending as the infrastructural development of the ground could take a lot of time.
The Niaz Stadium — established by then commissioner Niaz Ahmed in 1959 — could not host a single fixture of PSL despite announcement by Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah that it could likely happen this year. The Sindh CM met Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Ehsan Mani last year and later announced that PSL 2020 matches would be staged at the Niaz Stadium besides at the National Stadium Karachi (NSK).
Earlier this month, Commissioner Hyderabad Abbas Baloch had managed to convince Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) director human resource and administration Col (rtd) Ashfaq to visit Niaz Sadium which he did on Monday. PCB had maintained the stadium until April 2018 but later Qasimabad municipal corporation had revoked its agreement with PCB.
Since then, municipal administration is looking after the stadium but no matches have held here since very long time. Even first class matches that used to be held here were not allotted to the ground by PCB for unknown reasons that rubbed thousands of fans the wrong way.
PCB representatives inspected ground’s outfield and pavilion and held detailed discussion with the commissioner on Monday.“We have proposed to PCB to take over ground administratively and Sindh government can finalize its details if PCB agrees”, said the commissioner. He added that the PCB official was surprised to see that the ground is still in good shape. “We want PCB to come forward now and make things move,” he said.
Col Ashfaq told Dawn from Lahore what PCB could initially do is to provide technical knowledge and assistance for ground. “We will provide cricket knowledge. Insofar as decision to take over the ground is concerned, it has to come from the chairman,” he said. He admitted the ground needed flood lights [part of previous MoU as PCB’s commitment] installation if evening matches were to be organised here. “PCB doesn’t have any other venue of this kind other than Karachi in Sindh and all of us want to see cricket getting revived here.”
Pakistan, historically, has been unbeaten in both Tests and ODIs here at the Niaz Stadium which last hosted an international match of note between Zimbabwe and Pakistan in Jan 2008, thanks to efforts of the then district Nazim Kanwar Naveed Jamil. It was Jamil who handed over stadium to PCB in July 2007. Otherwise the ground has gone to the dogs.
“The idea is that we should start providing technical knowledge and then gradually make it available for hosting international cricket events. And it should be brought at par with other international stadia of the country. I have seen hotel arrangements as well where 123 rooms can be made available”, Ashfaq said. He is all set to brief PCB chairman Ehsan Mani.
“Let civil administration starts developing it”, he said.
He said PCB’s MoU stood revoked by municipal administration in 2018 after 11 years of its signing. When he was told that to some extent municipal committee’s frustration was understandable because except for maintaining outfield the board didn’t invest here as per MoU, he attributed it to lesser number of cricket activities on home soil.
“PCB did explain its position when MoU was revoked in April 2018”, he disclosed. He said everything revolves around income that comes through international matches. “Perhaps Hyderabad administration has also realized that agreement should not have been revoked and ground should have remained under PCB’s administrative control.”
“Hyderabad divisional commissioner had been requesting me to visit the ground for a long time but I couldn’t manage it and then came the pandemic”, he said. He himself also realized that there are no other venues available for PCB for hosting even first class matches in Sindh after Karachi and Hyderabad ground’s availability is always important.
Published in Dawn, November 18th, 2020