LAHORE: For now, the Pakistan Super League matches scheduled to be held in Lahore on Sunday and Monday will go ahead as planned. Beyond that, the fate of matches in Lahore and Rawalpindi remains undecided.

But clarity on that matter is due on Saturday after Friday’s meeting between Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Najam Sethi and a delegation of the caretaker Punjab government headed by provincial health minister Javed Akram here at the Gaddafi Stadium ended in a deadlock.

The sticking point remains the demand of the Punjab government asking for Rs450million from the PCB for making security arrangements in Lahore and Rawalpindi for the matches. Before meeting the government delegation, Sethi had held an emergent meeting with the owners of PSL franchises to decide the next steps and it was decided there that the glitzy T20 league wouldn’t budge to the demands.

“The owners refused to pay a penny more than the amount of Rs50million that has already been paid to the Punjab government for providing food to the security officials during the matches in Lahore and Rawalpindi,” a source close to the situation told Dawn.

“That message was conveyed to the government delegation, which did not show any relaxation in its demand. The PCB is wary that once such a huge amount is paid for PSL matches, it would set a precedent for the future and the government would ask for it in every international series”.

The spectre of matches being shifted to Karachi remains. Lahore, Rawalpindi and Multan, which has already hosted its quota of five matches, were allotted 28 out of 37 games of the eighth PSL season.

During the meeting, Sethi tried to remind that when international cricket resumed in Pakistan, the federal and provincial governments had taken the responsibility of providing security during the matches in their respective jurisdiction so they were bound to fulfil that commitment.

The PCB also informed the delegation that the Punjab government would earn Rs700million from the different provincial taxes from the PSL matches.

Sources in the Punjab government told Dawn that the PCB “has been asked to contribute and rationalise the cost being estimated at Rs1.25 billion that include Rs800 million to just light up the routes from the team hotels to the stadiums in Lahore and Rawalpindi”.

The sources added that the Punjab government was ready to let the PCB go ahead with its plan of shifting matches to Karachi but “during the meeting the PCB had agreed to increase its contribution from Rs50million to Rs100million”.

The Punjab government is maintaining its stance that it has its limitations and cannot afford to spend Rs500-800million on holding matches of the PSL. Sources said that the Punjab government is of the view that “an elected government could spare and spend budget but this was not possible for the caretaker setup”.

Punjab information minister Amir Mir told Dawn that it was initially given an estimate of Rs1.25 billion, including Rs800 million for lights on the teams’ routes.

“The Punjab government had suggested the PCB to use Rs250 million to purchase lights that would become an asset along with a warranty of 10 years,” said Mir, who was in agreement that there was a standoff between the PCB and the government.

A PCB official, however, said there was no link between the lights and the budget as it had always been done by the provincial government in the past.

“And if the Punjab government is advising the PCB to purchase the lights for Rs 250 million, how would it be possible for us to arrange it in two days and where would they be kept after the matches are over?”

Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2023

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