Punjab, PCB wrangling overshadows PSL glitz

Published February 26, 2023
This file photo shows a cut-out of a cricketer Shane Watson of Australia, displayed along a roadside in Karachi. — AP/File
This file photo shows a cut-out of a cricketer Shane Watson of Australia, displayed along a roadside in Karachi. — AP/File

• Matches from Tuesday may be shifted to Karachi if deadlock persists
• Govt agrees to light up teams’ route to stadium, says no further talks until board commits funds
• PCB accuses provincial govt of ‘changing its stance’ on budget

LAHORE: The Punjab government may have agreed to light up the route from the team hotels to the Gaddafi Stadium, but its sta­ndoff with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) continues to drag on, making it seem like the Pakistan Super League would be shifted from Lahore and Rawalpindi to Karachi after an agreement on security expenditure eluded the two sides, on Saturday.

The Punjab government has lowered its demand for security funds — from Rs450 million to Rs250m — but the PCB is refusing to flinch, stating that it is the obligation of the government to provide protection to the teams, as per the agreements signed in 2014 for the restoration of international cricket in Pakistan.

The PCB has taken its patron-in-chief Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in the loop as well but as it stands, Lahore will host only two matches this season — both featuring the home team Lahore Qalandars, on Sunday and Monday (today and tomorrow).

Mansoor Qadir, focal person for the Punjab government ministerial committee, told Dawn that the lights would remain installed as the government does not want to snatch the glitzy T20 extravaganza away from the citizens of Lahore. However, he maintained that the provincial cabinet would not enter into further negotiations with the PCB until the latter committed to pay Rs250m for the purchase of security lights, for future use.

After the Punjab cabinet met on Saturday to formalise its stance over the issue, the PCB held a meeting of its own to discuss the issue. Sources in the board confirmed that it had received a verbal offer from the government to reduce the amount to Rs250m but the board did not agree.

Sources said the PCB was clear in its stance, but the government was not. “First, it sent a budget asking the PCB to pay Rs 900million, then gradually reduced it and has now come down to Rs 250million,” the source said, adding: “We will hold two matches of the PSL in Lahore on Sunday and Monday as per schedule before shifting the PSL to Karachi on Tuesday if the government will not withdraw its demand.”

‘Fingers crossed’

Mr Qadir, the Punjab focal person, confirmed that the bill had been reduced to Rs370million, but stressed that it needed the payment from the PCB so that it could purchase the lights in collaboration with the board, for use in tournaments in the coming years. “They would become an asset for the PCB, which can rent them out to the government when there’s a need.

“I, being the focal person, conveyed the offer to the PCB chief executive about the amount that we need and he has informed me that he will give me a final answer by [Saturday night] or Sunday morning,” he said, adding that the PCB had so far consented to contribute a maximum of Rs100 million. “We are waiting for the PCB’s response with our fingers crossed.”

Mr Mansoor, who holds the portfolio of education in the interim cabinet, said the procurement of security lights after the tournament would help curtail the bill of Rs370 million every year — being paid to one permanent vendor, who is also facing audit issues.

“The Punjab government will use PCB’s Rs250 million to pay the rent of the security lights that stands at Rs370 million, and afterwards ensure that security lights worth Rs250 million be purchased for future use by the PCB,” he said.

Potential pullout

The focal person added that the PCB had initially been given an expenditure estimate to the tune of Rs1.2 billion, and that the provincial government had made efforts to cut the bill to Rs700 million, finally bringing it down to Rs500 million.

“Cutting this cost further will mean compromising the security of the PSL teams for which no one wants to take the responsibility,” he said.

Sources in the PCB, meanwhile, stated that the stance of the Punjab government could potentially see foreign players pulling out from their respective franchises.

“The message has been given to the government in clarity that if the government will not provide presidential level security to the foreign players, the Federation of International Cricketers’ Association (FICA) will call back all the foreign players,” the sources said.

Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2023

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