LAHORE: The refurbishment and construction of portions of three stadiums by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) in Lahore, Karachi, and Rawalpindi were not requirements of the International Cricket Council to host next year’s Champions Trophy; rather, it was the PCB’s own decision, Dawn has learnt.

With costs amounting to billions, refurbishment and construction of the three stadiums had already begun just seven months before hosting the Champions Trophy, scheduled for Feb-March 2025.

Initially, there was a common perception in the media and sports circles that the construction of these stadiums was planned in accordance with the requirements of the international governing body of the game.

However, a PCB spokesman clarified to Dawn that the ICC’s delegation had visited all three stadiums — Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, National Stadium in Karachi, and Pindi Stadium in Rawalpindi — and declared them fit to host the matches of the eight-team tournament.

“We need to upgrade our stadiums to match international standards, although the ICC’s delegation, which inspected the facilities in Pakistan, confirmed that all stadiums were suitable for hosting matches,” the spokesman said on Thursday.

It should be noted that new pavilions were constructed at Gaddafi Stadium last year, while the stadium was generally in good shape with its historic entrance intact.

However, the main portion of Gaddafi Stadium’s structure had been demolished for reconstruction, and demolition at National Stadium is set to begin in the next few days.

Similarly, work on Pindi Stadium is also set to commence. The estimated cost of these three projects is around three to four billion rupees. In 2016-17, the National Stadium underwent refurbishment at a cost of a billion rupees during Najam Sethi’s tenure as PCB chairman.

There is also a public perception that the current PCB chairman, Mohsin Naqvi, has a penchant for construction work, whether necessary or not. Mohsin, during his tenure as caretaker chief minister of Punjab, initiated numerous construction projects at hospitals, police stations, underpasses, and Lahore Zoo, despite his mandate being solely to ensure smooth general elections.

All PCB officials’ offices have been relocated to the National Cricket Academy. Additionally, the PCB faces a time crunch as it awaits the design for the new construction of the three stadiums from a UK-based company.

Pakistani companies will execute the construction according to the design provided by this offshore company. Completing all the work before the start of the Champions Trophy presents a significant challenge.

During this period, Bangladesh (in August) and England (in October) are also scheduled to visit Pakistan to play Test series against the national team.

Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2024

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