OF PSL 5 AND COVID19

By Chishty Mujahid - March 24, 2020

This piece must begin with a word of praise and gratitude for Ehsan Mani Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board and his troops for having arranged and organised the Pakistan Super League’s Fifth Edition.

As Ehsan had promised the entire event was played in four venues in Pakistan – Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Multan. Personally I was invited to witness all the 9 matches to be staged in Karachi. This was jolly decent of the Chairman and the PCB. I was also drafted by Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (Radio Pakistan) to be one of their commentators on medium wave. But I am jumping ahead. I will come back to this at a later stage in this write-up.

As I have written in my earlier efforts for this publication (and if you had nothing better to do and have read any of that trash!). I do not keep any notes or take any photographs (even those taken on the now acquired smart phone are swiftly deleted). I have realized that in some of those articles I may have ruffled a few feathers probably based on reports which I may have read or heard. As such let me here and now apologize to one and all who have felt offended by what I have scribed.

Whenever called (very seldom) on cricket talk shows I usually began with a disclaimer from Hakim Momin Khan Momin which I give below plus a loose translation in Urdu for those not too well versed in the Urdu Language.

“Koi baat aisee gar hooee Keh tumharay jee ko buree lagee
To bayaN say pehlay hee bhoolna TumhaiN yaad ho keh na yaad ho”
if something might happen, that was not to your liking
the forgetting before speaking it out, you might remember or you might not.

Two couplets with translation from Mirza Asadulla Khan Ghalib should suffice to complete my apology.

 

“Azad rau hun aur mera maslik hai sulah kul
hargiz kabhi kisi se a’daawat nahi mujhe”

I am a free spirit and my conduct is always peaceful,
ever bear malice against anyone I do not.

“Maqta’ mein Aa pari hai sukhan gustaraana baat
maqsood isse qate’ muhabbat nahi mujhe”

I wrote something in the maqta’ which became popular,
reason to end of friendship I mean do not.

 

I hope that those who have felt offended will be large hearted enough to forgive me.

Let me make it clear that apart from the first four matches at the National Stadium Karachi I did not cover any of the other encounters and watched bits and pieces on Television. It was an extravaganza but the start was below average (and I am being polite).

The PSL 5 song was disappointing compared to the Seeti Bajay Gee by Ali Zafar (hope I have got his name right). In fact not only I and many others were not impressed but our point was seconded by the singer of the “anthem” Asim Azhar who apologized to his fans for a song which was not up to the mark. I rest my case. And why are we so obsessed with Indians that we had to invite an Indian lady Shubhra Bhardwaj to direct the opening of our premium event.

Before I forget why (oh why?) did we have 29 Indian crew members to cover the matches. Pakistani camera crew, technicians, producers, directors, engineers are second to none internationally. Once again all this is gleaned from reports that the 29 Indians were denied entry by Indian immigration at Wagah when they wanted to return to their homeland.

In my days of travels to India the rule was you exit from where your entered. Did not these Indians or the PCB or the Broadcasters know this rule (unless it has been amended now).The opening ceremony which at best could be described as amateurish is reported to have cost the PCB a paltry sum of PKR 21 crores (does that translate to 210 million or 0.21 billion?). If all this information is wrong – my profuse apologies in advance. I am sure someone in the PCB’s very helpful and efficient Media Division will put the record straight.

Much has been written, discussed and debated on the details of the matches played between the 6 franchises. As such I shall not waste this space and your valuable time to go through the happenings. Some main points will be highlighted. The much heralded return of Sharjeel Khan from his exile in punishment backfired. He was touted as the best thing that has happened to PSL 5 for a couple of years. He disappointed.

In my opinion the PCB’s tolerance level should be zero and Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Amir, Nasir Jamshed, Sharjeel Khan should not be allowed to play the game. It is too early to comment on the case of Umar Akmal the enfant terrible of Pakistan cricket. I have lost count of the number of times he has been in trouble for one offence or the other. Umar Akmal was disqualified from the PSL 5 on the eve of the event. This act on part of the authorities engulfed the event in a dark cloud. A better method would have been to ask the owners of the franchise to discreetly withdraw the player because of “injury” and deal with him after the event. But they know best.

There was quite a number of toing and froing. Some because of injury others because of other reasons. The “technical” committee always was ready to grant a substitution. What was the method of dealing with such cases. It must have been on video link. Were the members of this committee honorary or were they paid on a case by case basis. There was also a case where a player was injured, replaced and then came back!! How is the injury certified? I know there is a doctor but tests do take time. Makes the mind boggle. A simpler method would be to have the franchises nominate 5 standbys and if any “regular” player has to be replaced the owners’ appointed committee should draft in one of these players. And there was also a case where they had a captain appointed as head coach/player.

By and large the arrangements were well managed. The ticketing policy, however, was not clear. It was at times discounted; at others maybe complimentary. If discounted is it fair for those who have bought their tickets well in advance? The idea of complimentary admission to students is laudable. I am not sure but the youngsters should be provided transport and victuals.

For the security arrangements credit must go to our armed forces/rangers (they were efficient, courteous and polite), also the traffic police and the police force, and the PCB staff. A special medal must be given to the lone National Stadium lift (elevator) which can carry a maximum of three to four persons; it also transports degs (cauldrons) of biryanidaal/chawal, kunna, kheer for the over crowded media boxes. I had also hoped that for this mega event turnstile would installed at the gates so that the exact number of spectators could be determined. I am not sure but what is the procedure and method adopted for granting Media Accreditation.

Radio Pakistan told me that the passes were very limited and some of us had to make our own arrangements –rather odd. The media boxes and the open press gallery in front of the media boxes were overflowing with men, women and children – all polished or budding journalists I suppose.

Moreover because Radio Pakistan is cash strapped it was allotted the worst commentary box – only half the ground could be seen and there was one door leading to the gallery mentioned above which was frequently used as a thoroughfare by all and sundry who wanted to take a short cut to serve snacks and refreshments to their friends, neighbours, and relatives.

The Radio officials were too scared to monitor or object to this movement. Their attempts to block the entrance were thwarted by their own colleagues. I did raise objections and in the process have made a few enemies of those who wanted to take this short cut through the Radio Box to take/send refreshments and snacks to their friends and loved ones.

Through this piece I would like to extend my apologies to those friends of mine but I am sure they will understand and forgive me. Why could not any one dare to trespass on the TV box, the FM box or the Press Boxes? This was one of the reasons why I excused myself from covering the other five matches in Karachi.

For entirely different reasons I also did not receive the PCB invitations for the remaining Karachi matches but that could have been because Corona was hovering around and the PCB must have been busy in those matters. In my opinion the event should have been postponed at that time.

While still on this subject let me touch on the TV commentary. I am not sure who selects some of these verbose men and ladies. Some are our usual experienced and good but others well ..….. the least said the better. The idea of having commentary in Urdu was a good move. But the broadcasters chosen for that should have been auditioned and trained. Please remember that the listeners and viewers look to commentaries and newscasts for learning the language – idioms, pronunciations, diction, intonation.

The English I know and speak is not Queen’s English but the viewers accepted it as did the authorities. That is why they have tolerated me for over half a century and bestowed nearly a dozen awards on me including the President’s medal for Pride of Performance and the PCB Award. Viewers and listeners are now getting used to the accents from around the world. But if PCB is pioneering Urdu commentary they must at least pay attention to diction, pronunciation, and expressions. If you insist I can give just 3 main samples although 30 or 40 can be given but space and time does not allow that. For example we still have not determined whether “Ball” in Urdu is masculine or feminine.

We are divided on how to pronounce the Urdu translations for 38, 68, 89. Also there is a debate (between the commentators) about the translation of a sixer in Urdu. I am all in favour of in Urdu (the national language) but do not take it as a joking matter; and if poetry from maestros has to be quoted please get it right (in wazan).

Why could not we have used our collection of tried and tested Urdu Cricket Commentators? Also there should be broadcasts in the regional languages – Punjabi, Sindhi, Pushto and Baluchi. It is gratifying to note that in the you tube commentary on the Lahore matches commentary was in Urdu and Punjabi. I have heard and thoroughly enjoyed commentary in Punjabi on the Kabbaddi World Cup.

It is a pity that the PSL 5 after hiccups in the inauguration and a few days when the weather played spoilt sports, went well and was headed for a grand finale. But then COVID19 struck all over the world.

England packed their bags in Sri Lanka and took wing for Britain. New Zealand scooted off home haste post haste from Australia across the Tasman Sea. And South Africa cancelled their ongoing tour to India.

But PSL went after certain alterations in their programme. I wonder whose bright idea it was. They should have postponed the event sooner than they did. Lahore was chosen to stage the semis and the Final. By then foreign players had started leaving Pakistan. It then it dawned on the PCB to postpone the tournament and call it a day. Maybe too little too late. Alex Hales was reported to have signs of Corona which he denied from England. Others followed. And are now all back at their bases and some are in quarantine. All’s well that ends well as the bard said. Pakistan should have cancelled the event no sooner had the dreaded virus raised its head in Pakistan.

As a nation we are a very emotional people and go overboard at the slightest pretext. We have rewarded Darren Sammy with not only the highest civilian award Nishan-e-Pakistan but also the honorary citizenship of Pakistan. I have nothing against Sammy. I have never met him but he appears a very nice friendly person. But if the award is for cricket do we put him above Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis who were awarded Hilal-e-Imtiaz. And what is the rationale for the citizenship? Now there is a move to give Ben Dunk Pakistan nationality as well – for hitting sixers (over 55 metres boundaries) or is it for his bubble gum? And why not Chris Lynn? What about Samit Patel who took 4 wickets for 5 runs? Are our national honours and citizenship so easy to get. Please give me a break. Let us grow up and be mature. By the same argument Shoaib Malik, Sohail Tanvir, Mohammad Sami, Mohammad Hafeez, Haris Rauf should be awarded honours and citizenships of the multiple leagues these players have served over the years. There may be a few more whom I am missing.

A point which has been mooted widely is the conflict of interest bestowed on some players by the PCB. Urooj Mumtaz has three jobs including a commentator, Chief Selector of Women Cricket, and now I am told the Head of the Women’s Wing of the PCB. Misbah-ul-Haq is Chief Selector, Head Coach of Pakistan and Head Coach of Islamabad franchise.

Waqar Younis is Bowling Coach of Pakistan and a TV Commentator. Bazid Khan wears several hats. By the way I must stress that I like all the above young men. They have been friends but I am talking of principles. I am sure there are others whom I am missing. I say to the critics about these and the PCB: more power to them. PCB moves in mysterious ways.

I must add that why did we make so much of the fact that PCB has a “foreign” CEO. There are examples of Zimbabwe Cricket Union who had foreign CEOs including a Pakistani. Outside cricket transnational companies in Pakistan have had foreign CEOs – GSK, Unilever and I have worked for both. Also Banks and other corporations so why not the PCB? There have been my Pakistani colleagues who have worked in transnational Corporations abroad. Those who readily come to mind are Unilever Indonesia and American Express and Bank of America in Sri Lanka where my friends were CEOs. I was also the Regional Director of an American Company based in Colombo.

Finally we must all unite (but keep our distance) to fight and defeat this curse of Corona Virus. We will be victorious in the end. I appeal to the PCB to donate one month’s salary of all their Managers, Senior Managers, General Managers, Directors, CFO, COO and CEO to a fund for the war against COVID19. Patron of PCB please help.

By Chishty Mujahid

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