When a toddler starts to run and jump around, the advice that he repeatedly hears is usually of not to jump longer than his strides or run quicker than he could manage as both can bring his downfall that will only slow down his progress. Emotions run high and the toddler seldom concurs with the advice until getting hurt at least once. Same seems to have happened with PCB in their quest to bring International Cricket back to Pakistan.
In the first place, return of Cricket to Pakistan is the job of Government of Pakistan not Pakistan Cricket Board. It was not pure Cricketing reasons (that are mean to be controlled by a Cricket Board) that led to suspension of international Cricket in Pakistan. In essence, it is not the ICC or other Cricket boards that are reluctant to play Cricket in Pakistan but it’s the governments and other authorities of those countries that are denying their citizens to play in Pakistan, and their concern is unanimous – law and order situation in Pakistan.
Is PCB competent enough or holds the jurisdiction to address those reasons of denial by the governments of other Cricketing nations? If the denial or reluctance is coming from the state level of Cricketing nations then isn’t it only logical that the reasons should also be addressed at the state level in Pakistan? To put it into perspective, PCB is meant to administer Cricket in Pakistan, not to administer the law and order arrangement or foreign relations of Pakistan. It is simply beyond the jurisdiction of not only PCB but any Cricket administration in the world; how BCCI deals with the matter of bilateral series with Pakistan is a prime example of the same.
Before making the return of Cricket the top priority of Pakistan Cricket, it is imperative to assess the situation in respect to concerns of the foreigners rather than the wishes of the locals. Has the law and order situation improved enough for other governments to allow their citizens to visit Pakistan regardless of just visiting or playing Cricket there? If the answer is not an absolute yes then this obsession of bringing Cricket back to Pakistan is nothing but an illusion. How can Pakistan Cricket Board (or even Pakistan Cricket fans) can expect foreign players to visit against the advisory of their respective governments? It’s simply improbable and most Pakistanis would have done the same if they were in the shoes of these foreign players.
It would have made sense to host the Final in Lahore only when all of the foreign players – or at least a heavy majority with negligible exclusions – on PSL roster would have agreed to play in Lahore. Only then it would have established this perception that playing in Lahore is as safe and equivalent as playing in UAE where all Cricketing nations, except India, are comfortable to play against Pakistan. The moment PCB came to conclusion that majority of foreign players on PSL roster are not willing to travel to Lahore for the Final, they should have dropped the plan then and there. But that’s exactly when the illusions, obsessions and madness took over the administrators.
The objective was to bring back International Cricket not the PSL (without International Players). PSL without its foreign players on the roster is as good as a domestic tournament that can neither have nor it has any influence of bringing International Cricket back to Pakistan. What PCB also didn’t realize was probably the defining role of Kumara Sangakkara in bringing International Cricket back to Pakistan. Kumara was the man who faced-off with death on that dreadful morning on March 3, 2009. Had he agreed to visit Pakistan, it would have gone a long way to strengthen the claims of bringing International Cricket back to Pakistan as no other player can judge the situation better than someone who experienced the worst. In the other scenario, had he not agreed to visit but the whole PSL roster had agreed for it, it would have still kept the concerns, about return of International Cricket to Pakistan, alive.
If they can’t convince Kumara that it is safe enough to go back and resume from where International Cricket was interrupted in Pakistan then convincing the whole world about the same doesn’t sound anything but a futile idea. The plan to go ahead with PSL Final in Lahore without majority of the foreign players on PSL roster is not going to fast track the return of International Cricket to Pakistan. Instead, it will serve as ‘the latest certified status check’ of the situation and it will become a reference for future that will read ‘Pakistan is still not safe enough to host International Cricket and visiting the country to play Cricket is an optional decision not an obligation, as acknowledged and accepted by the PCB’. It will put Pakistan Cricket back to square one and probably at the same position as it was back in 2009. This Final in Lahore without foreign players on PSL roster is not the endorsement of PCB’s attempt to bring back International Cricket but of the global conclusion that says it is not safe to play Cricket in Pakistan.
Instead of realizing the situation and focusing on increasing the rating and prestige of this 2-year young PSL by hosting it in UAE better than the last edition, so that more players would have joined this league next year adding more personal stakes into it, the decision makers decided to practically kill its future. What they have done is the same as overdosing a child with steroids in obsession of growing it big and strong before time. Steroids will definitely make the toddler look stronger but in the long run, its those very steroids that will kill the kid. In the context, that list of ‘replacement foreign players’ is exactly the steroid that may look PSL strong and healthy for now but will eventually lead to its downfall. Sudden and shallow growth never lasts long enough, it will be a miracle if it does this time.
Like always, let’s hope we experience a miracle to overcome the consequences of this emotional and administrative blunder.