The Grand Finale at the Gaddafi

March 7, 2017 | By

“Seeti bajay gi,” “Stage sajay gaa; taali bajay gi, Aur khel jamay ga.” which loosely translated means [There will be whistles blowing, the stage will be decorated , there will be applause, there will be play ]”.

The tune is catchy. The lyric may not be from one of the masters of national songs but it is simple and the young Pakistani singers have done a wonderful job in making this popular. This was the theme song of HBLPSL2. It was apt for the grand finale of the league in Lahore on 5th March 2017.

In spite of its detractors and “the Doubting Thomases” the HBL/PSL Edition 2 final was held successfully and peacefully at the historic Gaddafi Stadium Lahore the capital of the Province of Punjab. Apart from a few spoilsports who unfortunately chose this occasion to vent their feelings by raising political slogans, the rest of the 25000 or so spectators thoroughly enjoyed the evening of music and cricket.

Full marks to the Pakistan Armed Forces, the Rangers, the Punjab Police and the Federal and Provincial Governments who gave full cover, encouragement, permission and support to the unsure and nervous PCB Management to go ahead and hold the mega-event in Lahore. It may be recalled that PCB announced much before the HBL/PSL 2 took place that the Initial league matches would be played in UAE while the Final will be played in Lahore.

In fact the PSL Chief went to the length of stating with confidence and authority that he had cancelled the booking of Dubai Cricket Stadium for the 5th March Final which was scheduled to be staged in Lahore. It is surprising that he had not got the clearance from the authorities concerned either before making this statement or reiterating this from Dubai a few days before the event.  Also why did not the franchises and PSL ensure that the foreign players who were contracted have the proviso that they will have to travel to Lahore if their teams made it to the final.

Not only the players but the contracted broadcasters along with the foreign commentators also refused to travel to Lahore although we were informed that the Interior Ministry had haste post-haste approved visas for the entire crew the majority of whom were Indians. Once again Najam Sethi had to make last-ditch efforts and probably got a Dubai based company to fill in. I am not sure but the production team hopefully included Pakistani (PTV trained) camera, technical and production crew who are second to none in the world.

The facilities provided were not the same as in UAE because the DRS equipment like Hawk Eye etc. were not available. As such another “first” for Pakistan – Umpires Review in Twenty/20 which was in place for the last few matches in UAE – was nipped in the bud. The coverage was also selective as we did not get a good view of the various VVIPs and celebrities watching the match. The commentary team was also it seems hastily drafted. The regulars Ramiz and Bazid were there. But it was not really professional or fair (because of conflict of interest) to have a former Pakistan coach; and to have the Director and the Coach of a franchise plus the current coach of Pakistan who was also a coach of one of the franchises.

Also part if not the entire commentary should have been in Urdu for which we have some excellent commentators. I have been advocating this for the at least the last two decades. Now we have several channels on PTV and the commentary can be in English on one channel and in Urdu on another as is the case in several other countries including South Africa.

For English Ramiz and Bazid could have been accompanied by some of our ex Test players who are approved “English” broadcasters – Aamir Sohail, Mohsin Hassan Khan, Haroon Rashid, Col. (Retd.) Naushad Ali, Salim Altaf, Azhar Khan and the veteran journalist Qamar Ahmad who is a former first class cricketer. When will we learn to have national pride? I must compliment PCB for dressing up at least three of the commentators (Ramiz, Bazid and Jones; Wasim Akram opted for Western style clothes; I am not aware how Waqar and Arthur were dressed as they did not appear “in vision” – at least when I was watching) in sherwanis and “Aligarh” style pyjamas.

They did look dignified. It would have been appropriate had the “anchor” also opted for typical national attire.

It was assurance from the COAS and a series of high powered meetings presided by the Chief Minister Punjab that the “go ahead” for the final at the Gaddafi was given. The Stadium received the much needed face lift; repairs were made; seats were painted and new seats installed where needed.

The eye sore at the College end was turned into a Media Centre inaugurated by Chairman PCB with Chief of PSL Najam Sethi standing with his hand on Shahryar’s left shoulder in a show of camaraderie. The Chairman while cutting the ribbon muttered that PCB were giving this Media Centre as a gift to the PSL. What exactly does this mean? Draw your own conclusions.

Had matches been held in other centres like Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Karachi, Quetta, Faisalabad, Multan, Hyderabad, these much neglected and decrepid arenas would have regained their past glory.

Apart from this it appears that Shahryar and Sethi were not on the same page. While Sethi was shuttling between Dubai and Lahore in frenetic efforts to get foreign players to agree to come to Lahore Shahryar was nonchalantly stating that whether foreign players come or not the final will be played with national players!! Shahryar has also announced that the final of the 2018 PSL will be held in Karachi. Not a twitter from Sethi or his birdies on this.

The story about the tickets is yet to unfold fully. The on line tickets’ contract was “awarded” to a Doha based company owned by Dr. Tijender Singh. Does not Pakistan have companies capable of handling on line transactions. The General Stand tickets valued at Rs 500/= finished before the Bank’s branches had even opened. Mixed signals were sent and received. All this was result of miscommunication and mismanagement.

PSL kept announcing that the tickets belonged to the franchises and even the PCB is buying tickets from them. If so, why were tickets not made available in Quetta and Peshawar whose teams were the finalists; and in Islamabad and Karachi the remaining franchisees of the HBL/PSL 2? And why not at HBL branches the main sponsors of this PSL? Why only at Bank of Punjab and in only selected branches in Lahore? Makes the mind boggle.

The PSL also announced that all including VVIPs had offered to buy tickets for the match. Then how did PCB send out invitations, including to some showbiz personalities if we are to believe the channels’ reports? However, some politicians did “lead from the front” by purchasing General Stand tickets and watching the match from there.

The PCB should have made sure that if “cricket was indeed returning to Pakistan after eight years” they should have made sure that all ex Test, ODI and Twenty/20I captains should have been invited if not all those who have represented Pakistan in international cricket. All ex-Chairmen were invited but not the ex-CEOs.

Of the VVIPs invited only the Governors and Chief Ministers of a couple of Provinces came. Maybe they had more important matters to attend.

Moreover there was no separate stand reserved for the ladies – I hope I am wrong because I was not there nor in the preliminary matches in Dubai and Sharjah. It is now over half a century that I have covered international and domestic cricket all over the world. As far as I recall in Pakistan in both domestic and international matches there always has been a special stand for Ladies.

Hats off to the enthusiasts of cricket. They were disciplined both outside and inside the stadium. The match was watched in an atmosphere of fun and frolic. All seemed to enjoy the evening. The security was indeed fool proof thanks to the army, rangers, police and government.

The traffic police we are informed were courteous and helpful as were those manning the walk through gates; and by the Grace of Allah it went well without even the hint of an incident. The spectators in a display of discipline bore the “inconveniences” of coming through to their seats with patience and equanimity. They deserve to enjoy the evening and they did.

The pitch was not prepared for the white ball format; it was slow and low and took turn early. These pitches render pitch reports into jokes. The match itself was one sided with Quetta surrendering without even the proverbial whimper. True they got the wrong end of the stick so far as the late draft was concerned.

Peshawar managed to persuade their foreign players (Sammy, Malan, Samuels and Jordan) to travel to Lahore. The two Afridis – Shahid and the owner Javed – did a good job of selling the idea successfully to their foreign stars. Quetta’s owner , Manager, coach and mentor , were unable to convince their “imports” to travel to Pakistan. Pietersen, Wright, Mills, Rilee Roussow, Nathan McCullum  took fright and flight to their homes, while Thissera Perera, and Mahmudullah Riyad were required for national duty.

Quetta in the end were landed with Morne Van Wyk , Sean Ervine, Anamul Haq, Elton Chgumbura, and Rayad Emrit. None of these is a current or even a past “top” player. Three of them are in their mid or late thirties. The PSL Chief’s definition of “top” players is slightly different from the accepted one.

Those foreigners who travelled to Pakistan for this event included the referee Roshan Mahanama and Umpire Ranmore Martinez both from Sri Lanka , the Quetta mentor Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards and fielding coach Julian Fountain (he should have had no problems as he has been at the Lahore NCA for two years not long ago) and Dean Jones (who has been waltzing frequently between Pakistan and Australia for the last few years) and Mickey Arthur coach of Karachi franchise and Pakistan and now also a TV commentator.

All these or at least most of them we are told were paid extra amounts ranging from US$10000 to US$50000. I have no quarrel with this. PCB’s coffers are brimful with cash. But are the lives of our Pakistani boys not as precious? I feel that if anyone was being paid a “bonus” for playing the final this formula should have been applied uniformly to all across the board be they foreigners, be they dual nationals (like Waqar Yunus and maybe some others).

Yes; there could be a slab system but all should be included. After all it is not only Luke Wright who has a young family!! Also it seems that the KPK Chief Minister got slightly carried away by announcing an award of Rs 2 crore for the Peshawar Zalmi the winner of HBL/PSL 2018. The team remember is NOT a Peshawar Team; it is a private team of a franchisee.

It was the security arrangements which won the day in the end. A befitting response to those planning any mischief. The crowds cooperated fully and all combined to have a smooth and seamless final.

The invitees included the advisor on security to the ICC Sean Norris as also representatives from England (Reg Dickason and Julian Siebrand), Australia (Sean Carroll), Sri Lanka (Sarathchandra Liyanage), Bangladesh (Major AKM Anisud Dowla) and an independent expert from Nicholls Steyn and Associates who covered the ICC World Cup in South Africa in 2003.

The TV coverage could have highlighted the presence of these important persons as also the presence of Governors, Chief Ministers, ex Chairmen PCB and other invitees. Maybe there were reasons for such “minor matters.” The TV audience is spoilt when we have commentators dancing in the stands with spectators and cheer leaders; or sprawling on the pitch while giving a pitch report which usually is more or less the same for every match!!.

Commentators trying to learn Urdu and also been given different nicknames. All in good fun which adds to the fun of this brand of cricket. It was also apathy or inexperience or perhaps exhaustion owing to overwork or all three of the hordes of PCB media and marketing Directors, Managers, Officers and Staff that the prize distribution ceremony was a bit disorganized, hurried and haphazard.

The prize winners appeared clueless and some had to be summoned many times before realizing that they were required. The Marketing Staff should have lined them up in advance as also those keen gentlemen who were there to give away the awards and have themselves photographed for posterity. A lot of money was distributed and it was richly deserved.

The HBLPSL has perhaps resurrected the career of Kamran Akmal because of his brilliant batting  and excellent glove work. Ahmad Shahzad is also set to make a come back.

I am not sure what is the exact meaning of emerging players. Those who have played for Pakistan should not be called by this name as they have already “emerged.” Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Asghar, Usman Khan Shinwari have already played for Pakistan. But they performed well in HBLPSL 2. But those who really emerged include pace bowler Mohammad Irfan , spinners Shadab Khan, Usama Mir, Hassan Khan, and batsman Hussain Talat.

The successful final at Lahore has yielded immediate dividends. Giles Clarke has announced that an International XI will take a tour of Lahore in September 2017. They will play four games of the shortest format. Why only in Lahore? Why not give others a chance? If it is to stay in Punjab let us try Rawalpindi, Multan and Faisalabad. PCB need to start making preparations as of “yesterday”. Remember “tempus fugit” (time flies) .September will soon be on us.

 Najam Sethi taking heart from the success of the final and the favourable reaction from the British, and some other foreign media press has announced that “some” matches of HBLPSL will also be played in Rawalpindi, Karachi and Lahore. I hope he has sounded the powers that be about his plans before going public with this enthusiastic and welcome announcement. Why only “some” matches and not the entire PSL? Am I being greedy?!!

The other news is that Misbah ul Haq has at long last made up his mind and informed the Chairman PCB that he would be willing to tour the West Indies later this month as captain of Pakistan in Tests. Shahryar was waiting for this and pounced on it; announced Misbah as captain and Sarfaraz as Vice-Captain.

Now to the tricky and thorny issue of fancy fixing/spot fixing/match fixing. Sharjeel Khan and Khalid Latif have filed their replies to the charge sheets. It emerges that the bookies also approached one of the franchise owners. A three member tribunal headed by Justice (Retd.) Haider Asghar (former legal adviser of PCB) and including Lt.Gen (Retd.) Tauqir Zia (former Chairman of PCB) and Wasim Bari (former everything of PCB) has been appointed to hear the pleas of these two players. The pandora’s box may be opened.

But with the statement of Rashid Latif on return from UAE has put a spanner in the works. The Director of the Karachi franchise who has his own opinion about not only the HBLPSL  but all the other leagues as well has said that there is more to these accusations than meets the eye. Initially he has questioned as to why Mohammad Irfan and Zulfiqar Babar were not interrogated and if so what was the outcome. He said that “his fist was closed at the moment; but if he opens it a lot of information will come pouring out.”

The media is waiting with baited breath for that information from Rashid Latif. I must, however, inform that it is difficult to have the former Pakistan captain open his fist!! Will Rashid blow the whistle; will “seeti bajay gi….” Or will he as at some other times keep mum. Besides others he will be a main witness in hearings of the Asghar Haider Tribunal. As they say “the plot thickens.” And the iceberg has begun to appear a little more.

Chishty Mujahid

Chishty Mujahid is an author at ScoreLine and has written numerous articles published at

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