PSL: A pathway to revive international cricket in Pakistan

1 / 2
In this March 25, 2018 file photo, West Indies cricketers Darren Sammy, right, Andre Fletcher, second left, and Pakistani cricketer Hassan Ali, center, dance during a music show prior to start of the Pakistan Super League final cricket match at National stadium, in Karachi, Pakistan. (AP)
2 / 2
In this February 10, 2019 photo, Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ehsan Mani listens to a question during an interview with the Associated Press in Lahore, Pakistan. Mani said fully-fledged cricket could be revived in Pakistan later 2019 with teams from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka touring Pakistan. (AP)
Updated 12 February 2019
0

PSL: A pathway to revive international cricket in Pakistan

  • We want all PSL matches coming back to Pakistan: PCB Chairman
  • PCB failed to convince Cricket Australia to play at least two one-day internationals in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Super League is not like any other Twenty20 cricket competition. It can’t compete financially with the lucrative Indian Premier League in terms of player payments, yet it’s a dream for some cricketers just to be playing in it.
For the Pakistan Cricket Board, it’s considered a pathway to resuming fully-fledged international cricket on home soil.
It has been nearly a decade since a terrorist attack on the Sri Lanka team bus at Lahore in 2009 resulted in the suspension of international cricket in Pakistan, forcing the national team to play its ‘home’ games in the United Arab Emirates.
Pakistan cricket organizers also had no other option when launching their flagship T20 tournament in 2016 but to organize the entire first edition in the UAE.
But that started a step-by-step process to bring international cricket back to Pakistan, a country of more than 200 million and where cricket is the major sport. The 2017 PSL final was staged in Lahore, demonstrating that local security agencies could safeguard foreign players.
Last year, Lahore hosted two PSL playoff games before the final was held in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city.
The 2019 edition, which starts in the UAE on Thursday, will feature eight games in either Lahore or Karachi involving all six franchises later in the tournament.
Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ehsan Mani wants even more in 2020, telling The Associated Press, “I’d I like to see majority of the matches next year to be held in Pakistan.”
Lahore and Karachi have been focal points of the push for more cricket on home soil, hosting Twenty20 games against a World XI, Sri Lanka and the West Indies. But progress is being held back by the lack of improvements to stadiums in cities such as Rawalpindi, Multan and Faisalabad.
“We have certain limiting factors,” Mani said. “We need the other stadiums if we’re going to bring all the matches back to Pakistan.”
Mani took Pakistan cricket’s top job soon after cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan, who is also the PCB patron, was sworn in as prime minister last year. Mani is now looking to Khan’s government for funding to “help us bring these stadiums up to scratch.”
Mani said the league was watched by more than 100 million people last year and its sponsorship and broadcast rights deals continued to grow rapidly despite Pakistan’s economic situation.
“PSL is unique,” he said. “It’s an enormous market, and the best endorsement that PSL had is our commercial partners.”
West Indies star Darren Sammy, who plays for Peshawar Zalmi, has become a household name in Pakistan after winning the 2017 final at Lahore and reaching the final in Karachi last year.
This year, South Africa’s A.B. de Villiers will be representing Lahore Qalandars and has already promised to showcase his batting prowess at Qaddafi Stadium next month.
“There’s no doubt there’s a lot of goodwill now for Pakistan around the world,” Mani said. “There’s also no doubt that as more and more players come and play in the PSL, the level of confidence in the ability of Pakistan ... to organize matches in a secure and safe environment has increased.”
Mani is hopeful that another incident-free PSL will encourage Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to return to Pakistan for full international series later in the year.
“We’ll be engaging with them earlier rather than later to make sure that they have the comfort and security that they require to be able to come and play in Pakistan,” he said.
Mani couldn’t convince Cricket Australia to play at least two one-day internationals in Pakistan next month, with a five-match series instead going ahead in the UAE, but he said the Australians were committed to sending their security experts to the PSL to assess the situation.
“The perceptions of Pakistan will change,” Mani said, “We’ve got no doubt about it.”
An International Cricket Council taskforce was behind the World XI’s tour in 2017 which included South Africa’s Faf du Plessis and current Australia test captain Tim Paine, but the sport’s world governing body can’t insist on foreign teams returning to Pakistan.
“There’s no doubt that ICC is comfortable to let its match officials come to Pakistan, to let its umpires and referees and others come here,” Mani said. “That’s a big endorsement on how Pakistan is going.”
Wasim Khan, the PCB’s new managing director, believes it won’t be long before Pakistan is hosting test matches again.
“Pakistan is now ready ... it’s starved of international cricket,” Khan said. “We need the youngsters to see our heroes playing here, not in the UAE or other part of the world.”
Others, such as former Pakistan captain and now television analyst Ramiz Raja, suggest the PSL could create a feel-good factor among foreign players.
“The PSL is a great vehicle to further the case and is creating positive vibes about the country,” Raja told The AP. “The foreign players have not only acted as ambassadors but are successfully pleading Pakistan’s case to the world.”
Respected cricket analyst Abdul Majid Bhatti said about 40 foreign players will be competing in PSL, and at least 30 are committed to traveling to Pakistan for the latter stages.
But Bhatti, who works for leading Urdu language newspaper Daily Jang and at Geo TV, said the status quo wouldn’t change until the major cricket countries such as India, England, South Africa and Australia starting touring Pakistan.
“Unless foreign teams play test matches in Pakistan, revival of international cricket looks difficult,” he said, “but it’s not impossible.”
Fans in Pakistan see the PSL as an ideal platform for bigger things.
Foreigners “think Pakistan is a terrorist country, this is not like that,” Karachi-based Tayyaba Aleem said. “There was lot of security here before and it’s even beefed up more. So those who do not come, they should come.”


NBA, FIBA announce plans for pro league in Africa

Updated 17 February 2019
0

NBA, FIBA announce plans for pro league in Africa

  • The Basketball Africa League is a new collaboration between the NBA and the sport’s global governing body FIBA
  • Qualification tournaments will be held to determine those clubs that will take part

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina: The NBA is bringing a pro league to Africa.
The Basketball Africa League, a new collaboration between the NBA and the sport’s global governing body FIBA, was announced Saturday. The initial plan is for the 12-team league to begin play in January, and former President Barack Obama is among those who are expected to have direct involvement with the league’s plan to keep growing the game in Africa through the league and other initiatives.
The scope of what Obama’s involvement will be remains unknown, and it’s yet to be determined which existing club teams will be part of the league. Qualification tournaments will be held later this year to determine those clubs, with teams from Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia expected to be among those taking part. No nation will have more than two teams in the league.
“As we’ve been talking about this concept over the last several months, there’s been a tremendous reception from many of our NBA team owners ... and in addition, several of the partners of the NBA have expressed a strong desire to work with us in Africa,” Silver said.
Silver said Pepsi and Nike’s Jordan Brand — Charlotte owner Michael Jordan was among the owners in the room where Silver made the announcement — are among the partners who have reached out to the NBA and said they want to be part of the Africa league. Silver also said that Obama, an enormous basketball fan, has told him he wants to “be directly involved with these activities in Africa.”
Silver said talks between the NBA and Obama are ongoing. Obama spoke on a video that was shown during the event where Silver announced the league.
“I hope you know through sport, that if you put in effort, you will be rewarded,” Obama said. “I hope you learn through sport what it means to play as a team, and even if you are the best player, your job is not just to show off but your job is to make your teammates better.”
The NBA and FIBA’s involvement will include financial support and resources toward continued growing of the game on the continent, as well as providing training for players, coaches and referees and some infrastructure for the new league. Silver said there are 438 companies in Africa that generate more than $1 billion in revenue annually, but that sport there has not seen the same growth — yet.
“Africa is a huge economic engine,” Silver said. “And one place, though, where we haven’t seen enormous economic growth yet is in the industry of sport. And that’s something that we are all particularly focused on.”
The NBA has held three games in Africa since 2015, all of them selling out — two games in Johannesburg, the other in Pretoria. Many of the league’s current players and coaches, along with several legends and Hall of Famers, have been part of those trips.
“I went with them last year,” Basketball Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said. “The NBA reaches out across the world.”
The league has an office in South Africa, has helped create 87 learn-and-play facilities in seven African nations, and 13 players who were born in Africa on opening-night NBA rosters this season. The league also built an academy in Senegal that opened nearly two years ago.
“It’s a huge joy to see our partnership with the NBA enter uncharted territory as we work together for the first time to maximize the potential of professional basketball in Africa,” said Andreas Zagklis, FIBA’s secretary-general.
This marks the first time the NBA has been involved with the operation of a league outside of North America.
“We’re excited to work closely with the NBA to develop and put in a place a professional league like none that we have ever seen in our region before,” said FIBA Africa Executive Director Alphonse Bile. “Through the Basketball Africa League, we can provide the many great clubs and players with the best possible environment to compete for the highest stakes.”
The NBA says more details about the new league will be released in the coming months.