In Pakistan, domestic PSL league is a coming of age for the business of cricket

Multan Sultans' players celebrate after the dismissal of Karachi Kings' captain Babar Azam (L) during the Pakistan Super League (PSL) Twenty20 cricket match between Karachi Kings and Multan Sultans at the National Cricket Stadium in Karachi on January 27, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 27 February 2022

In Pakistan, domestic PSL league is a coming of age for the business of cricket

  • Habib Bank reacquired the title sponsorship of the PSL tournament for a four-year cycle at a 55 percent jump from the last cycle
  • Highest bid for live streaming rights this edition was submitted by Daraz, a 175 percent increase from the last two years

ISLAMABAD: Since its launch in 2016, Pakistan’s domestic cricket league has lured top names in international cricket, catapulted new talent to global fame, cultivated a loyal base of millions of fans, drawn corporate sponsorships from multinational firms selling everything from cellphones to real estate and doled out salaries comparable to other international leagues to become what is, arguably, the biggest brand in Pakistan.

In getting here, the Pakistan Super League tournament has not only transformed the business of cricket in Pakistan, but the country itself, ending years of isolation after a 2009 attack on Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore forced Pakistan to play home matches in the United Arab Emirates and led foreign players to refuse to play on Pakistani soil.

Last year, Pakistan’s biggest bank, Habib Bank Limited, reacquired the title sponsorship of the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) flagship tournament for another four-year cycle (2022-2025).

PCB announced at the time that HBL had not only exceeded the reserve price in reacquiring the rights “but sealed it with a 55 percent jump from the last cycle, which speaks volumes of their belief in the PSL brand.”

Though the PCB did not announce the exact amount of the agreement, a PCB source said the bank signed the new deal for $22.2 million for four years. Previously, PCB had signed a three-year deal with HBL (2019-2021) for $14.5 million. The first deal, which was signed in 2016 when PSL was launched, was for $5.2 million (2016-2018).

The price to acquire the digital streaming rights for PSL, which features the fast and furious, made-for-tv brand of cricket called Twenty20, has also skyrocketed. The highest bid for this edition was submitted by Daraz and marked a 175 percent increase from the last two years.

PSL also signed a two-year broadcast deal worth $24 million with local sports channels A Sports and PTV Sports, a 50 percent increase from the last cycle.

The six-team league has also drawn record television and digital viewership over the years.

Over 80 million people, roughly 70 percent of Pakistan’s TV-viewing public, tuned in to watch the final game of the 2019 edition of PSL, the last one before coronavirus-related disruptions and postponements hit the series.

“This proves that the HBL PSL is a strong brand and its commercial partners see [financial] value in it,” Samiul Hasan Burney, a media and communications director at PCB, told Arab News, commenting on the increase in the sale price of the broadcasting and live streaming rights.

It was “the quality of cricket,” he said, that had made PSL the brand it was today.

“Any [cricket] brand rises because of the quality of cricket on display,” Burney said. “Credit goes to the PCB management, its delivery and the fact that it turned [PSL] into a brand that sponsors would want to associate themselves with.”

Burney declined to provide a figure when asked how much revenue PSL was estimated to generate for PCB this year.

“Revenue collection is done by taking into account the amount of money generated and the expenses and payments deducted from them,” he said, saying the figure would be confirmed only after the series concluded.

As per the recent agreement between the PCB and the six franchises, he said, the board received 5 percent of the revenue generated by the league, while the rest went to the franchises. Both the board and the franchises then willingly invested the money back into Pakistan cricket.

“When PCB makes that 5 percent revenue, it will reinvest it into Pakistan cricket,” Burney said. “Be it in the form of player welfare, pathways development, infrastructure or women’s cricket, whatever money the PCB earns, it will obviously be reinvested [in Pakistan cricket].”

Najam Sethi, a former PCB chairman who founded the PSL series in 2016, agreed that growing investment in the T20 league had benefited Pakistani cricket in “multiple ways.” 

“It has doubled PCB’s annual revenues from all sources, enabling it to improve cricketing facilities across the country and uplift local cricketers,” he told Arab News, saying PSL was also the main reason for the return of international cricket to Pakistan, which had benefited the private sector.

“It has breathed [life into] the private sector’s dynamism and initiative into the game, similar to the case of other leading cricketing nations,” he said, adding that the revival of Pakistan’s economy and the end of the coronavirus pandemic would “flush it [PSL] with lucrative sponsorships and roaring crowds.”

In the future, the former PCB chief saw the tournament getting “bigger and starrier and more competitive“: “It will also become more encompassing with the addition of more venues like Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Faisalabad.”

Other than being a coming of age for the business of sports in Pakistan, PSL has also been a turning-point for young Pakistani cricketers who, because of international isolation, had missed out on opportunities to learn from leading international players.

“They hadn’t even dreamed of sharing dressing rooms with some of them [international stars] … This is a rich learning experience for our youngsters,” Aalia Rasheed, Pakistan’s first female cricket anchor and a senior analyst at Geo News, said. “Big names like Viv Richards are sharing stories with young cricketers and talking to them about his techniques which goes a long way in helping them. It is amazing to see legends like Wasim Akram, Hashim Amla and various other big names associated with the PSL.” 

PSL had now become the golden standard for young players,” Rasheed said.

“They perform in Pakistan’s domestic structure and give their best in international T20Is so that they can be selected for the next PSL.”

“For Pakistan cricket, PSL is a revolution. From the players’ point of view, the maximum a player can earn from PSL is Rs2.5 crores ($142,000) and the minimum they can earn is Rs1.65 million ($9,300).”

“The PSL is a festival in itself where the cricketer derives a lot of benefits,” Javed Miandad, a former Pakistan captain popularly known as “the greatest batsman Pakistan has ever produced,” said. “It teaches young cricketers a lot.

PSL had been a godsend for young cricketing talent in Pakistan who, in the absence of a T20 league, could only earn from Pakistan’s domestic cricket structure in case they failed to make it to the national team, Miandad said.

Most importantly, Rahseed said, because PSL had brought in revenue for PCB, there was more money to invest in Pakistan’s first-class cricket structure, stadiums and pitches.

“Unfortunately, Pakistan is not allotted a lot of ODI and Test matches [in a calendar year],” she said. “Hence, this is an excellent way for us to earn the much-needed revenue and reinvest it into Pakistan cricket.”

Monsoon death toll climbs to 188 in flood-ravaged southwestern Pakistan

Updated 13 August 2022

Monsoon death toll climbs to 188 in flood-ravaged southwestern Pakistan

  • Provincial disaster management authority reports six new deaths over last 24 hours
  • 582 people have died in rain-related incidents across Pakistan since mid-June

QUETTA: The death toll from rain-related incidents since the onset of monsoon season has killed at least 188 in Balochistan, authorities said on Saturday, as rains continue to lash the southwestern Pakistani province, triggering flash floods.

Monsoon rains have wreaked havoc in Pakistan since mid-June, killing at least 582 people. Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province by size and its most impoverished one, has reported the highest number of casualties.  

The Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) recorded six new deaths in rain-relates incidents in the past 24 hours.

“Six more bodies were recovered in the last 24 hours in Balochistan’s Killa Abdullah and Lasbela districts who were swept away in flash floods due to heavy rains on Friday,” Meer Zia Langove, advisor to the chief minister on disaster management, told reporters in the provincial capital, Quetta.

PDMA Balochistan director general Naseer Khan Nasir said four out of Friday’s six deaths were recorded in Killa Abdullah district, where the victims were trying to cross a flooded road.

Many roads are impassable, and traffic has been suspended also on the Quetta-Karachi highway due to the overflowing of the Lunda River in the Lasbela district.

“Our teams are fully engaged with the National Highway Authority (NHA) to clear the roads. It will be opened for traffic in the next 24 hours,” Langove said.

“Twenty-six out of 34 districts in Balochistan are badly affected by monsoon rains and floods which destroyed 40,000 homes and crops cultivated on 500,000 acres of agricultural land.”

Last month, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif visited the province’s worst hit areas, ordered immediate aid for their residents, and set up a relief fund for flood victims.

According to Pakistan’s Meteorological Department (PMD), the coming week may bring even more torrential rains to the region.

“Flash floods are expected in Killa Saifullah, Loralai, Barkhan, Kohlu, Mosa Khel, Sherani, Sibbi, Bolan, Kalat Khuzdar Awaran, Turbat Panjgur and other cities of Balochistan,” the PMD said in a notification on Saturday.

Downpours are also forecast for the provinces of Punjab and Sindh province.

Pakistan to expand COVID-19 vaccination to children next month as cases rise

Updated 13 August 2022

Pakistan to expand COVID-19 vaccination to children next month as cases rise

  • Government expects to receive vaccines and special syringes by next week
  • Pakistan Medical Association says vaccine for children is safe and effective

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government said on Saturday it will start vaccinating children aged five to eleven against COVID-19 from mid-September as infection figures are again on the rise.

After reporting a significant decline in COVID-19 cases earlier this year, Pakistan did away with almost all coronavirus restrictions. It has been witnessing a spike in infections since June, although health authorities say the situation largely remains under control and has fully vaccinated against COVID-19 over 88 percent of the population aged above 12 years.

“We will be starting COVID-19 vaccination of children aged between five to eleven years by mid-September,” Muazzam Abbas Ranjha, a vaccination lead at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Islamabad told Arab News.

“The process for procurement of the vaccine and special syringes for the purpose is underway, and we’ll be receiving them next week.”

Ranjha said that Pakistan has done “extremely well” in immunizing its population against the pandemic and that’s why the numbers of deaths and infections have remained low compared to the neighboring countries.

“Now it’s time to immunize our children against the disease to curb the virus spread,” he said. “It is vital to administer the vaccine to our children as well to immunize the whole population against the virus.”

The country has conducted 20,272 COVID-19 tests in the last 24 hours, out of which 728 turned out to be positive or 3.59 percent with three deaths. A total of 161 patients are in critical condition, the official data says.

Ranjha said the number of daily infections in the country was under control as the government was constantly monitoring the situation.

“There is nothing alarming so far, but the people should still keep following health guidelines like mask wearing and social distancing at public places to evade the infection,” he said.

Dr. Qaiser Sajjad, secretary general of the Pakistan Medical Association, told Arab News the vaccination of children would help boost general immunity.

“The scientific data available shows the vaccine for children is safe and effective,” he said, adding that the government should roll out an awareness before starting the drive.

“Developed countries have already started vaccination of the children to curb the virus, and it is highly recommended that we should also start it as quickly as possible.”

Summer home where Pakistani founder spent final days lives on as monument to his memory

Updated 13 August 2022

Summer home where Pakistani founder spent final days lives on as monument to his memory

  • Two-story wooden building called Quaid-e-Azam Residency was built by British in Ziarat Valley in 1892
  • It was a summer retreat of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, today one of Pakistan’s most widely visited heritage sites

QUETTA: A single bed, modest wooden furniture, and black and white photographs on the walls of a small bedroom in a 19th-century residence in southwest Pakistan present an unassuming setting. 

But this is no ordinary room: it has special significance for Pakistanis as the place where the country's founding father spent some of the last days of his life.  

The Ziarat, or Quaid-e-Azam, Residency, has a two-story wooden structure amidst a juniper forest and was built during British rule in 1892. Located in Ziarat Valley, a picturesque hill station in Balochistan province, the house was a summer retreat of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s Quaid-e-Azam (Great Leader). It was also where Jinnah stayed for two months as he tried to recover from a lung disease a year after the success of his movement to separate Pakistan from India on Aug. 14, 1947 after the end of British colonial rule. 

Decades later, people from across the country visit Ziarat to pay tribute to Jinnah's memory.

Chairs and a table used by Pakistani founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah for political meetings on display at his summer residence in Ziarat, Balochistan, on Aug. 2, 2022. (AN Photo)  

“We have read about the Quaid Residency in books and heard stories from our elders … but when I stepped inside the residency, my feelings changed,” Chanda Ashraf, a 21-year-old student from Gujranwala, told Arab News.  

“Inside this residency, I have experienced how the Quaid lived here and his existence was tangible,” she said. “I request all Pakistanis to visit this place once in their lifetime.”

The house has eight rooms, fitted with cedar wood. Jinnah’s bedroom is on the second floor, in front of his sister’s, Fatimah Jinnah, who took care of him in Ziarat.

Tourists take photos in front of Pakistani founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s summer residence in Ziarat, Balochistan, on Aug. 2, 2022. (AN Photo)

Jinnah had had tuberculosis since the 1930s, but hid his condition because he believed it would hurt him politically, historians say. In July 1948, Jinnah arrived in Quetta and journeyed to the higher retreat at Ziarat, where the Pakistani government sent the best doctors it could find to treat him. It was here that a diagnosis of tuberculosis and advanced lung cancer was confirmed. 

On August 13, on the eve of the first anniversary of the independence for which he had fought so hard, the founding father was moved to the lower altitude of Quetta and finally back to Karachi on September 11, 1948. 

Jinnah died later that night at 10:20 pm at his home in Karachi. He was 71 years old and Pakistan was a little over one. 

Today, the Quaid’s clothes and the tableware he and his sister had used at the Ziarat summer home are on display at the residency - now a museum and one of Pakistan’s most widely visited national heritage sites. 
The Quaid-e-Azam Residency has also appeared on the 100-rupee note since 2006.

A dining table used by Pakistan founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah is on display at his summer residence in Ziarat, Balochistan, on Aug. 2, 2022. (AN Photo)  

Muhammad Rahim, who for the past 19 years has been working as an official tour guide at the residency, said he was proud to be working at the house belonging to the man who had “struggled for an independent country for our future generations.”

“My late uncle Toti Khan had performed duties in the residency when Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had come to live here back in the summer of 1948,” he told Arab News.  

Muhammad Rahim, a guide at the Quaid-e-Azam Residency, poses at the museum’s gallery with photos of Pakistani founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in Ziarat, Balochistan, on Aug. 2, 2022. (AN Photo)  

“Despite two janitors hired for cleaning Quaid’s residence, I clean the entire residency with my hands, because I consider it as my service for the Quaid.”

The building was damaged in 2013, when a blaze tore through its wooden structure after a grenade attack by a Baloch separatist group. It was restored within four months.

Balochistan has long been the scene of a low-level insurgency, and a few attacks have been reported in Ziarat district in recent years, but the province’s tourism minister, Abdul Khaliq Hazara says, told Arab News the security situation was normal and thousands of people visited Jinnah’s residence every year.

“The government has been developing the infrastructure in Ziarat to facilitate tourists,” he said. “The Quaid Residency is a national heritage.”

A visitor Mohamad Alam Qasim said: "Not just for Balochistan, this is Pakistan’s heritage. Quaid-e-Azam was our national hero. He was everyone's leader."

Pakistan condemns suicide blast targeting Saudi security forces in Jeddah

Updated 13 August 2022

Pakistan condemns suicide blast targeting Saudi security forces in Jeddah

  • Security forces were targeted while trying to arrest a suspect in a deadly 2015 mosque attack
  • Explosion injured three members of the security forces and a Pakistani resident

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan condemned on Saturday a suicide blast that targeted Saudi security forces during an attempt to arrest a man linked to a deadly 2015 bombing in the Kingdom.

Abdullah bin Zayed Abdulrahman Al-Bakri Al-Shehri detonated a suicide vest when security forces attempted to arrest him in Jeddah earlier this week, the Presidency of State Security said on Friday.

When the militant blew himself up, he died at the scene, with the explosion injuring three members of the security forces and a Pakistani resident.

“Pakistan strongly condemns the recent terrorist incident in Jeddah, resulting in injuries, including to a Pakistani national,” Pakistan’s foreign office said in a statement.

“The Government and people of Pakistan reiterate their full support for and deep solidarity with the leadership, government and brotherly people of Saudi Arabia against any threats to the Kingdom’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Al-Shehri was suspected of being a member of a militant cell that coordinated the 2015 suicide bombing of a mosque in Abha frequented by security force members.

Eleven members of the security forces and four Bangladeshi nationals were killed in the 2015 attack.

Finance division says Pakistan’s economy made headway despite challenges since independence

Updated 13 August 2022

Finance division says Pakistan’s economy made headway despite challenges since independence

  • The country is currently facing the daunting challenge of dealing with a mounting current account deficit, dwindling forex reserves
  • The finance division says its aspiration is to put Pakistan’s economy on higher growth trajectory through investment, efficiency, productivity

KARACHI: Pakistan’s finance division on Saturday brought out a comprehensive report on 75 years of the country’s economic journey, showing the economy had improved its growth potential over a period of time despite tough challenges.

Pakistan is poised to celebrate its 75th independence anniversary on Sunday.

The South Asian nation of over 220 million people is currently facing a daunting challenge of managing a stuttering economy, as it faces a huge current account deficit projected at nearly four percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The country’s foreign exchange reserves have also been consistently depleting in recent months, though officials say Pakistan will soon be in a position to stabilize its external sector with the assistance of friendly countries and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“Pakistan’s GDP rose from $3bn to $383bn from 1950-2022,” the report said. “In 1950, GDP was 1.8 percent and in 2022 it is 5.97 percent.”

The report noted the per capita income in Pakistan also rose from $86 to $1,798 within the same period.

“Exports rose from $355.5 million to $72.0 billion from 1950-2022,” it added, “while Tax Revenues rose from Rs. 0.31 billion to Rs. 6,126.1 billion from 1950-2022.”

The finance division said Pakistan only inherited 34 industrial units at the time of its independence out of the 921 currently operating in the country.

“FDI [Foreign Direct Investment] increased from $1.2 million in FY1950 to $1,867.8 million in FY2022,” it noted, “while the remittances increased from $0.14 billion in FY1973 to $31.2 billion in FY2022.”

“Pakistan has made significant headway in spite of the many challenges that it has faced,” the report maintained. “The nation was able to transform itself into a semi-industrial economy and hub for business activities.”

The finance division added its aspiration was to put the economy on a higher growth trajectory through greater investment, efficiency and productivity.