Veterans’ cricket spreading like wildfire globally: Fawad Ijaz Khan

September 17, 2023

Pakistan will be hosting the eight-nation Over-40 Global Cup cricket tournament in Karachi and PVCA, the host body, is confident that it will be a rip-roaring success

Veterans’ cricket spreading like wildfire globally: Fawad Ijaz Khan

Eight international teams including hosts Pakistan, Australia and the West Indies will feature in the inaugural edition of the Over-40 Global Cup in Karachi from September 18 to October 2. It will be one of the biggest international cricket events to take place on Pakistani soil in recent years and the credit goes to Pakistan Veterans Cricket Association (PVCA). It was PVCA that managed to swim against the tide and managed to make sure that the event takes place in a successful manner. In an interview with The News on Sunday, PVCA Chairman Fawad Ijaz Khan spoke on a variety of issues including the Global Cup and the rise and rise of veterans cricket both in Pakistan and internationally. Following are the excerpts of the interview.

TNS: How and when did you decide to host the Over-40s Global Cup?

FIK: It had been in my mind for quite some time and I first shared this idea with Haroon Lorgat the then Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the International Cricket Council (ICC) during my meeting with him at the ICC Headquarters in Dubai in 2008. It was the time when only the Indian Board of Veterans was the only active body, other than ours, in the entire cricketing world.

Seeking facilitation and assistance from the world’s governing body for arranging teams from member countries for my proposed Over-40 tournament, I was communicated that the veterans’ cricket was out of their purview. In fact, the ICC supremo had informed me that senior players in the majority of their member countries didn’t enjoy cordial relations with their respective boards.

Although he was appreciative of this novel idea all he could commit on behalf of the ICC was to send umpires for the tournament which obviously was not going to be enough. I was left with no other option than to wait for a while until there was a change of heart. The seeds, however, had been sown, and I had the gut feeling that my dream of launching an Over-40 tournament at the international level will be fulfilled sooner or later.

As expected, veterans’ cricket gained momentum in various countries over the years and the activities were regulated with the formation of controlling bodies. Things kept moving in the right direction as the Over-50 World Cup made its debut in 2018 followed by the launch of the Over-60 World Cup in 2022. Now the Over-40 World Cup is on the horizon.

TNS: Please give us details of the tournament. Which teams are taking part and will there be any international stars representing those teams?

FIK: The inaugural MCW Over-40s Global Cup will be played in Karachi from September 18 to October 2. A total of eight countries will be taking part in it and every team will be playing seven matches in the league rounds at the end of which the top four teams will qualify for the semifinals. Besides hosts Pakistan, there will be teams from Australia, West Indies, USA, Canada, UAE, Nepal and Hong Kong.

Veterans’ cricket spreading like wildfire globally: Fawad Ijaz Khan

A total of 36 matches are scheduled to be played during the tournament. National Bank Arena (formerly National Stadium), NBP Sports Complex, Karachi Gymkhana Cricket Ground, DHA Moin Khan Academy and DHA Southend Club Cricket Stadium will be the venues. The day matches will be played from 10 am to 4.45 pm while five day/night matches will be contested from 2:30 pm to 9:15 pm.

TNS: How tough is it to host an international of such magnitude during difficult times especially economy wise?

FIK: Hosting the tournament in Pakistan was always to be a tough task for obvious reasons. Convincing the international teams to come down here was not easy. We had to offer them incentives in order to rope them for our event. They had security concerns but we are grateful to the Government of Sindh in particular for providing the necessary assurances which satisfied the foreign participants.

Secondly, we had a narrow window for our tournament as lots of cricketers had other obligations. The delayed confirmation from some of the participating teams allowed us less time to do the event’s marketing. As we approached the corporates for sponsorship at the eleventh hour, their budget for the year had already been exhausted due to their commitments in Asia Cup and World Cup. The economic meltdown in the country didn’t help our cause either. We, however, have managed to secure funds to meet the costs of the tournament thankfully.

TNS: Veterans’ cricket has come a long way. How do you describe the journey?

FIK: We have been successful in making our presence felt both at the national as well as international level during our 25-year-old journey which has been quite an eventful one. The veterans’ cricket has propelled expeditiously throughout the globe during the last few years but the indigenous idea in Pakistan traces its roots way back to 1997 when Ideal Group organised a tournament in Karachi. The final of the landmark event was contested between Ideal Group and A O Clinic which subsequently led to the birth of the Pakistan Veterans Cricket Association (PVCA), which was founded officially on April 23, 1998.

Prompted by a vacuum to engage senior or veteran cricketers on the cricket field, I had floated the idea of forming an Association for this purpose, and with the support of like-minded friends and patrons, the dream turned into reality. I remained the Chief Executive Officer of the PVCA from its inception until 1998 when I was elected as Chairman of the body.

Since inception, we have succeeded in making our mark at the domestic level by organising the Veterans Cup (Over-50s) and Super Veterans Cup (Over 60s) apart from National Seniors Cup (Over 40s) on a regular basis. Inter-School cricket tournaments are another prominent initiative of the PVCA which have provided an exceptional platform for youngsters to showcase their potential.

Several stars like former Pakistan Test captain Sarfaraz Ahmed, the world-class wicketkeeper-batsman who lifted the Champions Trophy for Pakistan in 2017, and Saim Ayub, the flamboyant left-handed opener already having earned Pakistan cap, are proud products of these tournaments.

TNS: When did you break into the international arena?

FIK: The first ever veteran’s clash in an official capacity took place between India and Pakistan (Over-35) in 2005 when the Pakistan Veterans team visited India to play a four-match series which was organised by the Board for Veterans Cricket in India (BVCI).

The first encounter took place at Sirsa Haryana on December 26 where a huge turnout of around 15,000 spectators watched the match which was telecast live. The Indian Seniors then toured Pakistan in 2006 and Pakistan undertook another tour of India again 2007. All these three series, spread over 12 matches, were beamed live and it featured the participation of prominent former Test players from both countries which attracted massive crowds.

Following the groundbreaking Veterans series between the two of the greatest cricket nations, Pakistan and India, the PVCA had remained in touch with P R Maan Singh and later on with Chetan Chauhan who headed the BVCI after its formation.

Muhammad Azharuddin, the world record holder for scoring a century in each of his first three Tests, captained the Indian team in all these three series whereas Abdul Qadir, the leg-spinning wizard, captained the Pakistani side two times and Rashid Latif, the ace wicketkeeper-batsman, led the side in one series. Pakistan Veterans managed to win two out of these three series.

Pakistan Veterans teams have made successful bilateral tours to England in 2009, 2014, 2017 and 2019, undertaking two tours to South Africa in 2015 and 2017 while travelling to Sri Lanka in 2011, 2016 and 2017.

The PVCA, besides its exceptional administration skills, has been simply scintillating in ensuring and depicting top-notch on-ground performances. The Pakistani teams have been successfully dominating the show and are a force to reckon with at various age levels.

The Pakistan Over-50 team remained the runners-up in the inaugural Over 50s World Cup held in Sydney in 2018 and it has the highest winning percentage across the cricketing globe. The Pakistan Over-60, under my captaincy, was crowned as the worthy champions of the Over 60s cricket World Cup held in Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, Australia in 2022.

The Pakistan Over-50 team also participated in the Over-50 World Cup which was staged at Cape Town, South Africa, in March 2023. As many as 14 countries took part in this event but Pakistan narrowly missed qualification in the last four. Pakistan, however, earned the distinction of having overpowered England, the eventual champions, in the league encounter.

TNS: Are national cricket authorities supportive of veterans’ cri-cket?

FIK: Neither the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) nor any governmental organisation lend us financial support. The PVCA, registered with the Securities Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), is governed on a self-help basis by a board of 20 directors who are elected for a term of three years.

TNS: Do you expect fans to turn up for matches to support the Pakistan team which features former stars like Shahid Afridi and Abdul Razzaq in the upcoming Over-40s Global Cup?

FIK: We all know that the spectators, of late, have not been turning up in very large numbers to watch the national team even in One-day Internationals. Therefore, we don’t expect capacity crowds to watch the action but certainly we are hopeful of substantial turnouts in the matches at National Stadium.

Veterans’ cricket spreading like wildfire globally: Fawad Ijaz Khan

Now T20 are known for attracting the masses. We were eager to organize this Over-40s Global Cup in the T20 format but other teams didn’t agree. We, however, are planning an international T20 tournament next year in which the other leading teams like England, South Africa, New Zealand and Sri Lanka will also be persuaded to participate.

TNS: How do you foresee the future of veterans’ cricket in Pakistan and internationally?

FIK: Trust me that veterans’ cricket is spreading like wildfire globally. Some people may be surprised but the fact remains that it has become the most popular brand of cricket internationally. As many as 25 countries are into it very seriously now. Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Kuwait are among the nations where veterans cricket has got a firm foothold and they look forward to joining the elite list of 14 countries who have settled infrastructure already. So, veterans’ cricket is here to stay and flourish, both in Pakistan as well as internationally.

TNS: As chairman PVCA what do you think are the standout milestones achieved by the association over the years?

FIK: Hosting the series against India in 2006, which was a roaring success, was deemed as our single biggest achievement until we won the inaugural Over-60s World Cup against all odds in Australia last year. We have had only four Over-60s outfits in Karachi and none elsewhere in the country.

We managed to overpower hosts Australia in the semifinals and before taming their neighbours New Zealand in the final. Both these countries, having a large number of Over-60s teams, enjoyed greater experience of it but we shocked them with our sterling performance to lift the trophy.

Khalid Hussain is Editor Sports of The News International

Veterans’ cricket spreading like wildfire globally: Fawad Ijaz Khan