"There will be peace in our time" said the England PM in 1938. "We have checked the area. There is no major damage or loss of life" said a senior military officer after news broke on early morning of October 8, 2005 that an earthquake had struck the northern areas of Pakistan. And of course that loadshedding will disappear from Pakistan in six months as claimed by the top brass of PML.
Well, we heard the cricketing news a few weeks back that Pakistan is actually in the Big Four, that we have worked out agreements with all nations, especially our good friend South Africa to play each other more, and wonder of wonders that Pakistan will play no less than six Test series against India over the next eight years starting late 2015.
Now the news has started filtering through that we will actually play ‘home’ series against India that include only two Tests whereas we will play three Tests in each of the two tours in India. Number of ODI’s is the same either side with 5, though India play an extra T20 in one of the tours, compared to 2 each in every series between the two.
Within this disappointing Test scenario is that Pakistan will host an entire series of 5 ODI’s and that total ODIs hosted by Pakistan will be 20 compared to ten by India.
I wrote to Mr. Najam Sethi why this is the case and his emailed reply was that there is hardly any Test match following in Pakistan compared to Australia, England, India and South Africa where they also earn through gate money. People here watch more ODIs than Tests. Fair enough, if we agree that earning money is a priority for PCB even though it is Tests that define skill and talent in cricketers. Further, with declining number of Tests played by Pakistan, more and more youngsters will be going for a style of play suited for limited over cricket. Be prepared for a surfeit of Shahid Afridi molds than say Mohammad Yousuf. Classical cricket is dying in Pakistan because it can’t afford an audience. And rather than doing something about it we are cutting our losses. A crying shame really.
Lets also see whether PCB plays no series of 3 Tests or above if the logic for India playing two Tests only is to be applied to other countries whom Pakistan host.
It should also be monitored as to how many Tests Sri Lanka and West Indies end up playing in their home series with other countries. They are literally bankrupt and would in fact be more than willing to cut down on their Tests, as they are hardly attended. If they haven’t, and support Test cricket then I’m afraid PCB will have weak footing to stand on, considering it still carries a comfortable reserve and positive bank balance. In fact West Indies have already announced a 4-Test series against Pakistan. Seems they are more concerned for quality cricket than us despite being in near poverty.
Pakistan is also scheduled to play only two series against South Africa up to 2023 even though their board was one of the last to stand by PCB. So much for the special relationship the PCB claimed to have created with the South African board till a year or so back. Perhaps Sri Lanka will keep us routinely entertained, if that’s what you can call it.
Najam Sethi also wrote back to me that because Pakistan was the last to sign up, there were hardly any gaps left in the FTP for other teams to accommodate PCB by the time they went knocking on the doors of the other cricket boards. Nevertheless let’s see what FTP Sri Lanka or even South Africa manages to achieve. There were not too many days between them signing on with the proposal of the Big Three. Further, South Africa’s cricket board is just about despised by the BCCI. If they and Sri Lanka get a better deal with Australia, England and India that will be another question the PCB will have to answer.
This is especially because both Najam Sethi and Zaka Ashraf have rightly claimed previously that all countries want to play more against Pakistan due to the quality of our cricket which raises their broadcast ratings than any of the bottom five teams in the Test playing 10-member group. What makes it more intriguing is that Pakistan will not play any 5-Test series when they tour anywhere although, as Najam Sethi says, the Test Match revenue model is successful in only four countries, in the Big Three plus South Africa.
Pakistan has reportedly been allotted three series that stretch to 4-Tests at the most, two of them in England and one in West Indies. Clearly England has made that decision based on the Pakistani community there; West Indies perhaps because they had the time.
All this makes me reach the conclusion that the Pakistan team is considered by most boards to be only good enough for ODIs due to nature of their cricketers. Australia and South Africa shudder at the thought of early finishes in Tests and the current Pakistan side is not predicted to do well in Tests on tours to Australia, South Africa due to nature of pitches and the techniques of our batsmen. Having said that, it has to be seen that more and more boards are reverting to 3 or at most 4-Test series sue to the burnout of the cricketers. There is simply too much cricket being played around the world and there is the danger that top cricketers will drop out of Tests to keep themselves fit for the private leagues and ODIs/T20s. It may just be that the contest for The Ashes will stretch to five Tests due to historic purposes.