PSL and the price we don’t have to pay

February 23, 2020

Massive traffic jams and financial losses are necessary evils as we proudly host a full season of the T20 league on home soil. But what about costly blunders like Thursday’s chaotic opening ceremony?

COSTLY BLUNDER… From pyrotechnical blunders to directorial flaws, the PSL opening ceremony turned out to be a big flop

There was complete chaos outside the National Stadium last Wednesday evening. At first sight it looked a bit odd hearing a loud, almost unbearable chorus of horns but not much traffic in view as I came out of the iconic venue looking for my ride.

But once on the road, I realized that the cops have blocked all thoroughfares leading or passing by the stadium.

“It’s been like this for the last ten minutes,” a young chap standing on the sidewalk told me as I surveyed my surroundings in disgust. To my left, from where my ride was supposed to come, I could see hundreds and hundreds of cars, motorcycles and other vehicles stretching up to perhaps the Millennium Mall (that’s quite a distance).

I called my driver and was told he had been stuck in traffic for quite some time, almost half a kilometre from the main gate of the stadium. It was a traffic nightmare and the PSL opening match was still more than 24 hours away. Then a coaster, probably carrying one of the teams, came out of the main gate and once it was gone, the traffic was allowed to proceed. Unfortunately for me, it took another ten minutes or so for my driver to reach me.

But that’s the price you have to pay.

The situation is no better in Lahore which this year will host a bulk of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) season 5 matches. On top of traffic nightmares, traders in Lahore are claiming that there would be daily losses of around 21 billion rupees because of closure of roads and markets in the vicinity of the Gaddafi Stadium.

But that’s the price you have to pay.

After all, a full edition of PSL on home soil is a big victory for the whole nation. Who would have thought back in 2016 when the PSL was launched that in 2020 Pakistan will stage a complete season of the T20 league?

So it is a big leap forward.

Such leaps almost always come with a price. In case of PSL, Karachiites, Lahoris and now the eager citizens of Rawalpindi and Multan will have to brave traffic jams while some business people will have to overlook their losses. There will be incidents here and there because of the tight security rings in and around the four venues which will be hosting 34 PSL matches this season.

But that’s the price you have to pay.

Till when? That’s the question on the minds of many especially the ones, who have the misfortune of not following cricket like an average Pakistani does.

Ask Ehsan Mani, the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), and he will tell you that sooner rather than later the authorities will find a way to take security measures without burdening the citizens too much. One hopes that is true because despite all their love for cricket people will soon become less tolerant. They already are becoming impatient, something that was evident from what I witnessed on Wednesday evening.

But for the moment, it is the price you have to pay as Pakistan campaigns to revive international cricket at home.

But there is also a price which you don’t have to pay.

Like the cost of the chaotic opening ceremony of the PSL held on Thursday evening at the National Stadium.

It was an expensive affair which went terribly wrong.

In the absence of any official figures, I would rely on reports. It is believed that the opening ceremony came with a price tag of Rs210 million. If that’s true, then it’s an awfully big price tag for an event that became a butt of jokes on the social media. It was like a nightmare from start to finish. From pyrotechnical blunders to directorial flaws, the ceremony turned out to be a big flop.

Had any sensible high official in the PCB seen the rehearsals he would have suggested the directors to improve it. Or maybe just call it off.

But can you call off an opening ceremony at the last moment? Well, it’s a tough decision. But I would do that because it would have saved PCB both in terms of expenses and embarrassment. In any case, having all that celebration, fireworks and music just a few miles away from the coastal locality of Keamari where many poor residents were still mourning their dead following a mysterious toxic gas leakage, did leave a bad taste in the mouth. The Board could have at least toned it down as a mark of respect for the scores of dead Karachiites just days before the event.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, just before the chaotic opening ceremony came the bombshell. The PCB, in a media release, announced that it had suspended Umar Akmal under its anti-corruption code.

SCOURGE OF CORRUPTION…Umar Akmal’s suspension under PCB’s anti-corruption code is another stark reminder that the PSL remains a target for fixers

The timing couldn’t have been worse. Umar’s Quetta Gladiators, the defending champions, were due to take on two-time title winners Islamabad United in the opening game of PSL season 5. His suspension has cast a shadow over the league reigniting the nightmarish memories of the 2016 edition when several key Pakistani players including Sharjeel Khan, Khalid Latif and Nasir Jamshed were caught red-handed in a spot-fixing scandal.

Umar’s suspension means that the PSL is very much in the reach of the scourge of the fixing mafia.

That’s the price we don’t have to pay.

Pakistan cricket has suffered a lot because of the menace of corruption and it is the job of the PCB to use all ways and means to eliminate or at least curb this scourge.

When the PSL was being planned back in 2015, the very first fear I had in mind was how we would be able to shield it from the fixing mafias. After all, T20 leagues around the globe are hotbeds for corruption. The glitzy and lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL) is a prime example. It’s an open secret that a lot of shady stuff goes on within the IPL. But such is the power and influence of the Indian cricket board (BCCI) that the league continues to flourish despite its poor reputation.

But the PSL doesn’t have that Teflon advantage enjoyed by the IPL and for obvious reasons. The PCB has little or no clout at the international stage. And Pakistan cricket carries the burden of its past when it comes to match-fixing.

The PCB has to make it its number one task to root out corruption. So far it hasn’t done that. Instead of wasting its precious millions on half-baked, poorly-executed projects like Thursday’s opening ceremony, the Board should invest more funds, time and energy into its anti-corruption wing.

A successful PSL with a clean image is really important to Pakistan cricket. We are in its fifth edition and have so far overcome obstacles by using the cushion that comes with the fact that a lot of patriotism is linked to it. We tell ourselves that PSL is a Pakistani product and we should be proud of it. We should support it even if there are issues like massive traffic jams and financial losses.

WAVE OF PATRIOTISM… will finally wear out and mere slogans of ‘Pakistan zindabad’ won’t help sustain the T20 league which is and should remain a favourite with the masses. But the under-performing PCB will need to pull up its socks

But soon that cushion is going to wear out. Mere slogans of ‘Pakistan zindabad’ won’t help sustain the league which is and should remain a favourite with the masses. But that will only happen if the PCB makes proper plans and executes them in a flawless manner. Unfortunately, for millions of our cricket fans, it didn’t happen that way last Thursday.

Khalid Hussain is Editor Sports of The News    [email protected]

PSL and the price we don’t have to pay