Instead of pointing a finger at cricket, officials running other sports should start doing their job professionally
Cricket is eating up other sports in Pakistan, right? Think again!
Let's build up the discourse with hockey, our national game, brush up on some other sports and move on to cricket.
Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) is the sport's governing body. In its better days, PHF sported a team of world beaters. Three Olympic hockey golds and four World Championships are a testimony to its past glory. The last of these titles was won in 1994 but things have changed dramatically since then. Pakistan has failed to qualify for the last 2 Olympics and is ranked 18 in the world.
There is a fragile support structure for hockey players. In 2021, PHF awarded central contracts to 16 players with monthly salaries in the trivial range of 20,000 to 50,000 rupees. Most past hockey greats blame PHF for mismanagement, inability to find sponsors and incapability to generate funds. Moreover, lack of modern infrastructure and competent coaches isn't helping the cause of national hockey. PHF's refusal in 2019 to join the FIH Pro League was perhaps the last nail in the coffin. Joining the league would have offered our players the opportunity to rub shoulders with the best teams, but PHF could not capitalize, possibly due to shortage of funds and lack of infrastructure to host home events.
In squash, Pakistan has enjoyed a dominance of almost 5 decades, but since 1994, squash is in a nosedive. Pakistan Squash Federation (PSF) has done little to ameliorate the situation. The good thing is we have a reasonably good infrastructure for squash, but additional sponsorship for foreign travel and international coaches is required.
Football, the most played and loved sport in the world, is not short of followers in Pakistan. The craze and love for football is evident at all levels. Unfortunately, Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) is at loggerheads with FIFA and is currently disqualified for interference in FIFA affairs. From the fields of Lyari to the pastures of Gilgit, we have an untapped football talent pool, but in the absence of a governing body, this potential is just fizzling out.
Street Child Football World Cup is world's premier event for homeless children where Pakistan has played the semi-final in Rio de Janeiro (2014) and final in Moscow (2018). Youngsters who can prove their football skills on the street can shine on the field, provided support, coaching, and advice is available. These youngsters owed their grooming to the efforts of non-governmental outfits.
In athletics, our contestants find themselves at another level of neglect.
In the Tokyo Summer Olympics held in 2021, two of our athletes - Arshad Nadeem (Javelin) and Talha Talib (Weightlifting, 67 kg) managed to win an honourable 5th position in their events. When asked about training facilities available to them, both athletes expressed their desire for a better training and coaching regimen to stay competitive and win future titles.
Despite the flaws in our sporting structure, we have had our golden moments.
Boxing is a living example. Muhammad Waseem, our star boxer with a foreign management team and sponsor, is a two time WBC Silver Flyweight title holder.
Before turning pro, Waseem was on the Pakistan amateur boxing circuit and he hardly has a fond word for Pakistan Boxing Federation, which, he believes is doing very little for local pugilists.
Amateur snooker is another sport that our cueists have ably maneuvered. Muhammad Yousaf was our first IBSF world champion, followed by Muhammad Asif, who won the title twice. The third Pakistani cueist, and the current IBSF World Snooker Champion is 16-year-old Ahsan Ramzan, who won a nail biting final and the title in Doha on 11 March 2022. But now, Ahsan needs support and sponsorship from the government if he has to make his mark on the professional circuit.
In mountaineering, a cornucopia of Pakistani stars, both male and female, have stamped their authority on the sport by conquering the top world peaks. Mohammad Ali Sadpara, the great mountaineer from Gilgit, gave his life on K-2, while attempting the summit in Winter of 2020. Prior to this attempt, he had climbed 8 of the 14 highest peaks, including K-2, now his final resting place. Alpine Club of Pakistan (ACP) supports the national mountaineering efforts and like most sporting bodies, faces lack of funding and sponsorship from the government. The mountaineering community believes ACP can do a lot more for the sport.
Cricket, as they say, is a different ball game. Winners of the ODI World Cup in 1992 and the T-20 World Championship in 2009, Pakistan cricket is riding a wave of popularity. Pakistan has seen transition from slow Test cricket to two years of Kerry Packer's razzmatazz, to the current blitz of T20 style. The evolution has marked an adorable transformation - coloured uniforms, white balls in flood lights, multiple cameras, drones, stump mics and rising revenues.
PCB's major source of funding is the International Cricket Council (ICC), whereas TV broadcasting rights also account for a hefty chunk of its earnings. Part of this is given to players as central contract retainers, while the major portion is channeled into improving domestic cricket structure.
Federations managing other sports do not show the drive that PCB exhibits and sportsmen under their management seem to be stuck between the devil and the deep sea.
Pakistan cricket has earned its stripes and deserves to bask in the glory of its achievements. Is it eating up other sports in Pakistan? Think again!