Saad Shafqat
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Writer based in Karachi

A Pakistan Premier League?

If attempts at one fail, it won't be for a lack of ideas but of intent

Saad Shafqat

May 16, 2012

Comments: 37 | Text size: A | A

Sialkot celebrate their Faysal Bank T20 triumph, Final, Rawalpindi Rams v Sialkot Stallions, Faysal Bank T20, Karachi, October 2, 2011
Domestic Twenty20 has been well received in Pakistan © Shakir Khilji
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The IPL isn't exactly water cooler talk in Pakistan, but it does trigger a certain amount of envy. The matches can be watched live on a local sports channel, and a popular private pastime is to spot Pakistan in the game in as many ways as you can. Though Pakistani players have been systematically excluded from the tournament, Azhar Mahmood has broken through, aided by his newly acquired British citizenship. There is also Ramiz Raja in the commentator's chair, and Asad Rauf and Aleem Dar officiating as umpires. Obsessives can even spot a Pakistani bat or two in the middle, such as an Ihsan Inferno 950 in the hands of Chris Gayle, or a CA Plus 12000 being wielded by James Franklin.

Inevitably, far from gladdening their hearts, these traces of Pakistan only deepen the fans' sense of rejection. The mind wanders, and seeks to console itself with thoughts of Pakistani players pulling off daring exploits in the IPL - Shahid Afridi clearing the ropes, Saeed Ajmal clipping the off bail with his doosra, Umar Gul yorking each delivery of a death over - to deafening cheers from overflowing Indian crowds. Before long comes the ultimate question: why can't we have a glamorous T20 league of our own?

To be sure, there are substantial barriers to Pakistan putting up a tournament in the manner and scope of the IPL. Even if the PCB could somehow conjure up the sizeable cash and requisite marketing muscle, it will still need to find some breathing room in the international calendar. With commercial leagues proliferating on top of an already busy ICC itinerary, this is becoming nearly impossible. The crowded calendar also means compromising on the tournament's celebrity cricketer content, since a fair few elite internationals are bound to be ruled out from participating, no matter when the league is scheduled.

Let us consider the positives, though. For one, packed arenas for a glitzy Pakistan T20 league are virtually guaranteed. Until a few years ago, spectators for Pakistan's domestic matches were unheard of, but the knockout stage of Pakistan's current local T20 tournament has been drawing capacity crowds year after year. Also noteworthy is Pakistan's increasingly permissive media culture and the availability of aggressive marketing tools, collectively providing favourable circumstances for launching a commercial cricket venture. Admittedly security remains a wildcard, though not if the state puts its mind to it. Enough money on offer could counter the security perception too.

If you ask cricket authorities in Pakistan what has kept them from producing their own T20 extravaganza, they will list the usual adversities of terrorism, controversy, and political and economic uncertainty. The reality, though, is that an internationally viable commercial sports league, with its intricate marriage of business and entertainment, represents entirely new territory for the PCB. It requires a competent and experienced management team that is capable of complex organisation, has mastery over financing and marketing, and is motivated by a vision that goes beyond simply IPL envy or the broken-record mantra of restoring international cricket to Pakistan.

 
 
If you ask cricket authorities in Pakistan what has kept them from producing their own T20 extravaganza, they will list the usual adversities of terrorism and political and economic uncertainty. The reality, though, is that such a league represents entirely new territory for the PCB
 

The PCB may be late coming to the party, but one area where they could make a genuine impact is in coming up with an innovative format. They might consider, for example, dispensing with the typical layout of city-based franchises and instead go regional. You could start by dividing the country into major regions - the four provinces, plus the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Gilgit-Baltistan, and even Pakistan-controlled Kashmir - and raising teams dominated by local players from each area. Add in Afghanistan and the UAE, both ODI nations, along with Nepal, which is an Associate member of the ICC, and you have an intriguing ten-team roster that would command a huge potential following and could get highly competitive.

The biggest roadblock, of course, is in raising the kind of money that will attract top players from elite nations like Australia, England, South Africa, and India. In the absence of Bollywood star power or its equivalent, the presence of these players will be the most important determinant of a Pakistani tournament's glamour quotient. When the IPL was initially launched, wealthy Indians forked over nearly a hundred million dollars each to buy franchises and generate internationally competitive player salaries. This is comparable to European or North American sport, but by Pakistani standards these figures are astronomical.

An excellent potential option for the PCB is to involve China as a strategic investor. They have more spare cash than anyone else in the world, possess an unlimited sporting appetite, and are on record about their ambitions for cricket in particular. They may also sense opportunities in this venture that go beyond sport, into the sphere of geopolitics, regional diplomacy and foreign policy. As with any private sports league, a major revenue stream for franchise teams will be their share of tournament or title sponsorships. If the PCB coordinates with the Pakistan government and plays it cards right, Chinese money could foot this bill.

As always with the PCB, though, ultimately governance will be its Achilles heel. Even if it somehow manages to assemble a crackerjack organisational outfit, conceive of an innovative regional format, secure hefty Chinese financing, attract the world's best players, ensure airtight security, and carve out a slice in the international calendar, the job of Pakistan's cricket bosses will only be half done. The remaining half will be to sit back, resist the temptation to interfere, and keep corrupt hands away from the money pot. They will also be required to protect the enterprise from tinkering by influential politicians and other heavyweights.

None of this has ever been a strong point for the PCB, an undemocratic body whose chairman is always a hand-picked political appointee. If Pakistan's attempts at a dazzling T20 league eventually fall short, it won't be because of a lack of ideas. It will be because of a lack of intent.

Saad Shafqat is a writer based in Karachi

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Posted by Anneeq on (May 19, 2012, 16:41 GMT)

I LOVE T20 cricket but iv never really liked the IPL, the whole event just seems really fake. It seems to more of an international circus than an event with Indian heritage. It lacks the local passion and appeal that the Football league structure has here in England.

I think the best way to go for Pakistan is to avoid internationalizing it like the IPL have tried to do and stay local. We should make this a proper Pakistani event, with urdu commentary and urdu interviews as well as English Football Premier League style cities facing each other and proper grass roots appeal. Itl have a more home grown natural appeal to it, and im sure itl attract the everyday person rather than the upper middle and rich that the IPL attracts. Id rather watch that than an unnatural stage managed event where the whole thing is run in a foreign language (ie English) and have foreign culturally sensitive forms of entertainment (those cringeworthy cheer leaders)!!!!!!

Posted by   on (May 19, 2012, 7:09 GMT)

Well idea of chinese money flowing in is indeed a innovative thought, however, on the other hand I do feel Zardari alone can sponsor atleast 3-4 teams on his own *tongue in cheek*. Jokes apart I really liked the article, Mr. Shafqat has highlighted all the hiccups and possibilities really well.

Posted by   on (May 19, 2012, 0:11 GMT)

Well said,I like the idea of adding UAE,Afghanistan and Nepal,hope for the best :)

Posted by chainsawww on (May 18, 2012, 9:04 GMT)

I strongly believe Imran Khan is the guy who change fortune for Pakistan...League can get busted in present scenario of Pakistani politics...Pakistan needs peace...Bring back cricket to their home first...PCB should be autonomous apart from politics...Its heavy schedule for big star foreign players...More of the cricket for viewers...Putting money is completely based on profit theory...But i would love to watch league if they present in organized manner...PCB have to start from level 0 to compete with level 5...But i would love to see associate country playing...All the best to Pakistan...

Posted by   on (May 18, 2012, 5:32 GMT)

Get real guys, please. It won't happen.

Posted by   on (May 17, 2012, 21:59 GMT)

Anikat < Pakistan Administrated kashmir is Much rich than any other region of pakistan due to the lot of immigration to uk after Mangladam, almost 1/3 of the population is settled in uk which have strong connection to back home, Even the the literacy rate is much higher than other parts of pakistan, so cant underestimate this region

Posted by   on (May 17, 2012, 5:39 GMT)

Indian millionaires didnt fork up the money for the love of the game! It was a business decision that took into account the spending power of the Middle class in India. Pakistani urban regions may have that infrastructure and spending power. But Gilgit-Baltistan, tribal areas and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir?? I seriously doubt that!

Posted by niyasindian on (May 16, 2012, 23:34 GMT)

Intersting idea... agree with the auther... the inclusion of associate countries like Nepal, Afganistan n Uae will increase the fan base of PPL .... I don knw when BCCI will include associate players in IPL ..

Posted by Syed_imran_abbas on (May 16, 2012, 21:36 GMT)

They should make domestic t20 more exciting and colourfull... but i agree last few tournament been very exciting and full of crowed.. i hope coditions will get better after these general elections by the end of this year... but i yeah i we really miss cricket in pakistan.

Posted by Zahidsaltin on (May 16, 2012, 19:08 GMT)

You mean, matches should be played in Pakistan, Shanghai and UAE? I am not even sure that people will come in pakistani stadiums to watch cricket. Domestic T20 might have shown some promise but I don't believe that craze for watching cricket in stadiums is as much as in India. Can they get Bolywood involved in PPL too? Can they have cheer leaders? Can they bring in big names? No, no and no. I had prefered that IPL had developed their product further to include 4 pakistani regions or cirties and had made it a subcontinental league.

Posted by m0se on (May 16, 2012, 18:26 GMT)

Anyone can throw around ideas, but it takes a lot of work and vision to bring it to fruition. When IPL started, it seemed like a cheap way to kill off ICL but every step of the IPL has been a surprise. After five years, the IPL has become the envy of world cricket. I still don't get how the cogs of IPL work to generate such massive salaries and revenues but kudos to the people who put in the work to create the IPL.

Posted by amitgarg78 on (May 16, 2012, 17:31 GMT)

Managing perception of security is going to be the real challenge. Get tht right and the world will be happy to come over. Till then, no amount of money is going to entice people. As good as it seems on paper, executing this is not going to be easy in the current environment.

Posted by   on (May 16, 2012, 17:14 GMT)

It so heartening to see My Indian and Nepali brothers giving a serious talk about Pakistan Cricket, All of you, hats off and Thanks for your words, Love you all cricket fans!

Posted by   on (May 16, 2012, 17:04 GMT)

who will come to Pakistan to play? i think nobody...

Posted by Desihungama on (May 16, 2012, 16:38 GMT)

If PCB or the Pakistan Govt were able to do all you have mentioned we would not have been in this messy isolation that we find ourselves today and with no fault of our own, I mean ordinary people. Most PCB can do is organize a tournament as a one-time affair. It requires "real" management skills and using your word "intent" to sustain such a project.

Posted by bilal_bilal on (May 16, 2012, 15:37 GMT)

I nervously hope that PCB authorities dont read this article.Regions instead of cities? That would be a disaster! I am from sialkot and I will probably support sialkot just as passionately as I support Pakistan. Howerer, can u imagine people cheering for punjab over balochistan. No way! I think city based teams have attracted more interest from fans in any domestic format than ever before! However including teams from afghanistan and nepal wont be a bad idea. UAE does't have core supporters si I would rather mull the idea of inviting champion sides of Sri lanka and bangladesh premier leagues. Now that wil make it unique and interesting

Posted by getsetgopk on (May 16, 2012, 14:54 GMT)

Agree with the writer here, the guys running cricket in Pakistan unlike their cricketers are not known for their innovations. A completely new territory for them. More often than not, they have made a mess of normal day to day things of cricket. But time has come to join in on what has become the norm rather being mere spectators. Warding off corrupt officials would be a monumental task but a private franchise based system along with the revitalized and aggressive media coverage should take care of that problem. Not to mention the great Khan is soon to be elected PM of the country.

Posted by Bruisers on (May 16, 2012, 14:29 GMT)

Pakistan can't create such a league since overseas players are not gonna travel to Pakistan. They need to firstly create an all-Pakistani 6 team tournament and then as time goes, overseas players will start playing and you can expand the number of teams. Its a difficult thing to get overseas players, but if big bucks are in store, players will start taking part.

Posted by DeepakDixit on (May 16, 2012, 13:08 GMT)

Saad,don't want to look overly critical more so becoz of being an indian, but ve doubts over ur idea 1)Obiviously matches ll be played in Pak as opposed to one sugges here as you can't earn that much outside for a domestic format.2) if matches are going to be played in Pak, you can't fly all the way to afganistan,UAE,Nepal for home matches thanks to visa issues and suspicion over fan following capabilities of regions3) without home matches nobody would sponser these teams. that ll mean no big players4) City based format has given the BCCI flexibility of adding/ removing teams as inspite of being from same region PUNE could still be added along with Mumabai.5)If China ll be sponsoring , Will PCB have any control over sposnors6) Biggest obstacle is BCCI. keeping in view of BCCI's hold over ICC & world cricket, will BCCI allow a tournament flourish sans indian players.Only adavantage of idea is being based on privincial structure games cud be played in diff cities preventing fan burn-out

Posted by DeepakDixit on (May 16, 2012, 12:52 GMT)

Hi Saad, i don't want to be seen as overly critical more so because of me being an indian, but have certain doubts over your idea i)Obiviously all matches will be played in Pakistan as opposed to one suggestion by a fan here as you can't earn that much outside for a domestic format, you can clearly compare the IPL earnings when it happend in IND and SA. ii) if matches are going to be played in Pakistan, you can't fly all the way to afganistan , UAE and Nepal for home matches for these teams thanks to visa issues and suspicion over fan following capabilities of these regions. iii) without home matches nobody would sponser these teams as they can't get their money back. playing without sponsor will mean no big players for these teams iv) City based format has given the BCCI flexibility of adding or removing teams as inspite of being from same region PUNE could still be added along with Mumabai.Same way BCCI can remove team like PUNE whenever they want. fan base will again get along w

Posted by StatisticsRocks on (May 16, 2012, 12:39 GMT)

To me what Pakistan needs more than a PPL like tournament is the resumption of International cricket. Countries and players willing to tour Pakistan for a test and ODI series. This will automatically lead to a PPL like tournament as international players will be assured of their safety and will not hesitate to participate in PPL or any other form of cricket. We all know there is no lack of passion for cricket in this country and they need cricket and the world cricket needs PAK. Adding Pak players to IPL would have increased the fan base to the already popular IPL. It's sad as political agenda creeps into sports and destroys the beauty and the purity of the game, for no fault of common people like you and me, who only want to enjoy a gr8 game of cricket. Is that too much to ask. Pak friends do not blame all of India for no Pak player in IPL as it only takes a few bad apple as is the case here. We are huge fans of gr8 Pak players like Imran, Waz, Waqar, Zaheer Abbas and many more.

Posted by AlbertEinstein on (May 16, 2012, 12:22 GMT)

If PCB can innovate international cricket for disabled people, it can surely innovate a unique domestic T20 tournament.The idea of inviting international teams is great, in fact I would recommend inviting Ireland too, like Afghanistan they also have great talent that is desperate for international attention.

Posted by   on (May 16, 2012, 10:22 GMT)

timing needs to be right... PPL will happen, sooner or later, thats for sure...but u have to make room for it in the international calender... that looks impossible in the current year !!!

Posted by AbhijeetC on (May 16, 2012, 9:51 GMT)

This is huge task to accomplish...be realistic saad....Pakistan can not resume international cricket at the moment....let the IPL like tournament......if Pakistan government and some sane people from their politics won't act cleverly....i don't see see international cricket starts very soon.......teams like Australia did not play in Pakistan in more than decade now

Posted by   on (May 16, 2012, 9:31 GMT)

Brilliant thoughts ! .........Ihsan inferno and CA plus ! Amazing

Posted by   on (May 16, 2012, 9:23 GMT)

Tbh i'd rather watch a well organised four day match than a T20. We already have faisal bank for that. But if the pcb is serious about this then they should wait for one more year imo, because srilanka is also starting their own league and we have the world cup coming later this year so by the end of this year everybody will be burnt out. But then again i believe that we need some quality cricket not some meaningless 3 hour joyride, so we'd be better off spending some money on our domestic structure and on our players.

Posted by JamesTHEwalldravid on (May 16, 2012, 8:22 GMT)

@nikhil11 I disagree regarding Pakistan becoming too dependent on China. On the other hand I think it is of the utmost of importance that Pakistan keep their players away from The IPL and thereby avoid becoming dependent on India. No offense to anyone, but WI, NZ, SL and others are already fare too dependent on India and the IPL. It is not like BCCI has been a great friend to Pakistan anyway.

Posted by remnant on (May 16, 2012, 7:36 GMT)

Why can't a Pakistan induce the governing kleptocracy to reinvest the ill-gotten wealth back in Pakistan rather than keep it offshore. This could be provided as an amnesty scheme that would certianly help Pakistan avoid attritional political jousts, and benefit the economy. Pitting cities makes more sense than fanning further provincialism, in a state where the cleavages across provincial lines are strongly drawn. However the writer is right; It would be a good idea to induct other transnational associate teams and wealthier clubs. People are more interested in engaging contests rather than who provides it. But Pakistani board pulling it off is a far fetched idea, since it has hardly shown any management capabilites in handling the regular game, let alone innovating to a new level. The franchise business should be outsourced to better professionals experienced in such pursuits. From an Indian fan of Pakistani brand of cricket.

Posted by   on (May 16, 2012, 7:26 GMT)

Including other nations like nepal, uae and afghanistan is interesting. It will not only attract a wider range of audience, but also funds as big purses from each nation would be proud to own thier team franchise. I will not be surprised if more nations are invited to join may be hongkong or other nations playing cricket and not full members of ICC or not participating with major nations. That could be good initiative for them to improve their game and experience.

Posted by   on (May 16, 2012, 7:23 GMT)

I agree with you Saad, If Pakistan's attempts at a dazzling T20 league eventually fall short, it won't be because of a lack of ideas. It will be because of a lack of intent. You mentioned China, I think Sheikhs from UAE can also be investors.

Posted by Meety on (May 16, 2012, 7:22 GMT)

I have no doubts Pakistan CAN host an "IPL style" T20 league, the problem really does lie in the comment about ".....resist the temptation to interfere, and keep corrupt hands away from the money pot....."

Posted by   on (May 16, 2012, 6:10 GMT)

Indeed most of Pakistanis were wondering for past couple of years how come we cannot arrange a show similar to IPL. Now even BPL is there and SLCL is also on verge of introducing itself to cricket friternity.

It simply shows that the Pakistani board (PCB) lacks the vision and does not possess the entrepreneurial skills like Lallit Modi of India. Background of most of our cricket administrators is Bureaucracy and that is why they are always short of a futuristic vision for anything.

One thing is for sure, if we offer the right price even current Australian & NZ players would be in front running to join PPL, and to add to flavor we can also invite teams from Nepal as suggested by Dipesh and also one from Afghanistan.

Incase if the peace situation at present is a "real concern" factor to most of overseas players we can arrange it initiall for a couple of years in UAE where all basic infrastructure to have wonderful night / evening cricket is avaiable which Im sure all would agree.

Posted by vatsap on (May 16, 2012, 5:24 GMT)

The biggest road block is not the money, it is for Pakistan to be accepted in the world stage, be it Cricket or non-Cricketing reasons and this cannot be solved by even an administrator who has the best intention for cricket to flower further in Pakistan or good cricketers. It is very amusing to see China being brought into this.

Posted by nikhil11 on (May 16, 2012, 5:13 GMT)

With the recent development of CLT20 where Sailkot Stallions are allowed to play in India. We can se a big future of Pakistani players playing in IPL.. If Ramiz Raja, Aleem Dar, Asad Rauf can participate why not Pakistani players.. Me as a Indian is desperate to see the likes of the Afridis, the Ajmals to play in IPL... Also with the question of Chinese investors for PPL, i think it will not work cause it will again create a kind of dependency on China which Pakistan doesnt want at this point of time. If Pakistan is to create its own premier league it has to be its own baby...

Posted by   on (May 16, 2012, 5:01 GMT)

Its a shame that Pakistan players cannot play in IPL and world knows Pakistan players deserve a much comprehensive T20 league of their own. On a quicker note, I appreciate writer's idea of having associate nations in the league. Its a win-win for both. I am from Nepal and you would be really surprised to know how much cricket is loved in Nepal and for some reasons, Pakistan cricket is pretty popular over there.

Posted by   on (May 16, 2012, 4:29 GMT)

well written!! and if teams from Nepal are included, as indicated by the writer, i promise the league will get immense support and viewership from all of us Nepalese, much more than the IPL..just be ensured of that!

Posted by   on (May 16, 2012, 4:22 GMT)

maybe I'm an ageist, but I really wouldn't be disappointed if the idea of a franchise based T20 league fails for Pakistan. Leagues like IPL, and others soon to join their ranks like BPL, BigBash and SPL, overemphasise T20 cricket and T20 skills, leading to current players and incoming players adapting and toning their games more for T20 cricket than FC cricket, this will inevitably lead to the demise of solid young players like Azhar Ali, Raza Hasan, Junaid Khan, Azeem Ghumman, Asad Shafiq, Fawad Alam etc. I accept T20 as a format, but its domestic competition should be no more than it is now for Pakistan, just a PCB majority sponsored domestic tournament like the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy and the National Cup.

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