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No more financial incentives for teams touring Pakistan - PCB chairman Ehsan Mani

Teams that have toured Pakistan in recent years have been paid big sums by the PCB, but the current chairman has ended that practice

Umar Farooq
Umar Farooq
Ehsan Mani addresses a press conference  •  AFP

Ehsan Mani addresses a press conference  •  AFP

The PCB has been spending substantially to induce players - and boards - to travel to Pakistan and play international cricket in recent years. Whenever international or Pakistan Super League games have been played in the country since 2015, the PCB has spent millions of dollars to try and change perceptions of visiting teams. But PCB chairman Ehsan Mani feels that this sort of expenditure can only be to achieve "short-term goals", and the objective should be to build a firmer foundation of trust and commitment for longer-term benefits.
There was no major international cricket in Pakistan for six years following the 2009 attack on Sri Lanka's team bus in Lahore. Pakistan were forced to play their home games at neutral venues - mostly in the UAE - but the PCB didn't stop trying to convince teams to tour Pakistan, and financial rewards played a key part in its efforts bearing fruit to some extent.
Zimbabwe came first, in 2015, with each of their players receiving USD 12,500. Overseas players who played the PSL final in 2017 were also paid large sums to make a one-day trip to Lahore. An ICC World XI toured Lahore in 2017, with each player offered USD 100,000 to make the trip. Last year, members of a second-string West Indies side received USD 25,000 each when they visited Karachi for a three-match T20I series.
This has been the norm over the years, but Mani, who took over from Najam Sethi as PCB chairman last year, wants to change things around, and the Sri Lanka players who are in Pakistan right now have not been offered extra financial incentives by the PCB.
"Transparency and merit are very important aspects for me," Mani said in Lahore during the launch of the logo for the upcoming Pakistan-Sri Lanka series. "Whoever wants to come to Pakistan, we will welcome them wholeheartedly. But whoever is coming for money, his commitment isn't for Pakistan.
"So what is more important for us is to mollify everyone [and tell them] that Pakistan is a safe country. With money, we can attain short-term goals, but we want to build a solid foundation to make a longer-term impact for the sake of the betterment of Pakistan cricket."
After a brief period of uncertainty, Sri Lanka's tour is finally underway, with the team already in Karachi, and Pakistan are hosting their longest bilateral series in a decade. The National Stadium in Karachi will host the ODIs while the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore will host the T20Is.
The ODIs will be the first to take place in Pakistan since Zimbabwe's tour in 2015. Apart from those games, the only high-profile matches in Pakistan to feature overseas players in recent times have been T20Is or PSL games.
Mani noted that the steady increase in the number of PSL matches being played in Pakistan has been a step forward. "We have been working for long now and the PSL games did a lot to help us," he said. "This year in PSL, 32 to 35 overseas players came, and they all came out of their own interest. Their only complaint was about having too much security cover; they wanted to go out and socialise with free movement, but it was a constraint put up by our security officials. They wanted to assure [the players of] security and make them comfortable to start with. That's why they were escorted everywhere with security."
Sri Lanka's current tour is their second since the 2009 attack. They toured Pakistan for one T20I in Lahore in 2017 amid extraordinary security arrangements, with a three-to-four-kilometre radius around the stadium virtually locked down, and over 12,000 security personnel deployed at various spots.
The arrangements will be stringent this time too, with the Sri Lanka team receiving the same level of security given to visiting heads of state.
Given these arrangements, Mani understands that players are limited to being either at the stadium or at their hotel, but is hopeful that a greater degree of normalcy will return in due course.
"I am hopeful the time will come very soon when things will normalise here too, and players can have their freedom and feel totally relaxed the way they do in other countries," Mani said. "This year, cricket Australia CEO Kevin Roberts came along with the security head, now ECB CEO Tom Harrison with one board director, and Cricket Ireland's chief and CEO are coming, so now people have started to feel comfortable and can make an easy decision to make a trip to Pakistan. I tell them the perception you have formed, living in your country, will change when you personally visit Pakistan.
"No country these days we can go to assuming that everything will be fine, after the recent attacks in Colombo and Christchurch. Pakistan over the last one decade has experienced a lot, but with time, we have become strong in managing security. We are right up there with the best countries in the world. This series is a small step but very important towards normalising the situation and bringing back full international cricket in the country."
Earlier this month, Mani had said Pakistan would want to play the Test leg of the Sri Lanka series - which has been postponed to December - at home as well, and not at a neutral venue.
He reiterated that stand, and hoped Pakistan would soon be able to host all their home series in their country.
"We have been playing in front of virtually empty stadiums [in the UAE], which wasn't a cause of motivation, and was a soul-destroying thing to see," Mani said. "In Pakistan, we will have people coming to the stadium not only to support their own team but also applaud Sri Lanka for taking a big step to help us as a country."

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent