Quetta stadium to have stands named after Sana Mir, Kiran Baluch
First stadium in Pakistan to have stands named after women's players, as PCB looks to develop the ground into a venue for high-profile cricket
The PCB will honour former women's Test batter Kiran Baluch and former captain Sana Mir by naming enclosures in the Bugti Stadium, Quetta, after them. Former men's captains Misbah-ul-Haq, Shahid Afridi and Younis Khan are among the other players, from a list of 10, to have their names put on enclosures in the stadium. This will be the first time a stadium in Pakistan has had stands named after women's cricketers.
Mohammad Yousuf, Saeed Ajmal, Saqlain Mushtaq, Shoaib Khan (the only male international player to emerge from the Balochistan province) and Shoaib Malik complete the list of 10 players to be honoured in this way.
The Bugti Stadium has hosted only one international game: an ODI between Pakistan and Zimbabwe back in 1996. But it will be hosting a PSL exhibition game on February 5 and is marked as a potential venue for next year's PSL - which would allow Quetta Gladiators to play at home. Najam Sethi, head of the PCB's new management committee, had touched on the topic earlier this month, saying that Quetta would be included in the list of PSL venues for the first time for 2023, but the city did not feature in final fixtures list. The PCB subsequently said logistical concerns had led to a change of plans but it would be added as a host next year along with Peshawar.
Now, a PCB statement said the move to rename the enclosures was "in recognition of their contributions and services to Pakistan cricket, [and] also aligns with the PCB's plans and drive to improve, uplift and enhance spectator and playing facilities at the Bugti Stadium in preparation of the venue being made to host future high-profile matches".
The stadium is the property of the local government, but was handed over to the PCB in 2001 following an agreement that the board would undertake improvements and maintenance of the ground. It has two major built-up stands and two pavilions, with open stands on the north and south side.
The city of Quetta is the capital of Balochistan, Pakistan's least populous province but its largest by area. Cricket has not been as popular in Balochistan as elsewhere in Pakistan. The Bugti Stadium has hosted domestic games since 1954, but not on a consistent basis; it did not host the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, Pakistan's premier first-class competition, for 27 straight years between 1977 and 2004. After a further 12 years of absence from 2007 to 2019, it hosted four first-class games in 2019.
A particular stumbling block to Quetta hosting cricket is the region's weather. Pakistan's domestic season runs from October to March, and winter temperatures in Quetta range around 4-6 degrees Celsius around then. A lack of infrastructure and the security situation in the region over the years have also been factors.
Speaking on the naming of the stands, Sethi said the idea was to help further popularise cricket in the region and, by naming women cricketers, to attract girls in the region to the sport.
"The contributions of these 10 cricketers are meritorious and it is important that we recognise their achievements and accomplishments by naming Bugti Stadium stands in their names," Sethi said. "This will be PCB's small token of appreciation to these players, which will also help in creating awareness about Pakistan stars and game development in the Balochistan province. These 10 cricketers are household names and, admired and followed by all generations of cricket lovers.
"The inclusion of Kiran Baluch and Sana Mir reflects the PCB's vision and endeavours for women's empowerment and attracting young girls to take up this great game and represent their country at the international stage. I am sure we will get to see more girls taking up this sport in Balochistan and the PCB will leave no stone unturned to develop the women's game in this region."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent