x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Domestic action gives Pakistan cricket fresh hope

Negative headlines plaguing Pakistan cricket has seen local fans seeking solace in the domestic scene.

From the militant attack on the touring Sri Lanka squad to the spot-fixing saga involving three of their players, negativity seems to plague Pakistan cricket.

However, possibly as a by-product of Pakistan being an outcast in international cricket, local fans have decided to seek solace in the domestic scene.

Tournaments such as the 2011 Faysal Bank T20 Cup (FBT20) are a stage to showcase local talent. And while legitimate concerns revolve around the effectiveness of such a tournament, there are some positives to be gained.

For instance, T20 tournaments are a great learning curve for bowlers. For one thing, to survive in this form of the game, one has to learn how to outsmart aggressive batsmen. This is why, for a fast bowler, length and pace variation quickly become crucial as predictability can often result in showers of boundaries and sixes.

While many emerging players exhibited raw talent and impressed observers in this tournament, the exposure they gained drew attention to some inherent weaknesses in the coaching structure.

For example, while Sohail Khan stood out with 14 wickets, his participation in an ongoing training camp (at the Lahore National Cricket Academy), has revealed that he has issues with gripping a ball.

Whereas the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has won admirers by bringing high voltage cricket to local grounds, it must improve on the softer aspects of such tournaments.

For example, the grainy quality of television broadcasts as well as the lack of good commentators is a far cry from the slick coverage provided for the Indian Premier League (IPL).

In addition, inviting guest teams from abroad may actually raise the profile of Pakistan cricket and encourage an eventual return of full international tours.

With many of the big names of Pakistan cricket, such as Abdul Razzaq and Umar Gul, busy performing in international tournaments such as the Friends Life T20 in England, one cannot help but miss their presence domestically.

For one thing, their involvement would have provided a sterner test of the league's up-and-coming youngsters, just as the IPL is helping Indian prospects emerge.

The PCB, for reasons best known to itself, decided to backtrack on its earlier pledge to ensure that such players would be forced to play in domestic competitions.

It would have made a huge difference to the profile of the local tournaments if that promise had been kept but it would seem that other considerations - those not related to the enjoyment of the ordinary Pakistani fan - took precedence.

The fans, for the most part, understand the difference between beggars and choosers and are happy to simply watch an entertaining tournament, but the PCB should address the absence of big stars when it comes to the next event

Even though this competition may have lacked the glamour of a Shahid Afridi "finger-raising" celebration or Saeed Ajmal's bamboozling doosras, the evidence of talent among Pakistani players is immense.

And yet, despite the Rawalpindi Rams' win in the FBT20 final, there is no guarantee that this team will participate in the T20 Champions League even if they qualify (primarily because the tournament is jointly organised by India and the two countries have a strained political relationship).

It is an insult to a premier domestic side but these are ultimately difficult times for Pakistan cricket.

While the PCB and the International Cricket Council fight running battles over the future of the game in Pakistan, one can only hope that both realise the importance of the fans in keeping cricket alive in this country.