Apr 15, 2020
Umar FarooqPakistan correspondent, ESPNcricinfo
The PCB, in a bid to deal with a possible funds’ crunch because of the Covid-19 pandemic, has decided not to spend on the infrastructure at its stadia and save in the region of Rs 5 billion ($29,943,185 approx.), which could be used to safeguard the interests and well-being of its cricketers and staff members. A plan is being chalked out to prepare for the worst-case scenario, in case cricket operations are hit for the next two years.
“Our No. 1 priority is to protect the players and staff,” Ehsan Mani, the PCB chairman, said in a podcast on Tuesday. “Realistically, we won’t make any plans that aren’t attainable, but our message is clear with assurances that we will protect you as much as [we] can. We will safeguard the interest of the cricketers. There will be a cost impact, but there won’t be any unusual cuts. As far as contracts are concerned, they are performance-based, and selectors have to take a call; but we are not cutting down any domestic and international contract. In fact, if our initiative becomes a success and in next couple of years when cricket resumes, I feel we have to pay our players more.”
Pakistan’s professional cricketers are already among the lowest-paid in world cricket, as Mani acknowledged, but he intends to bring the pay at par with international standards. “Just compare to the rest of the world, take an example of England – a player playing all three formats earns $1 million and our slab comparatively is very low,” he said. “We might not be able to bring our players to the range in the foreseeable future, but we need to make sure that our cricketers are paid competitively in the industry. They are our elite sportsmen, they deserve to be paid more than what they are presently being paid.
“It will take time and I am not going to make false promises but this is one of the priorities to make Pakistan cricket stronger and for that, we have to make it financially viable for the people who come into the game. We are working towards that but at the moment our main thrust is safeguarding the payers and staff – because without them we have nothing.”
Cricket in Pakistan, similar to other parts of the world, has come to a standstill since the pandemic led to large parts of the world locking down. The PCB headquarters is closed as the operational staff are working from their homes, while cricketers have been given guidelines on how to keep fit while in isolation. There is a very real fear of finances being hit, and the PCB admitted that it will start getting worse after a year or so.
“We have to redefine our priorities,” Mani said. “Pakistan is the only board in the world which runs stadiums and people think that this isn’t a big deal. The infrastructure, its maintenance, and keeping it upgraded with time – so this is a lot. We had neglected stadiums in the last nine-ten years when [international] cricket wasn’t happening and we spent up to 3 billion [$17,965,911 approx.] on the Karachi and Rawalpindi stadiums. We are not going to do this anymore. We now have to reassess where and how to invest. Our biggest problem going ahead is to protect players and for the sake of it, we have to discard many things, put few of our plans on back burner and move ahead until there is no clarity.
“Technically, in next two years we are supposed to spend around Rs 4 to 5 billion [$23,954,548 to $29,943,185 approx.] on our stadiums which we won’t be doing. By not spending this money on infrastructure, we can run our cricket easily without external pressures. But if it goes on for more than the time we expect, then it is going to impact badly and it will be a collateral damage. We are in a way fortunate that our home season was coming to an end. In the short-term impact, we had our last few of the PSL games postponed, the final leg of Bangladesh series and one domestic tournament [affected].
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“Medium-term impact we might have on our tours to Europe [Ireland, Netherlands and England] and preparation for the tour might become an issue if it goes on like this. It also depends on a larger degree what are the circumstances in the host countries and if these series are disrupted, our players will [be] going to suffer with a lack of cricket. They will also will have a huge financial impact and rescheduling the series fitting in the FTP will become a big challenge. If cricket in Pakistan doesn’t start until March next year, then it’s a medium-term challenge we are going to face.
“Going forward to the end of next year is going to be even a bigger challenge… because England and Australia are slotted to come and if they do not… there are a lot of threats for Pakistan. Managing the tours and their finances, taking care of our main stakeholders – players, staff – protecting their jobs and their well-being is foremost. So for the preparation ahead to deal with the challenges, I have told my finance department to prepare for the worst and hope for the best because preparation is in our control but events are not.”
The idea of playing to empty stands hasn’t appealed to Pakistan as Mani said that it’s not just the empty seats, there were other elements that couldn’t be ignored. “Teams still have to travel in planes, and one risk starts there. Second: staying at hotels, taking local transport, so only empty stadium isn’t the answer. All the logistic arrangements involved are also to be looked in [as to] how this is manageable.”
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