PSL Final Comes To Lahore – Are the Priorities Right?
On the 5th March 2017 the Pakistan Super League (PSL) Cricket final is coming to the Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore. This is a BIG move for Pakistan and Pakistani Cricket. International teams (with the exception of Zimbabwe in 2015-16) have not been willing to tour Pakistan since the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore in 2008-9 season.
Pakistani cricketers have been forced into national exile playing all their home games in the UAE ever since, making it not only difficult, but sad for the cricket loving nation to follow their team like every other country’s supporters can. Most people cannot afford the costs associated with following their team to Dubai or Sharjah for a ‘home’ game.
Even the recent commencement of the Pakistan Super League last year, saw the entire competition of 5 local provence teams, play the entire competition in UAE. This year however, the series has been played in UAE but the final is due to be held in Lahore in attempt to build confidence in Pakistan, its safety and the open prospect of future international cricket to be held here.
This wasn’t helped by a bomb blast in Lahore around 3 weeks before the due date of the final, and another ‘suspect’ blast 2 weeks later, which was called a bomb, a generator and then finally gas bottle explosions. But to the determination of the PCB, they are going ahead with the game, even without the big named international players who played for the final two teams throughout the series – they have all returned home and refused to come, although some new international players (relative unknowns) have come into the Quetta team and have been offered automatic visas and massive security and insurances. Even the media organisation who covered the event in UAE have refused to come and cover, meaning additional arrangements had to be made locally, and the commentators from UAE too said ‘thanks but no thanks’.
So the game is going ahead, with a massive drain on Pakistan’s resources let alone the cost associated with it.
The Pakistani Army, 2000 Rangers, thousands of police and other security have been deployed to Lahore. A 5 tiered security structure with biometric ID checking vs national identity cards, x-ray scanners, body searches, sniffer dogs, and metal detectors are all a part of the entry process to the stadium area. The actual stadium area went into lockdown earlier this week, with shops being forced to close, households occupants registered and checked, vehicles stopped with Rangers on guard to mitigate any planning. Roads will be closed in the areas, no rickshaws, bikes or cars allowed nearby – all to protect the venue and its crowd. All this is a massive flow on effect of millions of Rupees in lost revenue to small and large businesses, but in Pakistan this is the norm, they can close your business just like that! It has been reported that over 11,000 police, army and rangers will be at the venue and the surrounds.
Whilst this is good for the security at the ground, does it stop anything happening on the way to the ground? Does it divert attention to ‘other’ targets with all resources occupied otherwise creating a lapse in normal security? Is the cost worth it, and will this, if it all goes off smoothly actually mean that all of a sudden there will be an international rush for teams to tour? I don’t think so…
Whilst it is a start, and they have to start somewhere, I am not sure of what a successful event will mean to Pakistan cricket. The fundamental issue is the countries overall security, and based on the lat 3 weeks and the number of ‘confirmed’ attack security warnings in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, I am not sure people will rush back just yet. And surely the Pakistan Cricket Board cannot provide such security at the expense of bringing cricket games to Pakistan…it isn’t the worlds most wealthy country after all.
I hope the event goes off successfully…Pakistan deserves this, along with some good news eventually, but many people around town are asking whether the risk is worth it for a game of cricket! I love cricket, but I just don’t know yet…I’ll watch the game and keep all my bits crossed that it a success…for Pakistan’s and crickets sake!
Aussie in Lahore