NEPAL BETTER OFFSHORE VENUE THAN UAE
Aug 1 - 7, 2011
After an unfortunate terrorist attack on Sri Lanka cricket team outside Gaddafi stadium two years ago, Pakistan international cricket was totally thrown into nightmarish cricket wilderness.
All doors were slammed on Pakistan cricket. Horrifying attack near Liberty Market roundabout in Lahore was second incident in which a visiting cricket team was involved.
A few years ago a car bomb attack against French submarine engineers opposite a Karachi hotel where the New Zealand team was staying had already resulted in foreign teams avoiding coming to Pakistan. Though the bomb was not aimed at the Kiwis but it was good and right reason and excuse for the foreign teams to stay away from Pakistan.
Pakistan Cricket Board was placed in such a tight corner that it had no potion but to play all its home series against foreign teams at off shore venues or surrender home series allotted by the ICC under its future test program.
Pakistan was forced to play its home series against Australia, South Africa and England in Sri Lanka, Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi to remain in international circulation and survive.
All these venues were safe but expensive and Pakistan made minimum profits because most of the revenues earned from these off shore domestic series were consumed in paying hefty hotel and security agency bills.
The biggest minus of these venues was minimal crowds at the matches. Handful of spectators attended the test matches and attendance at the exciting ODI's and the T20 matches was not encouraging too.
Only the Pakistanis residing there come to watch matches as show of patriotism.
Playing homes series against reluctant opponents has become a policy matter for Pakistan. Pakistan had to select a new venue to keep the hosting cost at its minimum.
The foreign teams have some times fully exploited Pakistan's difficulties and have even suggested venues of their choice to play. Recently, Sri Lanka who is due to play a "home series" against Pakistan in next two months has suggested that the series could be played in Sri Lanka instead of Sharjah which Pakistan had chosen. Lankans have no business to extend any suggestion and should accept the venue selected by Pakistan.
One reason behind Sri Lanka's suggestion is that the cash strapped Lankan Cricket Board wanted to make some money which they badly needed to pay back the funds it had taken for building two new stadiums at Hambantota and Pallekele and upgrading Premadasa stadium at Colombo for the last World Cup.
Playing at home would also give the Lankan added home advantage.
Sri Lanka is not in a situation to dictate and for every reason their demand is unfair because Pakistan being the host has the right to select its own venue. They have selected Sharjah which won world attention some years ago for organizing Cricketers Benefit Fund Series.
Arrangements to prepare the wickets and upgrade the stadium at Sharjah all funded by Pakistan have already begun. Pakistan is also under obligation to its broadcasters to give them advance information about the venue because the TV Channel needed time to make arrangements for making movements of equipments and hotel booking.
But, any venue in the UAE is extremely expensive. Pakistan has already admitted not once but many times that by playing home series in UAE had not been a good profit making business. However, as it has no option it had to go there to meet its international commitment.
Pakistan Cricket Board must review its policy of going to UAE and start looking for less expensive offshore venue rather. They must give a serious thought to explore Nepal as an offshore venue because the Himalayan country could ensure huge crowd and big profit. It's a country which is far less expensive than any UAE venue.
Nepal has every thing one needs to organize international cricket events except a nice international level cricket facility. Nepal has good following of the game.
Pakistani clubs have visited Nepal in the past and had come back with stories about the passion that the Nepalese fans had for the sport. Being a close neighbor of India, Nepal has added advantage. Cricket fans from India usually travel there to watch matches and if an international matches involving Pakistan and other countries are organized there the crowd response would be immense like Pakistan and India.
Nepal Cricket Association is a financially poor organization. It could not invest huge amounts in creating international cricket stadium but if support is coming from other quarters it would certainly help in the construction of facilities which could be used all year round except in rainy and winter seasons.
Weather-wise Nepal is far better than UAE where the heat is oppressive. Foreign teams would certainly welcome if they are asked to play in Nepal provided every related facilities are of good quality.
Pakistan and some Pakistani entrepreneurs could take a lead in showing inertest in constructing a stadium or two. Some of the rich Pakistani entrepreneurs who take huge interest in the sport at home if persuaded at government level could come forward to make an investment which would be politically beneficial for Pakistan.
The investment would be worth risk taking. If it is guaranteed enough number of international matches annually the investors would get their money back in good time.
Nepal located in the cricket basket of the world-the subcontinent-would be welcomed as neutral venue. Any country including India for diplomatic reasons would not avoid an invitation to play matches against Pakistan there.
As a member of SAARC, Nepal has good reputation and respect in the region where most of the cricket playing nations live. Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan all would welcome Nepal as neutral venue even by the regional countries.
Pakistani investors supported by a consortium of banks and government could easily raise enough funds to create facilities in Nepal. Construction cost in Nepal would be far less than anywhere in the region. One or two good stadiums with a capacity of thirty thousand each would be good for making Nepal an international cricket outlet better than Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. The new facilities could also give boost to the sport in that country which had suffered only because of the lack of proper facilities.