Pakistan and Sri Lanka are producing some cracking cricket during their three match series in the United Arab Emirates. The 2nd Test in Dubai is sparsely spectated though, and this leads me to ponder why.
The UAE is Pakistan’s home base and the obvious neutrality of the venue is one reason why there’s few spectators, but can more be done to attract a crowd?
It’s a real shame Pakistan cannot play at home. As a youngster growing up in Australia I fondly recall Australia’s tours to Pakistan, particularly Australia’s defeat in 1994, which I followed via press updates and eventually through Wisden. Pakistan toured Australia in ’95 so their players were familiar to kids at the time. We recreated the battles in the street by imitating Akram, Malik, McDermott and Boon.
During the ’94 tour Pakistan won a nail biter by one wicket at Karachi with big performances from Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Saeed Anwar, Inzamam-ul-Haq and current England spin coach Mushtaq Ahmed.
In the following Test Saleem Malik scored a double tonne, which ensured a draw at Rawalpindi. Michael Slater, Damien Fleming, Steve Waugh and Michael Bevan excelled. During Pakistan’s epic 2nd innings every Australian player – except Ian Healy – had a bowl. Yes, even Mark Taylor and David Boon rolled the arm over. In fact, opening batsmen Taylor and Slater took wickets! The third Test at Lahore was also a draw. Pakistan won the series 1-0.
They had some good players. I imagine that tours there were extremely challenging, but equally rewarding. I think Australia’s last tour occurred in 1998, a 1-0 victory for Australia – Peshawar providing the scene for Mark Taylor’s 334 and a big series performance from Ijaz Ahmed and the introduction of youngster Shoaib Akhtar.
In a nostalgic and perhaps rose tinted sense tours to Pakistan and the West Indies seemed to be the epitome of tough international Test Match cricket. It’s a massive loss that international cricket isn’t played in Pakistan and West Indies struggle from poor governance and administration, un-helped by the ICC and India’s selfish scheduling of T20 tournaments.
In Pakistan the instability and threat of violence means that cricket seems an impossible and a luxurious frivolity in comparison to the issues facing their people. I hope that cricket can return to Pakistan in the near future, because that will mean things have substantially improved.
Pakistan v Sri Lanka, UAE 2013-14
The first Test in Abu Dhabi was a draw after a mighty backs-to-wall fight back from Sri Lanka forced Pakistan to hold out on the last day. The Dubai Test is through 2 days and the cricket being played is world class standard. Both teams possess excellent cricketers so it’s a shame there’s less than 3 men and a dog watching.
Surely the Pakistan Cricket Board, the ICC and local sports officials can do more to get punters into the grounds. The UAE is well known for having large populations of tradesmen and labourers from the sub-continent. Strike up partnerships with large employers, subsidise tickets, provide adequate public transport, improve advertising and promotion, get the players out there engaging the people and get them through the gates to watch the amazing cricket being played by these teams.
The ICC’s Future Tours Program has Australia scheduled to play Pakistan in October this year. What can Cricket Australia do to help the PCB get on the front foot and promote the series?
Probably a heck of a lot more than it will do under James Sutherland, that’s for sure.