(The Writer is PR professional and event management expert. He was Media Manager Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), Media Consultant to Pakistan Horticulture Development & Export Company (PHDEC), Media Consultant Agribusiness Support Fund (ASF), Managing Director Episode Experts.
While Field hockey is the official national game of Pakistan, it is cricket that is the Pakistanis’ National game, the de facto unofficial face of Pakistan.
Cricket is much more than a tussle between bat and ball. Being the most popular game in Pakistan, Truth of the matter and factual data suggests that it exceeds the Pakistani official national game of field hockey in every respect. Field hockey is being played around Pakistan especially so that the National Field Hockey Team has won several International Championship matches.
Cricket in Pakistan is loved by young and old, rich and poor. As a manifestation of the love Pakistanis have for Cricket, they have established the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). This board is responsible for all major cricket events in and around Pakistan; the street and mohalla cricket is organized and kept alive by 180 million enthusiasts. PCB has helped arrange co-hosting the Cricket World Cup in the years 1987 and 1996, and lost hosting in 2011 by Indian maneuvering. India may have blocked the hosting and kept Pakistan out of IPL but Pakistani club cricketers are now in Australian, Zimbabwe and South African squads.
The National Cricket Team has many a laurel they won the Cricket World Cup-1992 and were runners up in 1999. Pakistanis are naturally sports oriented and this can be seen in the physical built. Most youngsters sport an active lifestyle and these shows in their good physique. The robust bodies help them run the grassy cricket fields to the narrow paved streets while playing cricket in Pakistan.
Historically, the first recorded cricket match took place in Kent in 1646, and by the late 1600s, fines were actually handed out for those who missed church to play. Cricket was popular and widely documented in England during the 1700s. In 1706, William Goldwyn published the first description of the game. He wrote that two teams were first seen carrying their curving bats to the venue, choosing a pitch and arguing over the rules.
They pitched two sets of wickets, each with a “milk-white” bail perched on two stumps, they tossed a coin for first knock, the umpire called “play,” and the “leathern orb” was bowled. They had four-ball over, the umpires leaned on their staves (which the batsmen had to touch to complete a run), and the scorers sat on a mound.
The first written “laws of cricket” were drafted in 1744. They stated, “The principals shall choose from among the gentlemen present two umpires who shall absolutely decide all disputes. The stumps must be twenty-two inches high and the bail across them six inches. The ball must be between five and six ounces, and the two sets of stumps twenty-two yards apart.” There were no limits on the shape or size of the bat. It appears that 40 notches were viewed as big score, probably due to the quick bowlers aiming at unprotected shins. The world’s first cricket club was formed in Hambledon in the 1760s, and the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) was founded in 1787. From then on, it was a loved game and has become the national sport of England in the end of the 18th Century. Pakistan has acquired this love for Cricket and thus cricket of Pakistan have evolved into a well-loved and constantly played game. Pakistan acquired this love for Cricket and thus cricket of Pakistan have evolved into a well-loved and constantly played game in the land of pure.
Have you ever tried to fathom the reasons behind this deep obsession and popularity, we Pakistani share with the world’s most thrilling game! Why we simply love cricket? I have tried to ponder the answers. Let’s start answering by understanding Cricket and Pakistan. The love and deep passion for this game continues to reside inside the heart of the 180 millions Pakistani and keeps flowing through the veins of all generations. I just wish that our next generations find new Miandads, Imrans and the inheritors of the Waseem, Waqar and Shaoib trios, Saeed Anwar/Amir and Hanif/Imtiaz like pairs so that the love of game continues in new generations. Cricket and Pakistan keep evolving. I just hope that it always remains the Gentlemen’s game. I used to listen to commentary with my grandpa, now I wish that I can sit with my grandson to discuss what score Pakistan should reach to put up a fighting total or upon what score should we bowl out the opposition to be able to chase it easily. I can ask my mom to wait for few seconds for my dinner so that I can see Shahid Afridi finish off the things with spice and in style. Ultimately I wish that cricket remains above all consideration to make whole Pakistan feel like brothers for a moment irrespective of the fact that they belong to different communities.
Club cricket is a mainly amateur, but formal, form of the sport usually involves teams playing in competitions at weekends or evenings. There is a variety in game formats although the Laws of Cricket are international. Club cricket is the bed rock of game in Pakistan, England, Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies, New Zealand, Kenya, Zambia, Namibia, Uganda, Tanzania, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Netherlands and Hong Kong and now United States and Canada are also attracting large immigrant communities from mainstream cricket-playing regions. Club cricket is played virtually all over the world. Club cricket is also now played with standards that vary from semi-professional to occasional recreational level. While many clubs train in similar ways to professional teams, village or park cricket is played purely for fun, and club cricket is often enjoyed as much for the social element as for the competition. Most players are amateur, but often cricket clubs employ the services of professionals as coaches and players. Many of these have played first-class or Test cricket. First-class players recovering from injury also appear at club level practice to regain form.
PCB’s major responsibility and every former player desire is to promote cricket at domestic and club levels if they want to excell across the country and to get future prospects. PCB established academies aiming to promote domestic cricket across the country and succeeded in achieving it to larger extent. The actual academy is club which has produced players like Imran, Miandad, Mohammad and Raja brothers, Shaoaib, Waqar, Wasim, Fazal, Imtiaz, Kardar, who earned great name and fame for the country with limited sources.
PCB main focus is on domestic and club level cricket that always plays pivotal role for boost and strengthening cricket at district, regional and national levels and help in producing quality players for Pakistan. Decades ago, club cricket used to be very strong despite lack of no academies, gym and other top level facilities which the current players were enjoying. Earlier, the club players used to do tough practice and hard working to keep themselves physically and mentally fit and strong. They used to run more than 10 rounds of the grounds to improve stamina. They also did outdoor fielding, batting and bowling practices in scorching heat of Pakistani summer and had produced players like former legends. The top club teams of that era were Universal Club, Crescent Club, Lahore Gym, P&T Gym, Imperial Club, Mughalpura Eaglets, Cantt Gym, Prince Club, Dharampura Gym, Shaheen Club, Muslim Gym, etc. The club discipline was exemplary while their competitions were on its peak helping the players in gaining skills and confidence which promoted club and first class cricket across the nation.
Keeping in view of the success story of the club cricket in Pakistan, PCB is now trying to re-vitalize democratic governance into Pakistan’s cricket playing districts by first conducting scrutiny of clubs at district level and then conducting elections there. The aim of the scrutiny is to establish genuineness of clubs in accordance with the PCB criteria.
A Scrutiny Committee was established by PCB in 2002 to carry out this task. Presently Scrutiny Committee, led by Abdul Jaleel Khan along with Afzaal Ahmed, Saeed Muzamal as members of the Committee, conducting the scrutiny of cricket clubs in the districts of Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan and NWFP. The scrutiny of clubs is a much more laborious and time-consuming exercise than holding of elections as the Scrutiny Committee has to visit each Tehsil and village of every district and evaluate cricketing activity there. The Committee makes a distinction between the active and in-active clubs and only active clubs are granted voting rights. Scrutiny for each district can last up to a month according to the schedule depending on the members of club. The clubs which qualify from the scrutiny process are then eligible to participate in elections in their own districts. The clubs, under the supervision of PCB’s Election Commissioner, elects President, Secretary and Treasurer in districts to constitute elected body. Before the elections, the Election Commissioner briefs all club representatives and candidates that contest elections. Written objections are filed with the Election Commissioner by individual clubs after the briefing session. These objections are closely examined by the Election Commission and decisions are taken on merit.
The duration of the election process takes one to two days in a district. Elections are conducted in a fair and transparent manner. Votes are cast by each club President which has been assessed to be active by the Scrutiny Committee and the candidates with the most number of votes for President, Secretary and Treasurer are elected for the respective posts. In some cases, clubs go into litigation and the elections in that district are suspended till the matter is resolved by court.
Whenever a cricket match starts, we just can’t help ourselves from switching on the television channel with live telecast, when we don’t have access to TV our hands just tune in to radio and visualize the taste of game. From schools canteens, cafeterias, plush restaurants, cheap eating places and markets all turn into a stadium when we see the green shirts on the cricket field. Farmers toiling in fields keep transistors handy, their hands stop when Afridi is batting on 99* or when Irfan hits the bails in the last over to snatch win from the hands of the opposition. Cricket and Pakistan is a complicated affair and we need to settle down in order to understand what makes the two – Cricket and Pakistan, so special.