Nearly a week after the ICC's decision to move away the 2011 World Cup from Pakistan and effectively rule out international cricket in the country due to security concerns, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is weighing up options of how to move on. Though officially there has been silence from the board - apart from filing an official protest to the decision with the ICC - contact has been maintained with the ICC hierarchy on how best to proceed and two options on where Pakistan will play its designated 'home' cricket from now have become clear.
One is playing cricket at a designated neutral venue, such as Dubai. As an indication of the viability of this option, it is learnt that the PCB is considering putting forth a proposal to host its share of the World Cup matches in Dubai, with Pakistan as 'host.' It seems, however, that the proposal has been ruled out already by the ICC. "No, that is not an option," Haroon Lorgat, chief executive, ICC, told Cricinfo. "The board has made a decision. But I think this is a proposal (the PCB) is considering making. That is flowing from discussions I had today [Thursday] and yesterday with various people, including Pakistan ministry of sport."
Even as a longer-term option, the PCB concedes there are concerns. Logistically, in terms of distance at least, it is workable but board officials currently in the UAE are wary of the financial difficulties involved. "Dubai is a very expensive option," a senior board official told Cricinfo. "Security costs, hotel costs and just hosting a cricket match here is very expensive so that aspect has to be looked at."
The other option that has come up in discussions is for the PCB to work out individual arrangements with other countries to host its matches. New Zealand, for example, were due to tour later in the year: that series could now be held in New Zealand with Pakistan as the designated hosts. In such a case, Pakistan gets the hosting fee while NZC will charge the PCB a nominal amount for expenses.
But this bilateral, case-by-case arrangement could run into complications with TV rights. Ten Sports owns the right to broadcast Pakistan's home matches for the next five years. In New Zealand's case, Sky New Zealand owns rights to home matches and clearly some agreement will have to be worked out in such a scenario: the PCB says it will go ahead with this arrangement only if it is guaranteed TV rights money. A neutral venue such as Dubai or Abu Dhabi - where Ten Sports owns the rights - makes that option more attractive.
There is still a belief in Pakistan's cricket circles that countries can be convinced to visit. But one official said you would have to be "senile" to expect countries to come now. "After the attacks of March 3, it is impossible to expect anyone to come here. We fought at the meeting to retain the tournament but the simple truth is that players are just not willing to travel here right now," he said.
|Let's allow the situation to cool down, and make sure Pakistan continues to play international cricket in the interim. It is impossible to put a timeframe on this. It could be next month, it could be six months, it could be the end of this year Haroon Lorgat, ICC chief executive|
The board "protested vigorously and fought to retain Pakistan's host status, but there was no support," an official present at the meeting told Cricinfo. The BCCI, it is learnt, didn't support Pakistan openly because there was a chance of the World Cup being lost altogether to Australia and New Zealand. Indeed, Pakistan is said to have preferred this option, asking instead to be inked in for the 2015 World Cup.
The financial fallout from the loss of the World Cup may not be as hefty as was originally predicted. World Cup hosts receive US$750,000 per game from the ICC but this mostly covers the expenses of organizing the match. All 10 full members share 75% of the total profit: thus each country will get a 7.5% share, and Pakistan will not miss out on that. What they will lose, however, is the gate money and that raised through hospitality.
The ICC insists it will stand by and help Pakistan through this, rejecting the notion that the country is being isolated. "I am worried that there was any message suggesting we were looking to distance ourselves from Pakistan," Lorgat said. "That is not true. In fact, it is quite the opposite. We are very keen for Pakistan to continue playing international cricket.
"There is a great reluctance from all players to go to Pakistan right now. Let's allow the situation to cool down, and make sure Pakistan continues to play international cricket in the interim. It is impossible to put a timeframe on this. It could be next month, it could be six months, it could be the end of this year."
Lorgat added that the PCB had been offered a taskforce to work with them and monitor the situation. "We hope the offer will be accepted. The offer is on the table."