Pakistan home victories: You must have seen that watching England’s series against Pakistan has side effects. Some are obvious, like a nascent fascination with Harry Brook’s inside-out drives.
ding so much on security for these seven matches that it is losing money on the tour. According to the latest information from the British High Commission, Pakistan is safer than at any time since 2004, but the only way the PCB can bring international teams here is through VVIP protection, which involves thousands of soldiers, and dozens of armored personnel carriers. Officials included. Cars, and a few helicopters. In Karachi, they had to close the main roads leading to and from the local hospital so the team could get in and out of the ground, in Lahore, they closed off an entire city block around the England Hotel.
It will be the same when Ireland’s women’s team comes here in November, for New Zealand’s men in December, and in the future. So much is at stake that the PCB cannot afford not to pay. Any slip will be irrevocable.
And despite being at a clear disadvantage to every other Test-playing nation, they have to find that money. They are the only team in the world that does not get the benefit of playing against India. It’s been a decade since their last bilateral series – since then, they’ve only met when they’ve drawn against each other in international tournaments. Which, in the one-sided economy of cricket, is like trying to bat with one hand tied behind your back. Broadcast rights for series against India are so lucrative than anything else in the game that most boards rely on them to subsidize the cost of hosting all other tours.
For example, India’s 10-match tour of South Africa last winter cost the hosts £80 million. Financially, the fat years of the India tour allow the board to survive the lean years when everyone else arrives. This is the same for all, even to a lesser extent, Australia and England, who suffered a £40m black hole in their finances when the fifth Test at Old Trafford was called off last year.
But Pakistan will have to go without. And that’s just the beginning of the problem. Pakistani players have been frozen out since the second season of the Indian Premier League, and as IPL teams buy franchise sides in leagues around the world, they are now being kept out of those competitions as well. Moeen Ali, when asked about it this week, said: “It is sad because he is such a good player that he will only increase the quality of cricket. “I feel for him because he probably missed out on a lot of money financially.” Which puts its own spin on the game here. The PCB is being affected by the same currents that everyone else is trying to navigate.
One of the reasons why the PCB started its new junior league for Under-19 players from around the world is to develop ways to generate revenue, as ECB did with the Hundred. And these anti-Pakistani policies will also become a problem for the English Board if, as widely expected, it opens up competition for private finance. Evidence at the moment suggests that any money from India will come with unwritten conditions on whether Pakistanis are allowed to play.
The PCB is understandably frustrated by the lack of any pushback from other Test-playing nations against all this. There are obvious moral arguments here, but the grim realpolitik of cricket means that, while he has plenty of sympathies, nobody is going to make demands on India on his behalf. England’s attempt to open talks about holding the series in Birmingham is about as far as anyone has yet made it. It is hoped that holding the game on neutral ground will help ease any tensions. Playing the game will definitely be beneficial for Test cricket.
The PCB’s preference is that teams will be able to host any games themselves. And relations between the boards have improved since Ramez Raja took over at the PCB and Sourav Ganguly at the BCCI. They’ve toured each other’s countries as players, and Raja, for one, believes from his own experience that the majority of fans in both countries feel warmer to each other’s players than you can on social media. But the monstrous strife you see shows it. But whether or not it happens is being decided at the highest levels even with Ganguly coming in. There are also signs that things are slowly improving. Anyone who loves the game, and who believes in its potential.