MUZAFFARABAD: Pakistan’s premier first-class domestic cricket competition, the Quaid-i-Azam Trophy, has yet again failed to attract the crowds to the grounds despite the fact that a number of leading players are featuring in it.
However, Lahore Qalandars’ Rising Star T20 Cup which does not have a single big name featuring in it, has successfully pulled thousands of fans to the Muzaffarabad Cricket Stadium here.
While this puts a question mark on the performance of PCB’s marketing and public relations departments, it also accredits Lahore Qalandars for making great efforts to promote and support the game of cricket.
As Pakistan’s former Test pacer and LQ’s Director Cricket Aaqib Javed stated, “There’s no Shahid Afridi or Mohammad Amir here, but the electrifying environment attracts the crowds to this ground.”
Pakistan Super League’s franchise Lahore Qalandars has organised a talent hunt programme in nine cities of Punjab and Azad Kashmir in which more than 160,000 players have appeared. “Usually, we don’t get to see more than 50-60 players coming for the trials, but here we have witnessed even 26,000 at a single venue,” said Aaqib.
“We have used imported speed guns which are being used in baseball in the US,” disclosed Aaqib. “During the trials, we have discovered more than 12 fast bowlers who can bowl over 88 miles per hour,” he claimed.
Aaqib also discussed how merit system has been strictly observed during the trials. “Pakistan’s former Test player Salim Malik did everything to get his son selected into a team but he was rejected at five trials,” he said. “It was only when we got two good pacers selected from Gujranwala and then there was a demand for a batsmen from that region that his son was selected.”
Last year, LQ trials only focused on Punjab but on the request of Azad Jammu Kashmir prime minister, the management decided to take it to the land of beauty. “We wanted to spread it throughout the country but the PCB stopped us,” said Aaqib. “Last year, we only had three stakeholders on board but this time, all eight teams are sponsored. This platform is going to be a national campaign in coming years, I can tell you.”
The former pacer is stationed in Muzaffarabad for the T20 Cup opening matches. “I have never seen such a charged up crowd during my entire career,” he said. “We are changing the mindset of the audiences.”
At the end of the tournament, the coaches will select the best players and a 16-member team will then visit Australia to play against their local clubs. “A son of a mechanic is going to be trained at MCC, isn’t it amazing?” asked Aaqib.
“This platform will provide youngsters with five international opportunities at the start of their career. When the team returns from Australia, they will have Emirates T20, PSL and MCC. And when Durban Qalandars will do a talent hunt in South Africa, that team will be coming to play here in Kashmir,” he added.