Emotions ran high last week from the Pakistan Cricket Board to players, and from cricket fans to experts. There were words of support from other parts of the world, lending credence that Pakistan cricket was once again hard done by. There is sympathy going around for the fans, players, and the cricket board. But this could also be a time for serious introspection, as the first burst of anger wanes.
Developments in the last two weeks are a jolt and have felt insulting, even to the top brass, let alone the average passionate cricket fan. Yes, the non-Big-3 and non-White teams may still honor their commitments of touring Pakistan. Next year could even see one of the Big 3 turning up, specially after the embarrassments of the recent withdrawal. So as emotions subside with time, this may not have sent Pakistan all those years back, as was feared earlier.
Every crisis presents an opportunity, they say. This is as close to a crisis Pakistan cricket has come since March 2009. The goal should be to make Pakistan cricket strong enough to not be taken for granted. And viable enough that even if the big boys’ club shows their muscle, you have enough of your own to survive and thrive. A cricket crazy fanbase of over 100 million is as juicy an opportunity as Cricket presents, minus India.
A big reason why cricket is essentially a two-tier sport today, is the yawning gap between financials of the Big-3 and the rest of the world. A look at the recent financials of the PCB tells you it is not the poorest in terms of financial health. The PCB made more profits than any of the England, Australia or India cricket boards made in 2019, 2018 and 2017, respectively. That is despite a sizably small revenue size.
And that is more of a problem than an achievement. Three of the past five years have returned net profit margin in excess of 35 percent for the PCB. Highest in the world. It may well be a newish phenomenon, as the advent of Pakistan Super League (PSL) has added to the revenue streams. The PSL revenues make up for more than one-third of total PCB revenues. But the investment into the game has not been made with the same vigor.
All other big boards invest heavily in the game from the grassroots to age group, equipment, coaching, tours, and other areas. The PCB would do well to let go of excessive profits and invest back into the game itself. It is no coincidence that Pakistan today struggles to field a team where no more than 4 or 5 players are sure starters.
Not that the investment in the game was ever a priority. The slide is more visible because other boards in the meanwhile have invested much more – and the results are for everyone to see. You can still register a shock win here or there, cricket being such a game, but you would continue to be taken for granted, if status quo prevails.
Remember that the PCB relies heavily on the contribution the ICC makes. That accounts for a quarter of total revenue today – and has grown by five times in last five years. This may not necessarily remain the same going forward. The big boys do not enjoy the revenues being shared. Bulk of these revenue originates from ICC tournaments. The Big 3 want to play lower share in the future. This is about time, the setback is turned into making Pakistan cricket, what it always had the potential of, i.e. a powerhouse.