Why Can’t Balochistan Play?
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has decided to establish five provincial under-19 training coaching academies cross the country. According to the official plan, the academy which will be located at Abbottabad Cricket Ground will cater to the needs of young cricketers of Abbottabad, Sialkot and Peshawar region.
In Islamabad, the proposed academy will be established at Diamond Cricket Stadium which will provide an opportunity to the budding players of the federal capital and Rawalpindi.
The third academy is scheduled to be established in Multan Stadium which will cover the Lahore and Faisalabad region. The PCB intends to establish its fourth academy at Hyderabad and the fifth at Karachi’s National Stadium. These training academies will impart training among the budding cricketers from July 25th to August 20th.
It is not surprising to see PCB once again discriminate the country’s largest province, Balochistan, in such important initiatives but this news simply calls for an overall review of Balochistan’s insufficient share in the country’s sporting events and opportunities.
While a lot has been written and discussed in the recent years over Balochistan’s poor social indicators, under-development, strict control over the province’s natural resources by Islamabad and the state of human rights, the debate about sports is equally essential and it must be brought to the attention of the masses and the government authorities.
Since the inception, the government of Pakistan has paid too little attention to promoting different games in the province. The best way to encourage a healthy society is to invest in talented youth. Scarcity of funds and corrupt managements were the two primary reasons for our inability to promote sports at school and college levels, the best places to look for new talent.
Another important aspect of promoting sports outside the educational institutions is to establish coaching academies at district level.Unfortunately, too little has been done over the years by the government to promote sports at grassroots level in Balochistan.
The best way to create awareness about the significance of sports and develop an interest among the people naturally comes by encouraging and organizing contesting sporting events in an area. It is a tragedy that not a single Baloch player was ever provided a chance to play for the national team in all versions of the game ranging from test matches, to one-day internationals (ODIs).
The only Baloch who ever played for Pakistan was Aftab Baloch of Karachi who represented the national team in only two test matches back in November 1969. Ironically, Mr. Baloch scored 428 against Balochistan in 1973-74 in a domestic match while captainin for Sindh at National Stadium. According to ESPN Cricinfo Mr Baloch “is one of the more anonymous members of cricket’s 400 club.”
Likewise, the PCB has totally forgotten Balochistan as a venue for major sport events. Although Ayub National Stadium in Quetta gained the status of an international venue in October 1978 when Pakistan hosted India for a One Day International, the venue has not seen an international cricket match since 1984. This is indeed a classic case of neglect of Balochistan by the federal sporting authorities.
Balochistan doers not have a single reputed sports academy which should train the youths of the province how to play according to standard standards.
Two years back when Quetta was all set to host a major hockey event, the authorities disappointed the fans at the eleventh hour by citing ‘law and order problems’ to postpone the event. When the provincial head of the event told journalists that Quetta was a relatively safe location where the players’ safety could easily be ensured, the top guns of the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) dismissed the high official the next day for questioning a federal decision.
In another bid to discourage Balochistan’s participation in key events, the Pakistan Sports Board didn’t issue a non-objection certificate (NOC) to the province’s table tennis team to go to India although the Indian authorities had reportedly agreed to provide visas.
We would like to urge the Pakistan Sports Board, particularly the Pakistan Cricket Board, to review their discriminatory attitude toward Balochistan. The provincial sports ministry should also work with these bodies to make sure that not only is Balochistan’s representation ensured at the national and international level but also are stadiums and academies established and promoted.
There is no justification in denying Balochistan the right to host major sports events. For instance, Lahore has not been denied the right to have an academy in spite of the fact that the city witnessed the horrific attacks on the Sri Lankan cricket team in March 2009. Likewise, the New Zealand cricket team had to cancel its tour to Pakistan in May 2002 after a suicide bombing killed fifteen people outside the hotel where the Kawi team was staying.
In the same way, Balochistan’s political situation must not be cited as a valid reason not to establish academies or host major sporting events in the province. The PCB must display sportsmanship and review its condescending attitude toward Balochistan. (The Baloch Hal)