Cricket Australia has dominated the cricketing world throughout the 90s and the first 20 years of the 21st century. It is never by chance the world dominance is continued after 3 decades. There have been initiatives taken from well-calculated decisions off the field in order for the players to perform on the field.
Cricket Australia’s main focus to date has been its Grassroots cricket with the help of players donating a percentage of their contractual payments to a fund that sits at a pretty sum of 30 million dollars. The Grassroots Fund (GCF) is committed to donating funds to cricket clubs around the country. This ensures the grassroots level is in safe hands financially which will then help promote the game amongst the youth.
In the early 90s, Commonwealth Bank of Australia which was the major sponsor of Cricket Australia launched a state-of-the-art cricket academy in Adelaide. The main focus for the academy was to identify talent through the junior ranks under 17 and under 19 tournaments as well as an outstanding talent in grade club cricket throughout Australia. The academy nurtured and produced some world-class cricketers with the likes of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Ricky Ponting, Micheal Bevan, Micheal Slater, Matthew Hayden, and Brett Lee to name a few. Rod Marsh the great wicketkeeper was the Head Coach who turned raw talent into world-class cricketers by working on every aspect of a high-performance athlete.
Pakistan cricket cannot implement cricket Australia’s structure for many reasons and here they are.
1. Cricket Australia has a well-planned out nursery of every cricketing nation’s backbone which is club cricket. It is often agreed upon that the stronger the club cricket more competitive is the first-class system. Club cricket feeds quality first-class cricketers who perform and prove themselves by outstanding performances in a very competitive environment. In Australia, each state has 12 to 16 Grade clubs that field 5 teams of grades as well as under 16s under 21s sides. Players often climb the ladder through the grades by performances with matches played on each Saturday with compulsory training on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
2. As the players perform in grades they are scouted by talent scouts in each state by invitation only to participate in states under 17 and under 19 tournaments sides. Hence, the national under 17 and 19 tournaments are taken place every year. Players who perform outstandingly in these tournaments are then selected for the national under 17 and under 19 sides to play at an international level. When a player gets selected in the under 19 squad they have already experienced a highly competitive grade cricket structure as well as a national tournament in which they have performed to deserve their place in the national underage squads.
3. The center of excellence is now based in Brisbane and plays a host to Australia’s top talent in the off-season. Players are groomed from Mental Physical Tactical Technical and Biomechanical aspects. Academy as earlier mentioned has produced a few of the greatest players in the history of the game.
4. Each of Australia’s state teams awards a central contract to 20 players as well as 4 rookie contracts who have performed outstandingly in the club and under-age tournaments. The package of the contracts is often from 250k dollars (3 crores) PKR to 125k as well as 75k dollars to the rookies. The states have a number of multinationals who sponsor them as well as yearly funds from the central body being cricket Australia. Players are well compensated with financial contracts which ensure quality performance.
5. Cricket Australia’s central contracts are also no match for Pakistan’s central contracts with players like Steve Smith David Warner Aaron Finch and Glenn Maxwell taking well over a million dollars a year with retaining and match fees included.
6. Australian players also have the great incentive of playing in the IPL Indian premier league with the likes of Pat Cummins awarded a 3 million dollar contract last season as well as high earners like Glenn Maxwell and David Warner.
We have looked at the well structured and financially viable Australian structure now we look and compare this to the Pakistan cricket
1. First of all the main nursery and talent feed for higher honors in any sport is its club structure. Pakistan’s club structure remains to been seen to match anywhere near Australia. With not enough funding and grounds availability with proper turf wickets club cricket in Pakistan is limited to almost paying hefty amounts to money milking academies who have their own allocated cricket grounds and they play cricketers through inter-club or academy games. Let’s face it there are no structured club cricket facilities in Pakistan.
2. There again not enough allocated cricket facilities for school cricket which has hardly produced any young talent. With 85 percent of cricketers belonging to a humble and below the poverty background paying for hefty school fees to play at decent facilities is far from reality for the majority of ambitious cricketers.
3. First class teams which have gone from Departmental to Regional based teams hardly attract any corporate sponsorship interest due to lack of public interest as well as viewership. Gate revenue is at an all-time low. In order to stabilize a sporting association or franchise corporate sponsorships is the first key determinant to assess financial viability for its future
4. Central contracts despite seeing a 15 percent increase still fall way behind India Australia and England. A central contract PCB category A player is compensated for 1 million PKR which is still a little below a decent level first-class cricketer in Australia.
So where did the PM go wrong?
Pakistan PM Imran khan who has represented New South Wales in 1984 had decided to give Pakistan cricket a facelift by discarding the department structure and introducing regional cricket in first-class cricket. Imran had only experienced and tasted first-class cricket in Australia with absolutely no exposure to its strong base which is a club and school cricket system
PCB under this new PM initiative has failed to deliver in strengthening the main nursery of talent which is club cricket. There are simply not enough grounds in Pakistan to facilitate this.
PCB has failed to secure any multinational or sponsor of note to its first-class regional teams with very little public interest why would a sponsor loosen up its pockets with ROI return of investment looking bleak.
There is no succession planning to nurture long-term players who can represent Pakistan for the next 10 years.
PCB is a governing body however it is this stubbornness of the PM that will take Pakistan cricket into operational, financial as well as playing misery.
So what needs to be done in Pakistan cricket?
The first step which needs to take place in Pakistan is a group or an individual who is not insecure and can challenge the PM with facts and figures. Yes, there is a very likely hood they might not see another tenure in the PCB however this needs to be addressed.
The PM needs to accept that comparing Cricket in Australia to Pakistan is chalk and cheese. There need to be funds available to allocate cricket grounds with turf wickets and the PCB needs to invest a significant amount into the Grassroots level to scout and groom the world-class players of the future
The PCB needs to work on the next 20 years of succession planning starting from ground level up.
Once the base of the Grassroots and club system is in place the future of first-class cricket will take care of itself and many quality players will be fed through the system.
Once the first-class system is competitive with well structured high-class talent coming through the system corporate sponsorship will see the system as financially viable with returns of investment
With corporate sponsorships, players in first-class and underage tournaments should be shared a good slice of the pie as these are the future of Pakistan cricket. If there is one key factor that has failed Pakistan cricket it is at this stage of player realizing his dream of playing for Pakistan this is the time the players must be financially settled to ward off all the pressures of families and peers who do not see any financial benefits for the players at this stage.
Having looked at the incomparable structures of both countries there is very little chance that Imran khan PM’s stubbornness will work as it is far away from Financial, operational, and cricketing sense.
Here are a few steps for the PM and the PCB to consider
- Invest heavily at the grassroots level both schools and clubs
- Invest in-ground allocations
- Have a financial compensation structure for under 17 and 19s
- Structured Club cricket will ensure quality first-class cricket
- Corporate sponsors need to see a return on investment
- Monitor the heavily staffed PCB employee payroll
I leave this on a note to the PM that cricket Australia is part of the BIG THREE.
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